Smyly Homes


Homes, day schools and residential schools were established by Ellen Smyly in Dublin, Ireland, starting in the 1850s. They included the following:

  • Smyly Mission Homes and Ragged Schools of Dublin
  • Smyly Orphans Homes of Dublin
  • Smyly Coombe Boys' Home and Mission
  • Bird's Nest Home
  • Elliott Home
  • Nead le Farriage Home

The homes provided food, basic education and bible instruction for desititute chidren. The homes were later run by her daughters Ellen and Annie Smyly.

In the 1870s, they began sending some of the children to Canada under the care of Annie Macpherson's organization, to her receiving homes in Belleville, Galt and Stratford.

In 1905, the Smylys purchased the Coombe Home in Hespeler, Ontario, which became their receiving and distribution home. It was managed by Mr. and Mrs. George W. Tebbs, and later by Arthur Pullam. Many of the children arrived with William Merry's parties of Macpherson children.

Unlike many other organizations, most of the children were not immediately distributed to farms upon arrival. Many stayed at the Coombe Home for up to a year for agricultural and other training and to familiarize them with Canadian ways.

Emigration of children from Ireland stopped during the First World War. According to Mr. Pullam, at least 115 former Coombe Home boys enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and ten were killed.

The Coombe Home was sold to the Waterloo County Children's Aid Society in 1917 and became an orphanage.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files (RG76 B1a)

This series contains correspondence between the Immigration Branch and many of the sending organizations. The files contain a variety of documents relating to the activities of the organizations, often including annual reports, lists of children's names and medical certificates. The documents within each file are arranged by date. Microfilm reels can be viewed on site.

Most of the microfilm reels in this series are digitized on the free website Héritage. Enter the reel number in the search box, e.g. C-4715. If the reel is digitized, click on the reel title to see the images. The page contents are not searchable, but you can skip ahead through the images to find the volume and file of interest, then browse through the pages in that file.

File title: Miss Ellen Smyly, Dublin, Ireland. Emigration of children to Canada (Mrs. Smyly's Home and Schools; The Coombe Home, Hespeler, Ont.)
RG76, volume 353, file 383725, 1905-1924, microfilm C-10258

This file contains only a few references to specific children. It has correspondence, annual reports and a list of the boys who enlisted during the war.

Research in Other Institutions

The Representative Church Body Library in Dublin holds a collection called Mrs. Smyly's Homes. It includes registers and files about children in Dublin and Canada. The collection is in the custody of the Representative Church Body Library, but inquiries concerning access must be submitted to Smyly Trust Services.

Research Online

Published Sources

  • Hespeler's hidden secret: the Coombe Orphanage, 1905-1947 by Paul Langan. (AMICUS 24107380)

  • The golden bridge: young immigrants to Canada, 1833-1939 by Marjorie Kohli, pages 215-222, 361, 375. (AMICUS 28334219)

Other Resources

See our Home Children 1869-1932 page for links to other research sources, websites and institutions in Canada and the United Kingdom.

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