The Askew brothers – Whinwell Home, 1903

Whinwell was a Children’s Home run by Miss Annie Croall (1854-1927) and opened in the 1890s. The records of the home are held here at Stirling Council Archives. The collection provides an insight into the social conditions and attitudes of the time, as well as revealing segments of the life stories of the individuals connected to Whinwell. Case files for the children at the home can provide some remarkable stories. This post will focus on the life of four brothers who were admitted to the home in 1903.

William, John, Robert and Benjamin Askew were admitted to Whinwell Children’s Home on 21 Nov 1903. The boys had arrived at the home through no fault of their own. Their mother had died of pneumonia just five months previous and their father had recently been imprisoned.

Miss Croall received a letter on 11 Nov 1903 from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. They stated that the boys had been in their care for months and that the other local children’s homes were full. A request was to Miss Croall to take in boys. They were admitted to Whinwell just 10 days later.

The two eldest boys, Robert and Benjamin, would stay at Whinwell Home for no more than five months. They were about to become two of the estimated 100,000 children sent to Canada from 1860-1932. More information about this scheme can be found here.

The boys had an obvious positive impact on Miss Croall. In a letter dated from 11 March 1904, Miss Croall asks that ‘If they do all go to Canada, I trust you will do your best to keep them as near to each other as possible. They are all in all to each other and Benjamin has a fatherly care over his brothers’.

Robert and Benjamin were the first of the brothers to be sent to Canada. They were sent down to Liverpool and boarded a ship to Quebec to stay at Miss Louisa Birt’s Liverpool Sheltering Home.

Passenger lists are available online and they confirm that Robert and Benjamin travelled on the same ship aged 8 and 9. Their passenger record can be viewed here.

John was the next brother to arrive in Canada in 1906 whilst William arrived in Canada aged 7 in 1909.

The case file for the Askew brothers provides some updates on what happenedto all four boys. Included in the file are photographs and letters from the brothers and their relatives.

Two pictures of Robert and Benjamin are present from August 1913. Also present is a letter dated March 1919 from William Askew in Springhill, Quebec, providing information on the brothers. It appears that both Benjamin, Robert and John had all served during the WW1.

A letter to Miss Croall from Robert’s wife Ruth is also present with the file. She is writing regarding gaining a birth certificate for Robert but again gives a small update of the brothers.

Robert and Ruth are living in Northampton, Massachussettes. She writes that John had been to visit them and it was first time she had met him. John had taken a shrapnel wound to the arm during the war. There is a small mention of Ben and his wife, although it does not state where they are based. Robert also sent Miss Croall various postcards from his time in Northampton, Massachussettes.

It is unclear what happened to the brothers after this. One final photograph sent by John’s daughter in 1941, however, shows all four brothers had got together after being separated 37 years previously.