February 1892 England. 11 year old Ern and his 12 year old brother George didn't realize when they went to school that cold day that their lives would change forever. Each wore thin pants, a thin jacket and worn boots. Their emaciated bodies were filthy and covered in lice. Both boys attended Staniforth Street (Boys Free Order) Board School for children who were too poor and dirty for ordinary board schools.
But luckily for the starving boys, the school had contacted the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. An inspector came to the school to see the children. Horrified at their condition he visited the parents in their home a week later.
The family were destitute and the brothers' mother stated that five of their children had died, two very recently, being 2 and 4 year old daughters. She seemed pleased with the insurance money she received on their deaths.
The parents, Thomas and Ellen Mustin, were charged with neglect and were summoned to court in June of that year. A doctor examined the boys, stating they were filthy and covered in vermin, as well as suffering from malnutrition. Ern was the worst off, with his thin legs being the same circumference at his thighs as his ankles.
Witnesses who knew the children were called and gave their statements that the brothers had been neglected and in that filthy condition for many years. The court found Thomas and Ellen guilty of severe neglect causing harm to their children and sentenced them both to two months of hard labour. Ern and George were sent to Middlemore Homes for Children at the request of Dr. Middlemore himself. The other children in the household were ordered sent to the Workhouse.
In 1892 the family consisted of Rose 18, Florence 17, and Henry 13 as well as Ern and George. A few months after being admitted to Middlemore Homes in Birmingham, Ern and George were on their way to Canada as part of the Home Children Emigration Scheme.
This scheme sent thousands of impoverished street children and orphans to Australia and Canada as farm labourers and servants to citizens of those two countries. Some children were terribly abused by their new "owners" while others had a happier experience. The boys worked very hard on farms, while the girls were put to work as household servants. I will share Ern and George's experiences as Home Children in subsequent blog posts.