08 March 2012

BBC History magazine distorts the home child experience

One of the regular features in BBC History magazine is the out and about section which previews some of the latest events and exhibitions in Britain. In the March issue the pick of the month event is Children's Lives, an exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery running from 24 March to 10 June.
In a short article describing the exhibition Sian Roberts, head of collections development, is quoted as saying "Many child migrants went from a life of poverty to one of mistreatment and unhappiness in Canada."
I was surprised to see such a definitive statement and wrote to Ms. Roberts asking for the factual basis of this general characterization. The reply I received was that "many children had good experiences and many had bad experiences."  She further explained that "Unfortunately limitations of space in previews or features such as the BBC History inevitably mean that there is no room to go into any detail, and they necessarily have to use a short quote from a much longer conversation."

It's unfortunate that the quote in BBC History paints a one-sided picture that misrepresents the truth and serves to reinforce existing misconceptions. Unpublished research by Dr Patricia Roberts-Pichette for her forthcoming book on the Middlemore children, who mostly came from Birmingham, and on the organization suggests the Middlemore children in Canada had no more bad experiences than their cohort in the general population.

Good news is no news and bad news sells. Seemingly that applies to BBC History magazine. Yet it is a distortion of the facts and an insult to the philanthropic work of Sir John T. Middlemore and the organization he founded to suggest they countenanced subjecting child migrants to systemic mistreatment and unhappiness in Canada.


carolyn said...

Interesting take John, maybe to create a "buzz" for the newly published book. How can I find out more about the Middlemore scheme to Canade (I live in Oz) have lost l child of family born 1816 in Kentand the family moved in Birmingham and thats where he disappears. Thanks for any info. Cheers from Oz.

Lyn said...

ldift rught1I also dislike the appoach I've read to the 'home children'. My grandfather was a Barnardo Boy, and seemed quite proud of it. He had a wonderful life here which he wouldn't have had in London. In fact he returned to London, worked for 5 years to make money to return to Canada and made a good life here.