Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas


Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

Dr. Barnardo
by Alexis Jones
The Children's Champion: A Legacy of Love

Scholarship Award Winner for 2003 was Alexis Jones, a cum laude graduate of
Health Careers High School. She was born in Banbury, England and is among the
top 10% of Latin scholars worldwide. She will spend the summer in Austria studying
German. Her essay, which she read with great flair at the June 2003 meeting,
is on Dr. Thomas Bernardo.

The Children's Champion: A Legacy of Love

"Carrots' is dead, sir. Ain't nuffink you can do for 'im nah," 
said Jim in his thick Cockney accent.
Tom's Irish temper flared, and he clenched his fists with rage. 
Frustration and guilt swept over the young man as he stared 
down at the lifeless body of this poor destitute waif. Had it 
only been two days before when he had refused admittance to 
this very child? Oh yes, Tom knew himself to be young and 
inexperienced. His newly opened shelter for homeless children 
already at maximum capacity. And his body screaming for 
physical rest. But that didn't matter. He wasn't suffering 
from malnutrition or exposure, which had killed 'Carrots' and 
was placing so many other children in similar jeopardy in this 
great city of London in 1870.

Tom had arrived in London in 1866 to train as a doctor, with 
the view of becoming a medical missionary in China.. A far 
cry from his Dublin roots, the ninth child of a rowdy 
household. Frail from birth, Thomas John had battled 
constantly with ill health but gradually became a sturdy and 
resilient, even rambunctious youngster. No lover of school, 
he left at 16 with few academic achievements and although 
confirmed into the Church of Ireland, proclaimed himself an 
agnostic. But the power of revivalist preachers, like Henry 
Grattan Guiness, spreading messages of Christ, finally awoke 
his dormant soul, and he became completely converted, now 
craving education. An important aspect of his new-found faith 
was his desire to work with the poor, especially children. 
After meeting with Hudson Taylor, a pioneer missionary, Tom 
thought he had found his niche in life.

As he began his medical degree in London's East End, Tom 
became aware that overcrowding, poverty and disease were rife 
throughout the city. When cholera swept through, it left even 
more destitution, desolation and desperation in its wake. 
Thousands of children slept on the streets, turning to begging 
or petty crime to keep themselves alive.

Thus it was into this maelstrom of wretchedness that Tom found 
his real vocation: to work with London's abundance of abandoned 
children. With tremendous zeal and energy, in 1867 he founded 
the East End Juvenile Mission for the care of "friendless 
and destitute	children." It began as a "ragged school," but 
one night little Jim Jarvis led Tom out over the rooftops, 
under the bridges, and into dark filthy alleys; everywhere 
they went Jim showed him groups of huddling, shivering children 
with no place to go. Soon Tom's first Mission House was full 
and he had turned young 'Carrots' away. This poor boy's death 
profoundly affected Tom and led him to vow that he would never 
again refuse shelter to any destitute child.

As word of Tom's work spread, he gathered support from London's 
wealthiest and most prominent citizens, including Lord 
Shaftesbury, and Robert Barclay. Being a charismatic and 
engaging orator, Tom swiftly won both approval and much needed 
financial aid to fund more homes. In the space of seven short 
years, Tom had exploded onto the philanthropic and evangelical 
scene. He had acquired more than a dozen properties and by 1873 
opened the fast Girls home. Continued development and the scale 
of these commitments meant that ever more fund-raising was 
needed. Tom was a great innovator in this area, being the first 
to organize mass, charity giving with much of the money for 
his schemes coming in small amounts from a large number of 

Over the years, all this work took its toll on Tom's health. 
Before he reached 50, it was clear his childhood heart 
complaint had now returned with a vengeance. Ordering Tom to 
take "complete rest" was a futile gesture, as he simply could 
not abandon his responsibilities. Despite periods of remission, 
he died in the evening of 19th September 1905 after completing 
his usual, busy day.

At the time of his death, more than 8,000 children had homes 
in 96 residences; 4,00 were "boarded out" (how fostering 
began) and 18,000 had been sent to families over. Since then, 
countless thousands more have continued to receive the benefits 
of his legacy. This one man's work has left an indelible mark 
on the development of social care for children. From that 
small beginning in the slums of London, his charity is now a 
well-renowned, world-wide organization under Royal patronage. 
Transforming a self-centered young  man into a benefactor 
whose name is still a household word today.
Everyone has heard of Dr. Barnardo's.

Works Cited
Hitchman, Janet They Carried the Sword: The Barnardo Story. 
Victor Golancz, London: 1966.

Rose, J. For the Sake of the children: Inside Dr Barnardo' s 120 
Years of caring for children. Hodder & Stoughton, London: 1987.

Wagner, Gillian. Barnrdo. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London. 1979.

Williams, AE. Barnardo of Stepney: the Father of Nobody’s Children. 
George Allen & Unwin, London: 1966.

Powell, Jessie. The Man Who Didn't Go to China, the Story of Thomas 
John Barnardo Lutterworth Press, London: 1947.

World Wide Web:
Life of Dr. Barnardo. 21 Jan 2003.

Smith, M.K. Thomas John Barnardo ('The Doctor'). The Encyclopedia 
of Informal Education. July 142002.21 Jan 2003.

History: 1845-1900., 21Jan2003.

Thomas Barnardo. 21 Jan 2003.