Barnardo, Thomas John 1845-1905, philanthropist, born in Dublin on 4 July 1845, was younger son of John Michaelis Barnardo, who, born at Hamburg in 1800, had settled in Dublin as a wholesale furrier and had become a naturalised British subject. The Barnardo family, of Spanish origin, left Spain for Germany in the eighteenth century on account of religious persecution by the catholic church. Thomas John's mother was the daughter of Andrew Drinkwater, who belonged to an old quaker family, long settled in Ireland. She was a woman of strong religious convictions and exercised abiding influence upon her family. The son, after attending private schools in Dublin kept by the Rev. A. Andrews and the Rev. J. Dundas, became at fourteen a clerk in a wine merchant's office in his native city, but he subsequently gave up the employment on growing convinced of the evils of intemperance. During the protestant religious revival in Dublin of 1862 he was converted, the date of conversion being, according to an entry in his Bible, 26 May 1862. Soon after, he devoted his spare time to preaching and evangelising work in Dublin slums, until the call came to him to go as a missionary to China With a view to that work, he came to London in April 1866 and settled in Coburn Street, Stepney, under the guidance of the Rev. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, and of Henry Grattan Guinness [qv.]. In Oct. 1866 he entered the London Hospital as a missionary medical student, becoming a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh on 31 March 1876 and a fellow on 16 April 1879. Whilst pursuing his studies in East London he joined the Ernest Street ragged school and became superintendent. He preached in the open air, visited common lodging-houses and slums, and volunteered for service in the district during the cholera epidemic of 1866-7. Whilst thus engaged he was impressed by the number of homeless and necessitous children in the East End, and he gave up his intention of going to China in order to devote himself to their interests. On 15 July 1867 he founded the East End Juvenile Mission for the care of friendless and destitute children. The work rapidly developed, and in December 1870, under the patronage of Lord Shaftesbury, he opened a boys' home at 18 Stepney Causeway to provide for destitute lads. This institution developed into the immense organisation known as Dr. Barnardo's Homes. His next step was to purchase, in 1873, a notorious public-house known as Edinburgh Castle, Limehouse, and to convert it into a mission church and coffee palace for working-men, which became the centre of his evangelistic work. The Dublin Castle, Mile End, was similarly treated in 1876. In 1874 Barnardo opened a receiving house for girls, and on 9 July 1876 he started the Girls' Village Home, Barkingside, Essex, with church and schools. On 20 Aug. 1882 he sent for the first time a party of boys, and a year later a party of girls, to Canada for training and settlement there. In 1887 he established offices in Toronto, Canada, with distributing homes and an industrial farm. In 1886 he adopted in England the boarding-out system as an integral part of his scheme. In the same year he opened the Babies' Castle at Hawkhurst, Kent, for 100 infants (9 Aug.)
Barnardo's work grew with amazing rapidity, both at home and in Canada, until the waif and destitute children in his daily charge numbered about 8000. Before his death in 1905 he had rescued and trained 59,384 destitute children and had otherwise assisted as many as 250,000 children in want. Over ninety homes and agencies were founded and maintained by him. The Young Helpers' League which he formed in 1891, under the patronage of Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, who became the first president, and later of Queen Alexandra, aimed at banding together the children of the rich in the service of the sick and suffering poor. The income of the homes was wholly drawn from voluntary sources, and rose from 214l. 15s. in 1866 to 196,286l. 11s. in 1905, making a total of nearly 3,500,000l
In 1877 charges reflecting on Barnardo's disinterestedness and good management were submitted to arbitration and fully refuted. He then conveyed the property to trustees. On 20 April 1899 the homes were incorporated under the Companies Act, and became known as The National Incorporated Association for the Reclamation of Destitute Waif Children, otherwise known as Dr. Barnardo's Homes. In 1903 Queen Alexandra accepted the office of patron. The cardinal principle of Barnardo's homes, No destitute child ever refused admission, was never forsaken even when his financial resources were temporarily exhausted. The religious teaching of the homes was stated in the title-deeds to be protestant, and every child admitted into the homes was to be brought up in the protestant faith. Barnardo frequently came into conflict in the law courts with Roman catholic authorities, who claimed to recover from the homes children of catholic parentage. Between 1889 and 1891 Barnardo was involved in much litigation on such grounds. Ultimately an equitable agreement was reached without prejudice to the protestant character of the homes
Barnardo died at Surbiton on 19 Sept. 1905 from heart failure. In a message of condolence from King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra he was called that great philanthropist. A public funeral was accorded him at his Girls' Village Home, Barkingside. There a memorial room was opened on 30 June 1906, and on Founder's Day, 1908, a beautiful monument fashioned by Sir George Frampton, R.A., who gave his services gratuitously, was erected over his tomb. A national memorial was organised to free his homes from debt, and their prosperity is now firmly established
On 17 June 1873 he married Syrie Louise, only daughter of William Elmslie of Lloyds and Richmond, Surrey, who survives him with two sons and two daughters. Three sons predeceased him.
Memoirs of the late Dr. Barnardo, by Mrs. Barnardo and Rev. James Marchant, secretary of the National Memorial Council, 1907
original books and documents in Dr. Barnardo's Homes
Contributor: J. M-t. [James Marchant]