Dr. Barnardo


The last thing I remember of my parents is of them sending me away from home at a very early age. After this I had no alternative
but to live with the "Gang". The "Gang" was a group of lads who were in the same plight as myself.
We eked out a miserable existence holding horses, begging, stealing, doing odd jobs, anything for a few coppers to buy food. Our
gang, about twenty of us, had our own den near the docks; it was a tarpaulin which covered a pile of packing crates. We had
removed the crates in the middle and made ourselves a covering, where, at nights we could huddle together to keep warm.
One of our gang, "Joey", came home one night with a jacket, which, he said came from a man Mr. Barnardo who ran what were
called the "Ragged Schools".
The following night a commotion began nearby and when I scrambled out, I found Joey with a man wearing a top hat and
greatcoat. He was Mr. Barnardo and I heard Joey "There yer are , sir an' there's still plenty more".
Behind me followed a long procession of ragged and unkempt ragamuffins who had been rooted out of their den tor Mr. Barnardo
to see.
After that night people seemed to notice us more and we were able to collect more coppers.
As I was holding a fine white mare one day I overhand mn gentleman say to another, "Mr. Barnardo didn't exaggerate things
either, when he gave that talk".
"No," said the other, "and I've heard tell that he had donations, for his Homes at Stepney, from several well-known families''.
A month or so later Mr. Barnardo visited us with another gentleman and, to our surprise, asked us to come and live in proper
We were astounded and hesitated, then our appointed leader. Ben we called him, pointed out that we could at least try
"these 'ere 'omes".
We all knew Ben to be a wise lad and so most of our group including myself volunteered to go. It must have been a surprising
sight for passers-by seeing two coach loads of dirty, ragged boys, go riding past.
It was the start of a new life for me and many other boys. Although a few boys ran away, most stayed. I remained in Stepney for
six years and grew up into a normal lad instead of being a ragged urchin tied down with squalor.
I shall not forget meeting Dr. Barnardo.
He was a great man.
Goldonian Summer 1956

Page Compiled November 2009

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