“Ecstatic” end to 130-year hunt for children lost in Canada

Arthur Delaney, the glass cutter from Edinburgh, who fought in the courts to get his children home after they were shipped to Canada without his knowledge. PIC: Contributed
Arthur Delaney, the glass cutter from Edinburgh, who fought in the courts to get his children home after they were shipped to Canada without his knowledge. PIC: Contributed
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A 130-year search for three children who went missing after being shipped to Canada from an Edinburgh home has come to an “ecstatic” end after their relatives were traced.

The quest to find the missing youngsters was started in the late 1880s by their father, Arthur Delaney, a painter and glass cutter, after his son and two daughters were taken from the home in the capital and sent to Nova Scotia without his knowledge.

Pat Dishon of Portobello said her family was "ecstatic" after learning what happened to the children. PIC: Contributed.

Pat Dishon of Portobello said her family was "ecstatic" after learning what happened to the children. PIC: Contributed.

READ MORE: The 15,000 Scots children shipped to Canada
They were moved as part of the British Home Children programme of forced emigration which was designed to save youngsters from the hardships of the slums and workhouses.

Mr Delaney fought the home’s owner, Emma Stirling, in the Court of Session for several years in order to get his children back but he was to never see or hear from James, Annie or Robina (Bessie) - who were 9,8 and six when they left Scotland - again.

READ MORE: A family’s 130-year search for its children shipped to Canada
Ms Dishon, thegreat grandaughter of Mr Delaney, picked up the hunt after learning of his struggle which led him to travel to Canada to try and find his children himself.

This week, after 25 years of trying to piece together her family’s story, Ms Dishon was put in touch with Michael Delaney, the great grandson of James, who lives in Florida.

Ms Dishon said: “It was such an emotional moment for both of us. After 130 years the Delaneys were reunited. The last few days has been an absolute whirlwind but our family is absolutely ecstatic.

“It was the article (in The Scotsman) that was the catalyst that finally led to us finding the lost children.”

It has now emerged the children, whose names were changed from Delaney to Whitehead by Ms Stirling, were moved over the border to a home in the United States as the Court of Session case progressed.

James later told his family that he had been ‘kidnapped’ from Scotland by an ‘aunt’ who put him in a home in Cayuga, New York state, after growing tired of him.

The three children were admitted to the home in September 1890 by a Mr Sutherland, a freight agent, with the home aware that James’ real surname was Delaney.

Ms Dishon added: “I had always felt certain that since James was that bit older he would know that he was James Delaney, not Whitehead.

“The family also hoped he would remember his father Arthur and given the fact that he called his own son, Arthur, and that name continued down his family line, that he remembered him fondly.

“Sadly, he was never to know that his father fought for their return for eight years and even went to Canada to look for them.”

James died aged 81 with Ms Dishon now having a photograph of his gravestone.

Annie, a ‘delicate’ child, died at the home aged 17 after returning from a spell of work as a domestic servant. She is buried nearby.

While Annie’s story is sad, Ms Dishon said she was grateful she was looked after by the home and buried with dignity.

More work is needed on Bessie’s case, who was sent to New York from the home in 1890 with little known of her after that. Ms Dishon is certain that, despite Emma Stirling’s statements in court, that she knew at all times where the children were.

Ms Dishon added: “Emma Stirling swore that she did not know where the children now where. With this recent discovery we know that she knew exactly where they were.

“She changed their name and, when she heard that a detective was being sent, on the orders of the Court of Session, in Edinburgh, to find the Delaney children, she had them quickly removed and taken to Cayuga Home, across the border in the USA.

“Her own name could never be mentioned because she had already been charged in Nova Scotia with contempt of court for stating she did not know where the children were.

“She also blackened my great grandfather’s name.

“At the conclusion of the court case in Edinburgh it was stated that in my great grandfather’s fight for his children, over eight years, he had ruined his health

“He died aged just 47 leaving my great grandmother alone to bring up his remaining children, including my grandfather, Patrick, in difficult circumstances here at home.

“The wickedness of the women is hard to comprehend,” she added.