First Christmas in Canada 1947

This poem by former Fairbridge Farm School resident Tom Isherwood describes the terrible loneliness, fear and sense of rejection many British Home Children experienced upon arriving in this country. See my next post: First Christmas in Canada: One Boy’s Experience for a backgrounder on Tom and Fairbridge’s operations near Duncan, BC where he lived from 1947-50.

This could easily have been Tom Isherwood upon his arrival in Canada in 1947: lonely and scared.

This could easily have been Tom Isherwood upon his arrival in Canada in 1947: lonely and scared.

First Christmas in Canada 1947

by Tom Isherwood


I was six years old when I tried to sleep,

the room was dark, and there wasn’t a peep.

Christmas Eve was here at last,

in my new country that is so vast.

I hung a darned woolen sock at the foot of my old iron bed,

one blanket, and no pillow for my tiny head.

Pictures of war played in my mind,

a gruesome reminder I could have died.

My first Christmas in Canada in nineteen forty-seven,

the dormitory is quiet like it must be in heaven.

Rhythmic soft breathing of other little boys,

some dream of magical toys.

As morning came with broken sleep,

I had not counted many sheep.

I fumbled quietly in the dark,

a strange feeling in my heart.

My sock had gone from the end of the bed,

and fear set in that Santa is dead.

Silently I lay in bed, tears of sadness I did shed.

Outside I went and scanned the skies,

and I prayed that Santa had not crashed and died.

To my family that abandoned me,

you broke my heart ’til eternity.

Elders tried to make me understand

Santa hadn’t changed my address in this great big land.

Man is born equal so it’s said;

tell that to the Orphan in the iron bed.


About seanarthurjoyce

I am a poet, journalist and author with a strong commitment to the environment and social justice. If anything, I have too many interests and too little time in a day to pursue them all. Film, poetry, literature, music, mythology, and history probably top the list. My musical interests lie firmly in rock and blues with a smattering of folk and world music. I consider myself lucky to have lived during the great flowering of modern rock music during its Golden Age in the late 1960s/early '70s. In poetry my major inspirations are Dylan Thomas, Rilke, Neruda and the early 20th century British/American poets: Auden, Eliot, Cummings. My preferred cinema includes the great French auteurs, Kirosawa, Orson Welles, and Film Noir. My preferred social causes are too numerous to mention but include banning GMOs, eliminating poverty (ha-ha), and a sane approach to forest conservation and resource extraction. Wish me—wish us all—luck on that one!
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