Sarah Ann Slack

Sarah's position on the quilt

Sarah Ann Slack This is the story of my Grandmother Sarah Ann Slack. When I first started researching her history, I had a copy of her birth certificate and I knew that she was a Barnardo Home Child. Over the years I have been able to piece her history together, locate some relatives in England and come to understand the incredible story of the migration of British Home Children. I entitled her story "From Gateshead Union for Special Emigration". This is an excerpt from that story. Sarah Ann was born September 10, 1894 at St. Mary's Parish, Gateshead, Durham, England. Her parents John Thomas Slack and Sarah Ellen Johnson, married in 1892, lived at 28 Garden Street, Gateshead, England. John Thomas Slack was a railway labourer. There is no evidence that Sarah Ann had any siblings. Sarah's mother, Sarah Ellen died of pneumonia March 28, 1900, she was 33 years old. The 1901 census shows Sarah living with her mother’s brother John William Johnson, his wife Christiana and their 7 children. In May of 1903, Sarah was sent to Gateshead Union Workhouse (Medomsley Cottage Children's Home, Shotley Bridge). Her admission record listed her as "deserted" and that her father was nearest relative (whereabouts unknown), which surprised me because my grandmother thought that her father died in the Boer War. I have confirmed that John Thomas Slack died March 16, 1916. Why he could not or would not care for his daughter will always be an unanswered question. Sarah was therefore placed under the authority of the Board of Guardians. Census records show that Sarah's family, on both her mother and father's sides, were all gainfully employed. There were numerous aunts and uncles, which begs the question, why did someone not take care of this little girl? Understanding the conditions and attitudes existing in Britain at that time, might serve to answer that question. From Board of Guardian minutes received from Tyne & Wear Archives, the Board met with Sarah and obtained her consent (although she was only 9 years old) to be transferred to the care of Barnardo Homes. On September 19, 1903 a group of 11 children (5 boys and 6 girls) were sent from Gateshead to Barnardo Children's Homes in London and Barkingside. Sarah along with the girls including Edith Pearson, were sent to Barkingside, Essex. Sarah lived a very short time at Honeysuckle Cottage while Edith lived at Daisy Cottage. On September 23, 1903 they left England on the SS Dominion and arrived at the Port of Quebec October 2, 1903. They were then sent by train to Hazelbrae Home, Peterborough, Ontario. Sarah and Edith were reunited in the home of Mr. & Mrs. John Cox, Greenbank, Reach Township, Ontario. In 1907 another little girl Tiny Baker joined them. Sarah would later experience the heartache of being separated from the Cox home and her foster sisters, by the "reassigning" decisions made by Barnardo. The three girls would remain life-long friends. Their grandchildren discovered each other in 2011 and have since become foster cousins. Sarah went into service at the age of 15 and at 18 she married Robert McFarland September 19, 1912, Lindsay, Ontario. They had 11 children with all but one growing to adulthood. The family moved from a farm in Verulam Township, Victoria County to Peterborough, Ontario in the early 1930's. Robert died in 1958 and Sarah Ann died December 1, 1960 at the age of 66. Sarah raised a large family through the most difficult times of the twentieth century - WWI, the depression and WWII. They were a family that cared about each other who enjoyed many good times together. Sarah was a kind, generous and cheery person and I hope that she found happiness in her life and family. I am sad that this story came too late for her and most of her children (two daughters still living). But I am happy to have been able to complete my grandmother's story and to leave it for future generations. I hope they will care about what happened to her and to the many thousands of British Home Children with similar stories.