Bernard Edward Biggs (1899-1970)
and brother Leslie John Biggs (1902-1962)
Bernard Edward Biggs was born on April 23, 1899, in Hackney Hackney Wick, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom to Dora Lakeman, age 19, and Edward Biggs, age 22.
Bernard's brother Leslie John was born in July 1902 in Greater London, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom
Their father appears to be a scoundrel who, after moving them constantly because he failed to pay rent, eventually deserted the family. The boys were put into care March 13, 1911 at Dr. Bernardo's homes (ages 12 and 8) because their mother was unable to care for 4 children. Census reports for 1911 show Bernard was at Croyden, Surrey and Leslie at Leopold House, Mile End Old Town, London. There were also two younger sisters, Phyllis and Elsie who remained with their mother and grandmother when the boys went into care. (A second marriage for Dora produced 2 more half brothers and two half sisters between 1914 and 1924.)
One year and one day after going into Bernardo's, the boys were on the Corinthian and on their way to Canada, arriving in New Brunswick April 1, 1912. After going to processing in Toronto, Bernard went to live with Stanley and Leafie Riley near Portland, Ontario. The relationship was very positive, lasted their lifetime, and Bernard went on to train in Toronto as a barber. He lived in Portland most of his life and had a barber shop there while also working in Westport with W.K. Murphy. Their motto was “Murphy and Biggs....We'll trim your wigs!” Lovely letters still remain from his grandmother, Emily Lakeman, as well as cards from her and from his sisters. The only card from his mother is signed with a signature that appears to actually be Emily's.
He married Eva Hanna in 1926 and they had four daughters: June, Geraldine, Janet and Lucille as well as ten grandchildren. Eva died in 1963 and Bernard continued to work as a barber in Smiths Falls until his retirement a few years later. Their marriage and life was a happy one and they were very much in love all their lives.
Leslie was placed on another farm but he and Bernard were able to continue a relationship. He married Rose Lyle in 1926 and had one daughter, Lorraine in 1929. They lived primarily in Delta and Cornwall but eventually settled in Elgin, ON. He joined the army and served overseas during WWII and was able to visit the siblings in England. While I have no specific details, I heard it was not a positive experience as the second family was never told about the boys or their emigration to Canada and assumed the sisters were full blood related to them. (Dora had died in 1929 at age 49 and we have not been able to find any details at all about Edward.)
Bernard never talked about his life or experiences or about his parents and we have no information provided by him about his life in England. He never returned there but did stay in touch with his siblings all his life by letter. While he seemed to feel some of the shame of being a BHC, thankfully his life in Canada did turn out to be a good one.