William Kelly - a child migrant from Liverpool (1909-1980)

archive photo of a smartly dressed boy

William Kelly c1925, reproduced courtesy of Dennis Kelly

William Kelly was born on 2nd November 1909, and was the fourth child of Alfred and Sarah Kelly. William's mother died when he was three years old. His father, a merchant seaman, remarried but was killed in an accident in 1923. William's stepmother died two years later.

He was sent to Liverpool Sheltering Homes - recently taken over by Barnardo's - in June 1925 and sailed to Canada on board SS Athenia in July. He was placed on Horace Stevenson's farm in Ontario and remained there until he was old enough to start out on his own.

Liverpool Sheltering Homes trunk

This trunk was issued to William before departure. It contained a new set of winter and summer clothes, boots, handkerchiefs, needle and thread, a Bible and a copy of Pilgrim's Progress. All child migrants set out to their new lives with these few possessions.

old fashioned wooden trunk with the lid open

William left his trunk at the farm and it only came to light years later. The Stevenson family stored it in the hope that he would return to collect it. It was retrieved in 1981.

William's son Dennis donated the trunk to Merseyside Maritime Museum. It was displayed as part of the exhibition.