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Barnardo's canvas bag

Overall: 185 x 590 x 345 mm, 1341.42 g
Medium: Canvas, leather, metal, plastic
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Jim Stone
Object Name: Bag
Object No: 00042493

User Terms

    The brown canvas bag is typical of the travel bags that were supplied by Barnardo's to child migrants travelling from Britain to Australia after World War II.
    SignificanceThe canvas travel bag is a rare memento of a child migrant's journey from Britain to Australia after World War II. The bag is a poignant reminder of the journey made by thousands of children who migrated through various church and philanthropic schemes to develop rural areas with young labour, and to help populate the dominions of the British Empire with 'good British stock.'
    HistoryJim Stone migrated to Australia with Barnardo's in 1947, as part of the first party of post-World War II child migrants from Britain. He says, "I have often wondered what my life would have been had I not been taken in by Barnardo's. As one of two illegitimate children living in pre-war Liverpool I think my prospect of success in life or even survival would have been slim" (Ann Howard, C'mon Over! The phenomenon of child migration from Tilbury to Sydney from 1921-1965, TARKA Publishing, Dangar Island, 2002, 155).

    Jim and his older sister Margery were being cared for at the Fazackerly cottage homes in Liverpool, which cost their mother Johanna seven shillings per week. Johanna found herself unable to pay for day care costs as the children got older. At this time she met and married a widower 20 years her senior, and the children were taken in by Barnardo's. She had explained to Barnardo's that she did not dare tell her new husband about her two illegitimate children. Jim and Margery never saw their mother again.

    In 1943 Jim and Margery were evacuated and fostered onto farms near Tamworth, Staffordshire, where they lived three miles apart and were able to meet daily at school. Jim received a beating from the farmer one day, and happened to be visited by the district nurse the following day for an examination. The nurse saw the welts on Jim's back and he was immediately removed from the farm and sent to the Barnardo's home at Kingston in Surrey.

    Jim recalls, "In winter at Kingston we wore a wool shirt, a most uncomfortable garment, very itchy and so rough it chafed around the neck. I was obsessed with a desire to not have to wear this shirt. During winter we were assembled in the gymnasium and were asked who would like to go to Australia. I'm sure mine was the first hand raised to volunteer at the prospect of this adventure. I'd heard that it was always warm in Australia and there would never be an occasion to wear the wool shirts and one could go around barefoot. The wool shirt followed me to Australia but I refused, to the point of being punished, ever to wear it again" (Howard 2002: 155).

    Child migrants had to be physically and mentally fit and free from disability before they were approved for emigration. Jim has two photographs which show him undergoing a medical test in London prior to departure for Australia in 1947.

    Jim sailed from Tilbury in London on SS ORMONDE, which had been used as a troopship during the two World Wars, but returned to commercial service in 1947 as an emigrant ship. Over the next five years, ORMONDE made 17 voyages between Britain and Australia, carrying some 17,500 British migrants.

    Jim recalls there were children travelling with other child migration schemes onboard ORMONDE, as well as youths migrating with the Big Brother Movement, founded in 1925 to recruit British boys to be trained on Australian farms and also to populate Australia's wide open spaces with young people of white British stock.
    Child migration and social reform had become intertwined with imperial loyalty in the early 20th century, with mass migration of children part of a larger strategy to consolidate the empire through settlement. Child migration was temporarily suspended during the wars, but was resumed after the end of World War II by the government, which viewed child migration as upholding the White Australia Policy and contributing towards the defence of the nation. However the first child migrants did not arrive until late 1947, due to the scarcity of shipping in the aftermath of the war.

    According to Jim all the children were given brand new suits, shirts, ties and canvas travel bags for their voyage to Australia. The suits were only worn when embarking and disembarking ORMONDE, and when the children arrived in port. The clothes and bags were taken off the children when they arrived in Australia on 18 November 1947, and were sent back to England to be used again by the next party of migrants.

    Jim remembers, "We arrived at Fremantle very early in the morning and I was sitting on the deck before dawn. I couldn't wait to see Australia" (Howard 2002: 155). There was great political and media interest in the children as they were the first party to arrive in Australia following the temporary suspension of child migration during the Second World War (excluding 577 unaccompanied children evacuated to Australia by the Children's Overseas Reception Board in 1940).

    The children were taken to the Barnardo's farm training school, Mowbray Park Farm School, which opened in 1929 at Picton, south of Sydney. When they turned 16, children became farm trainees for six months, before being sent out to farm jobs.

    Jim describes this time of his life as a "period of incarceration." The children lived in khaki shirts and shorts, and only wore shoes on Sundays, when they attended church. Jim left Picton in 1953, grabbing a canvas Barnardo's travel bag before he left. The bag was identical to the one given to - and taken from - him six years earlier and he held onto it for almost 60 years. Mowbray Park was sold in 1960 and Barnardo's reunions are still held nearby at Picton Showground. It is estimated 3,000 British children migrated to Australia with Barnardo's between 1921 and 1967.

    Jim's first job was as a woolclasser at Grazcos in Alexandria, where he remained for three years while studying at night. He then became a roustabout for a contractor to learn classing in Nyngan in northwest New South Wales. Jim says, "Usually one remained a roustabout for several years before becoming the 'classer.' On the first day in my first shed, 50 miles west of Nyngan, the shed classer refused to work unless another roustabout was employed (as was mandatory under union rules where five shearers were employed). He walked off at lunch time. I was asked whether I was confident enough to take on the job. So at the age of 21, I was a fully fledged woolclasser" (Howard 2002: 156).

    In 1960 Jim and his partner Josie moved to New Zealand, where they later married and lived for 32 years, with Jim running his own accounting practice in the small town of Taumarunui. He then farmed green lipped mussels in partnership with two friends for the next five years, while working as a senior investigating accountant and then a senior technical officer with the Inland Revenue Department in Auckland. Jim returned to Australia in 1998.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Brown canvas travel bag

    Web title: Barnardo's canvas bag

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