The invitation in 1938 to Wolfgang Abel, a Nazi eugenicist, by Neville Henderson the then ambassador to Germany, to undertake invasive examinations of Gypsy Traveller children leaves me in no doubt that a programme of eugenics was in the making and if not for the advent of the second world war would have been sanctioned and actioned.
Between 1869 and 1939 100,00 children were trafficked to Canada via the Child Migration Programme. The programme was paused during the first world war and reinstated thereafter. It was paused again during the second world war and not reinstated in Canada by the majority of organisations. However, the Fairbridge Society continued the practice sending 329 children to a Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School in British Columbia between 1935 and 1948 – 95% of which were not orphans. The farm school closed in the 1950s – with the last of the older boys leaving in December 1951. Children continued to be trafficked to Australia up to the 1970s. 10,000 of these children came from Scotland, Quarrier’s Homes trafficked 7,000 of these children, many of whom were Gypsy Travellers including three of my grandfather’s younger sisters: Gracie, aged 9, Mary, aged 11 and Margaret, aged 14, at the time they were trafficked. Prior to being trafficked to Canada, children would spend up to three years incarcerated at Quarrier’s village, Bridge of Weir where they were prepared for a future in indentured servitude in the colonies. Quarrier’s Homes were careful to select only the fittest for trafficking as they did not wish to risk any child being rejected or returned to their distribution centre in Brockville, Ontario as this would impact their tight profit margins.
We do not send any who are unhealthy or who are known to have pernicious habits out there. We are just as anxious that the Canadian people will be satisfied with them as we are to have them placed there. […] What is the cost of maintaining the children? […] it would amount to something like £10 per head [Quarrier’s evidence in the Report of the Departmental Committee on Habitual Offenders, Vagrants, Beggars, and Inebriates in Scotland, 1895].
There was little of a welcome to Canada for these children, some as young as two years old, who became known as Canada’s Little Slaves. The media of the time portrayed them as orphaned thieves and vagabonds who had been found wandering the streets of the towns and cities or the children of drunkards and criminals unfit to care for them and who had willingly handed them over into the ‘care’ of the unholy trinity of state, churches or charities. As such, many of these children were treated as less than human by those who engaged them as indentured servants. Girls as young as five years old working as housekeepers quartered in cold attics and fed scraps and boys of a similar age working in the fields seven days a week and sleeping in barns and dog kennels, one man [now in his 90s] reports sleeping with the dogs and being the last to be fed, even the dogs being fed before him. Physical and emotional abuse was common place and there were a number of reports of sexual abuse, some of which were reported in the media at the time.
The fate of a number of children who passed through the Fairknowe distribution centre is unknown. Many disappeared from state records a few years after they were put into service. Others are recorded as having died from serious injuries while in service – there is evidence that a sizable proportion of these were at the hand of another. Some of these children are buried in marked graves, others were not so fortunate at best being buried in unmarked graves in cemeteries or at worst on the farmland where they met their often untimely death.
Those thirty nine , the youngest just five days old, who were returned, or never left, Quarrier’s Fairknowe distribution centre are interned in a 500sqft  plot in the Old Protestant Cemetery in Brockville. Quarrier’s Homes provided no grave stones or markers. During my visit in November 2023, and working with an archivist from the local authority, I was able to identify the names, ages, country of birth and cause of death of those interned there. I believe that Quarrier’s Homes has a duty to make this right by placing thirty nine markers on that plot and I intend to pursue this matter in the coming months.
A dark time in the UK’s history and darker still that the Child Migration Programme was used as a cover to remove Gypsy Traveller children from their families as part of the Tinker Experiments, a programme designed to extirpate the Gypsy Traveller community via enforced assimilation and, for those families who continued to live a nomadic life, the removal and trafficking of their children to the colonies. The invitation in 1938 to Wolfgang Abel, a Nazi eugenicist, by Neville Henderson the then ambassador to Germany, to undertake invasive examinations of Gypsy Traveller children leaves me in no doubt that a programme of eugenics was in the making and if not for the advent of the second world war would have been sanctioned and actioned.
I worked on a whole series of other projects during those years [..] I chose the Gypsies as a group to test. They were already described as being in Scotland. I needed a trait that was genetically recognisable for my tests. […] I was invited to the house of the British Ambassador. The Archbishop of Canterbury was also present, and I was able to explain the nature of my investigations [Muller-Hill, 1988, Murderous Science: Elimination by Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies and Others, Oxford University Press].
Further information regarding the Tinker Experiments can be found at: The Uglier Side of Bonnie Scotland: the Tinker Housing Experiments The story of our three girls, and the resultant intergenerational trauma, can be listened to at the following link: The trafficking of Gypsy Traveller children to the colonies the impact on descendants of victims
Intergenerational trauma or blood memory is discussed in the aforementioned audio recording and further discussed in the following short film which includes the video diaries of my visit to Brockville, Ontario. A visit driven by an understanding that if I am to heal sufficiently to work towards the creation of transgenerational trauma free futures for my children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren then my journey must start by embarking on the same journey our girls took back in the 20th century. The film tracks that journey documenting my emotions, findings and what the next steps in my journey to a trauma free future will be.
In closing, I would like to thank all of those who financially and emotionally supported [and continue to support] me on my journey. If not for them I would not have been able to start out on this important journey.
 With grateful thanks to Patricia Skidmore editor of the Fairbridge Gazette for the information on Fairbridge’s continuation with the child migration programme during and beyond the second world war.
 Distribution centre was the term used by Quarrier’s Homes to describe Fairknowe Home, the building where children were processed upon their arrival in Canada and where the waited to be selected for indentured service.
 The average family plot at the time was 150-250sqft the fact that Quarrier’s Homes saw fit to only purchase a 500sqft [and made no perpetuity payment, a common practice to ensure maintenance of a plot] is indicative of how they viewed or valued these children. I was informed that back in those days coffins could be double/treble laid and angle placed in a plot thus making it possible to intern many bodies is a small space.
 According to emerging data, intergenerational trauma occurs when the effects of trauma are passed down between generations. This can occur if a parent experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and those ACEs impact their parenting. It can also be the result of enforced assimilation or other systemic oppression. The effects of intergenerational trauma have been documented in descendants of refugees, residential school children [First Nations Children in Canada] and Holocaust survivors. Thus, demonstrating that the continuing impact of collective traumatic actions or events – in this case the attempted extirpation and/or enforced assimilation of Gypsy and Traveller children via trafficking and housing experiments – continues to impact populations, for generations. An impact which manifests physically [autoimmune conditions and so on] and emotionally [such as inability to form lasting personal relationships, low self-esteem and mental ill-health].
 Indigenous communities from across the world view a formal apology as a recognition of their pain and suffering, the beginning of a healing process and the opportunity to create transgenerational trauma free futures. If current generations of Gypsy and Traveller families in Scotland who were impacted by similar traumatic actions and events are to heal sufficiently to work towards the creation of transgenerational trauma free futures, they too must be given a full apology with any and all reparation necessary to heal and move forward as equal citizens of Scotland.