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Introduction

It was the growth in the Manx towns, especially Douglas, in the early 19th Century that overwhelmed the older Manx parish based charity and church monitored family support. Unlike England with its formalised Poor law, each Manx Parish Church would take a weekly collection to support the poor but this scheme broke down in the 1830's. The first such charitable institute was the 1834 Douglas House of Industry, instigated by Dr. Carpenter, and based on the English workhouse.

Adoption/Fostering prior to late 19th Century would appear to be commonplace and unformalised - William Hudson describes how in 1850's and '60's his wife took in several children whose own mother could not cope.

Douglas

The Douglas Industrial Home was a charity founded in 1868 and known as "The Douglas Industrial Home for Orphan and Destitute Children" and in 1881 as "Isle of Man Industrial Home .."

1881 saw a major change in its financial status as it obtained money from the charity established by the will of Pierre Henri Joseph Baume, an eccentric French immigrant; the money removed its previous hand-to-mouth existence and allowed it to buy, in 1882, Strathallan Hall, previously Dr. Steele's Academy (which had a high reputation and which he sold on the death of his wife) which allowed for accommodation for 90 children. (The building later became a social centre for Onchan RC church and was demolished in the 1960's - somewhat ironic for what had originally been run by a staunch Presbyterian and then by a very evangelical organisation). In 1910 the home moved to Glencrutchery.

Industrial Home Douglas
Douglas Industrial Home (c. 1885) - somewhat idealised - from Broadbent's Visitor's Guide 1885

The children were given a good education and although it was known as an "Industrial Home" the work in which the children were engaged was of a self-supporting nature. They had a market garden and glass houses and in inclement weather they assembled paper bags which were sold to local shopkeepers.

From the late 1880's it became associated with the Quarrier Homes of Scotland and sent many children to Canada via the scheme ran by these homes.

Ramsey

This had its origins in a temporary Ragged School established in the winter of 1862 for the well-being of the destitute children and 'to wrest them from the courses of sin and idleness'. The instigator was Miss Susanna Gibson, daughter of T.C. Gibson who owned the shipyard. The success of this temporary expedient led to the formation of a subscription and the establishment of a permanent home in 1863 - Mr Callow took a great interest, contributing much and purchasing the plot of what became the Ramsey Industrial School. Thwaites Guide and Directory of 1863 described it thus

An Industrial School has just been erected at North Ramsey, but at present no master is appointed. The object of the founders of this institution is the instruction of those children who have been entirely neglected by their parents, or prevented by other circumstances from partaking of all other means of instruction and improvement. In cases of extreme destitution, it is intended to provide food as well as education. The object chiefly in view at present is the rescue of poor girls for whom, if left without a home, (as is the case in many instances,) there is absolutely no rescue and no hope. These girls will be trained to habits of order and industry, and every way fitted for domestic service. The school will be supported by voluntary contributions. The number of children received will, therefore, depend upon the amount of the subscriptions. With the exception of two very little children, whose extremely destitute condition first suggested the idea of the school, no provision at present is made for boys. It is, however, to be hoped that the institution will meet with that patronage it so justly deserves, so that in a short time not only the poor girls, but the most destitute of the male children may be received, clothed, and educated within its walls. We need not dwell on the benevolence of the founders, in bringing into existence an institution so noble in its object and so beneficial in its results; yet, we doubt not but in after years, many there are who will look back with a grateful eye on the originators of this institution, as being the instrument of redeeming them from a life of darkness and ignorance, and raising them to stations in life quite unattainable but for the good-will and kindness of the benevolent and esteemed founders of the Ramsey Industrial School.

However within 7 years Mr Gibson had failed in business and died, bankrupt, in 1870 though Miss Gibson continued as Lady Superintendent (a task she made her life's work) with Matron Miss Anne Sprainger (daughter of the Headmistress of Ramsey Girls National School) and one housemaid - in 1871 there were 11 children (8 girls, 3 boys - all bar one child were Manx and almost all from Ramsey). By 1879 the number of children had increased to 25 but the financial implications were such that Miss Gibson had applied in 1878 for affiliation to the Methodist Children's Home and Orphanage (founded 1869).

By 1880 a new home, Ballacloan (Manx for Children's Estate), had been built overlooking the Mooragh which continued in operation until sold in 1956; however Miss Gibson died in June 1880 and the school was run as a branch of the NCH - by 1881 there were 27 children of whom only 8 were Manx.

Ballacloan

The matron was Sister Grigg

Sister Grigg, Matron, Children's Home.
Sister Grigg, Matron, Children's Home.

In total some 400 children were admitted before 1914 - many from the London area, most were 4 or older and stayed some 5 years at Ramsey. Girls were trained for domestic service whilst many of the boys were sent to Canada. The home could accommodate some 45 children - from 1904-1917 only girls were admitted but in 1917 an additional home, Dalmeny, was acquired and this became the girls' home with boys returning to Ballacloan. In 1956 Ballacloan was sold with all children transferred to Dalmeny - by 1989 with major changes in children's care all residential care was transferred to Douglas and Dalmeny kept for special needs children.

 References

C. Radcliffe Shining by the Sea : A History of Ramsey 1800-1914 (privately published) 1989 pp228/9

The Welcoming Home Manx Life May/June 1984 pp11/14


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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2001