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Scotland’s Home children

Dakeyne Boys 1913 (Courtesy Dakeyne Farms Nova Scotia)

When Uncle Tommy’s visit home from Canada was announced in the summer of 1980, it came as a great surprise to me. Not the visit – we’d had relatives descending on us from all parts of the world for as long as I could remember, so we were used to welcoming the “foreign family” as we called them. It was Uncle Tommy none of my generation knew about.

Tommy, we soon learned, was one of my grandfather’s brothers, one that we hadn’t known about because he had been in touch only sporadically over the years. This was to be his first trip home since he left Scotland as a 13 year-old in 1928. My grandfather had died when I was a young teenager and I knew very little about him, or his siblings, except that his mother had been widowed while still young. That was the extent of my knowledge; but Uncle Tommy was about to fill in the gaps.

My great-grandmother was left with five children to bring up when her husband died, and although almost destitute, she managed to keep them out of the workhouse. Tommy, at 13, left home. With the help of the Church of Scotland, he was accepted into an agricultural training school run by the philanthropic Doctor George Cossar, who had taken it upon himself to rescue waifs and strays from the streets of Glasgow, and teach them farming so that they would have a better chance in life.

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