Born in 1908, Walter Goulding was Canada's oldest surviving British Home Child when he passed away, at one hundred and six years old, in August of 2014. He was the son of Walter Cam Goulding and his wife Kate Gibson and the sibling of Mary (Minnie), Cornelia, George, Edith and the youngest, Gertrude. Before the First World War, Walter, his five siblings and his parents lived together in Coventry, England. When the war broke out, even though Walter's mother Kate and his younger brother George were deathly ill, his father enlisted. This left the family to fend for themselves. Walter sat by George's bedside for four days until he died. His mother, who was dying of kidney disease, was taken to hospital. "I was not allowed to see her," Walter said. Walter's memory of these events was still crystal clear when he passed away at one hundred and six. After her death, the children were left on their own. Walter's father took a leave from service, desperately trying to find help for his children. Shortly before their mother's death, in May of 1916, the children were admitted to Dr. Barnardo's Homes. Their group admission photo was taken and then in Walter's words "they took my sisters away and left me standing there all by myself, at eight years old". Walter would be forever separated from his sisters. The only one he saw again was the baby, Gertrude and in his words "it took me sixty years to find her". The only evidence Walter had that they existed was a photograph that he treasured the rest of his life. Whenever he looked at it, it brought tears to his eyes. Once in Barnardo's, a foster home was quickly found for his sisters. Walter was stripped of everything that was dear to him, his friends, his home and most importantly, his family. The children were supposed to be held by Barnardo's for the duration of the war only. For unknown reasons, their father never came to take them back. Walter was asked at thirteen if he wanted to go to Canada or Australia to live. Walter was eager to leave Barnardo's as he did not like it there. He based his decision on how many days away they were by steamer. Canada was just over five days, Australia was five weeks. See nothing but water, he said and nothing else, it would just like being in a bird cage full of water. He chose Canada. Landing in Canada on September 23, 1921 Walter remembers thinking "Lord God, where am I?" He had come from the city where there was thousands of people to the country side of Canada. He was sent out to the farm of Bert Blacklock of St. Paul's, near Stratford, Ontario. Walter was grateful that God gave him a good start, the Blacklock family was good to him and they "used" him well. He stayed with the Blacklock's for nine and a half years. "They got to be like my Canada home." Walter never forgot his family back in England and he corresponded with his father often. His father remarried and had another son, George. Walter eventually took job at a cheese factory in Ingersoll where he met his wife Rebecca (Ruby) McCutcheon. They were married on October 17, 1933 and had two son's , Terry and Robert. Many years later, Walter would tell Dinah Morrison, a volunteer worker at the nursing home where he and Ruby resided "You know something, I love Ruby more and more every day; she made me the happiest man in the whole world. I loved her when I put a wedding ring on her finger, and ever since she has been the love of my life." Ruby and Walter were married for over 70 years. One day, in his late sixties, Walter was talking to his wife's cousin about what had happened to him as a child. She was able to trace not only his baby sister, who was living in Wiltshire, but a half-brother, George, from Walter's father's second marriage. They were reunited after sixty years. Sadly his other sisters had already passed on. At sixty seven, Walter made his first trip back to England since leaving there as a child. There he was reunited with his youngest sister Gertrude and met his half brother George.
Lori's Notes: Throughout Walter's life, he struggled with the stigma of being a Home Boy. I was honoured to have met Walter in person several times, and on one visit, taped an interview. This interview is a rare, first hand peek into the life of a British Home Child. In April of 2014 I was honoured to, once again, be in London to visit Walter. This was the occasion of his 106th birthday. The BHCARA put on a small party for him, complete with singing and a cake. We sat and chatted with Walter all afternoon. When the time came for us to leave, Walter told us how much he enjoyed the afternoon, saying that it was nice to know he had friends and that he would remember this for the rest of his life.
Walter passed away the following August. The moments I shared with Walter, which I will remember forever, came at the end of the taped interview. I had knelt down by his side, telling him of my family history. When I told him that my mother never told us about her connection, his demeanor quickly changed. Walter started to cry, laying his head down on my shoulder and he sobbed out these words:
"When I hit one hundred and four, and you know those two sons never knew I was a Home Boy. I was ashamed to tell them. But when they found out, yeah I was ashamed to tell them. But they realized it now I told them the way my life had been and everything. I was ashamed to say I was an orphan boy from England. Oh yes, I get my moments when tears come you know. Well here I am, God's given gift and I don't want to forget that".