Thomas John Barnardo

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Thomas John Barnardo
An old photograph of a man, wearing spectacles, writing at a desk.
Thomas John Barnardo, circa 1868
Born (1845-07-04)4 July 1845
Dublin, Ireland
Died 19 September 1905(1905-09-19) (aged 60)
London, England
Citizenship United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Organization Barnardo's
Known for Founder of homes for poor children
Spouse(s) Sara Louise Elmslie (m. 1873–1905)
Children 7; including Syrie Maugham

Thomas John Barnardo (4 July 1845 – 19 September 1905) was an Irish philanthropist and founder and director of homes for poor children. From the foundation of the first Barnardo's home in 1867 to the date of Barnardo's death, nearly 60,000 children had been taken in.

Early life[edit]

Barnardo was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1845, he was the fourth of five children (one died in childbirth) of John Michaelis Barnardo, a furrier, and his second wife, Abigail,[1] an Englishwoman and member of the Plymouth Brethren.

In the early 1840s, John emigrated from Hamburg to Dublin, where he established a business; he married twice and fathered seven children. The Barnardo origins are uncertain; the family "traced its origin to Venice, followed by conversion to the Lutheran Church in the sixteenth century", but others have claimed German Jewish roots for them.[2]

As a young child, Barnardo thought that everything that wasn't his should belong to him. However, as he grew older, he abandoned this mindset in favour of helping the poor.

Marriage and family[edit]

In June 1873, Barnardo married Sara Louise Elmslie (1842–1944), known as Syrie, the daughter of an underwriter for Lloyd's of London. Syrie shared her husband's interests in evangelism and social work, the couple settled at Mossford Lodge, Essex, where they had seven children, three of whom died in early childhood. Another child, Marjorie, appears to have had some form of intellectual disability, though details are unknown.[3]

Another daughter, Gwendolyn Maud Syrie (1879–1955), known as Syrie like her mother, was married to wealthy businessman Henry Wellcome, and later to the writer Somerset Maugham, and became a socially prominent London interior designer.


Barnardo died of angina pectoris in London on 19 September 1905,[4][5] and was buried in front of Cairns House, Barkingside, Essex, the house is now the head office of the children's charity he founded, Barnardo's.[6]

After Barnardo's death, a national memorial was instituted to form a fund of £250,000 to relieve the various institutions of all financial liability and to place the entire work on a permanent basis. William Baker, formerly the chairman of the council, was selected to succeed the founder of the homes as Honorary Director.Thomas Barnardo was the author of 192 books dealing with the charitable work to which he devoted his life.[4]

From the foundation of the homes in 1867 to the date of Barnardo's death, nearly 60,000 children had been rescued, trained and placed out in life,[4] at the time of his death, his charity was caring for over 8,500 children in 96 homes.[7]

Not a Jack the Ripper suspect[edit]

At the time of the Whitechapel murders, due to the supposed medical expertise of the Ripper, various doctors in the area were suspected. Barnardo was named a possible suspect long after his death. Ripperologist Gary Rowlands theorized that due to Barnardo's lonely childhood he had anger which led him to murder prostitutes. However, there is no solid evidence he committed the murders.[8] Critics have also pointed out that his age and appearance did not match any of the descriptions of the Ripper.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wagner, Gillian (2004). "Barnardo, Thomas John (1845–1905)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (September 2010 online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 15 November 2011.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ Rogal, Samuel J. (1997). "Barnardo, John Michaelis". A William Somerset Maugham encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-313-29916-2. 
  3. ^ Rogal, Samuel J. (1997). "Barnardo, Sara Louise (Syrie) Elmslie". A William Somerset Maugham encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-313-29916-2. 
  4. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911.
  5. ^ "The Public Funeral". The Goldonian Web. Goldings The William Baker Memorial Technical School for Boys. 2003. Retrieved 26 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Wrightman, Sara (June 2008). "The birthplace of Barnardo's". Essex Life. Archant. pp. 88–89. Retrieved 3 February 2009.  (subscription required)
  7. ^ "The history of Barnardo's". Barnardo's. 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "Dr. Thomas Barnardo". Casebook. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  9. ^ Eddleston, John J. (2001). Jack the Ripper: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 197. ISBN 1-57607-414-5



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