John Throgmorton Middlemore was born in 1844, the son of a leather manufacturer. As a young adult he spent time in Canada and the USA and gained a degree in medicine at the University of Brunswick, Maine. He returned to Birmingham and became interested in the lives of orphans and poor children. Like so many others of the time, Middlemore believed that emigration to a new life in Canada offered the best opportunity for these children.
Middlemore founded the Children’s Emigration Homes in Birmingham in 1872 and accompanied the first group of 32 children to Canada in 1873.
By that time, he was serving on Birmingham City Council, and in 1899 was elected MP for Birmingham North. John Middlemore maintained his involvement with the Children’s Emigration Homes until his death in 1924, after which the homes were renamed Middlemore Homes.
It is apparent that John Throgmorton Middlemore worked in the interests of children, and genuinely thought that he was giving them opportunities to improve their lives. We will never know how many of them saw their fate in the same way.
It is believed that about 5000 children were sent to Canada from Middlemore Homes between1873 and 1935. Some were fortunate and were welcomed into families where they were cared for and encouraged to thrive. Others had a much more difficult time.
Almost all the boys who were old enough to enlist in WW1 did so, and at least 42 Middlemore boys were amongst the 1000+ British Home Children who died fighting for the country that had sent them so far from their families.
Middlemore’s work is continued through a small charity called The Sir John Middlemore Charitable Trust, now mainly focusing on giving grants to organisations working with disadvantaged young people in the West Midlands Region.
My only connection to the subject of my letter M posting is that two of my great uncles were sent to Canada by this organization. Discovering more about their lives, and the lives of others in a similar position has had a profound effect on me and the way I spend my time.
As always any of my words written about British Home Children are dedicated to the memory of Ernest and William Haden who will live on in memory for as long as I have breath.