Colin Lovatt (1913 – 1986)

BICA boy

The following story was submitted by Charles Lovatt of Scotland, Colin Lovatt's great uncle. A few additional details were provided by Deborah Waddell.

Colin Lovatt at AshfieldHere’s a picture of Colin Lovatt (smallest one in the front with huge hat) from about 1917 when he would have been about 4. Outside the family home in Derbyshire with his two sisters, Nanny and Groom in pony and trap. By 1928 the family fortunes were in decline so it made sense for him to emigrate seeking a new life.

The Lovatts of Heanor

The youngest of four children, Colin was born into a very prosperous family with a pottery business that employed 400 men in Derbyshire. They had a very comfortable, modern home in Heanor with central heating and beautiful park-like gardens as well as a tennis court, stables, ponies, and various other pets. The family had a cook, a nanny for the children, two live-in maids, gardeners and a groom to look after the horses. It was to be expected that, in due course, Colin, like his brothers, would join the family business which they would eventually inherit.

The Pottery Business Suffers

However during the First World War, the firm suffered when many of the most skilled men went off to fight. After the war, it declined further and by the time Colin became a teenager the business was losing money. It must have been clear to his father that hard times were coming and that there would be no future for Colin in the pottery.

Colin Lovatt Travels to Canada with BICA

So, at the age of 15, Colin was enrolled in the BICA programme. He sailed, third class, from Liverpool on 17 May 1929, in a group of 11 boys destined for Ontario[1]. Colin was one of the youngest boys in his group.

[1] Source: Canadian archives

1929 May SS Regina UK Psgr List2 with BICA boysThe SS Regina departed Liverpool 17 May 1929 and arrived in Quebec City 26 May 1929. The boys would have traveled on to Montreal via Canadian National Railway. They likely would have spent at least one night at the BICA hostel at 87 Osborne St, Montreal, before traveling onward to their placements. All the boys in this group were placed in Ontario.

The Canadian Incoming Passenger List gives a few more details about the boys, including the name, relationship and address of the closest relative left behind in the UK.  Also, their immediate destination and the manner of traveling from Quebec are given.

1929 May SS Regina Can incoming

Summary of Canadian Incoming Passenger list details:

As the list is too small to read easily, this group of boys’ information is summarized below, organized by, Family name, Given name, age, birth place, occupation in the UK, relationship, name and address of their nearest relative in the UK:

Clough, George Arnold, 17, Sheffield, Messenger, Mother, Mrs. Pollie Clough, 133 SkinnerThorpe Rd, Sheffield

Collins, George, 14, Leicester, Scholar, Aunt,  Mrs. M.E.A. Antliff (Daisy), Cole Lane, Ockbrook, Derby

Gozzard, George William, 18, Sheffield, Cutler, Mother, Mrs. Kate Gozzard, 69 Clough Rd, Sheffield

Greaves, Granville, 17, Royton, Textile Work, Father, Mr. J. Greaves,(John), 20 Glen Grove, Royton, Lancs

Lewis, Owen, 18, Frodsham, Conducter, Father, Mr. J.D. Lewis, Poplar Cottage, Common Wood, Holt, Nr. Wrexham

Lovatt, Colin, 15, Heanor, Pottery Work, Father, Mr. A.E. Lovatt, Ashfield, Heanor, Notts

Morton, Frank, 17, Musbro, Salesman, Father, Mr. G.B. Morton (George),   (19?) 39 Bowness Rd, Walkley, Sheffield

Rinder, Norman, 15, Blackpool, Plumer, Father, John Rinder, 40 Thornber Rd, Blackpool, Lancs  (UK list gives same as George Hall)

Smith, Albert, 17, Sheffield, Shop Assistant, Father, Mr. William Smith, 12 Gower St, Sheffield

Usher,  John William, 17, North Shields, Hawker, Uncle, Mr. George F. Usher, 12, Franklin St., S. Shields

Hall, George R., 15, Manchester, Dairy Round, Father, Frederick Hall, 40 Corporation St., Ardwick, Manchester (UK list gives: 9 – 19 James St, Liverpool)

Of this group of 11 boys, 5 returned to England in the following few years: George Collins, (October 1931), George R. Hall (possibly June or September 1931), Owen Lewis (January 1930), Norman Rinder (September 1929), as well as Colin Lovatt (January 1933).

Sadly, in addition, Albert Smith died of an “accidental” gunshot wound when no one else was at home.  They supposed he had been looking down the barrel of the gun while cleaning it.  There was no inquest [3].

Colin Lovatt's placement

Colin was placed with the Falls family in Simcoe County (about 130 km north of Toronto) earning $10/month on their farm. It must have been quite a shock for Colin, after his very comfortable childhood in Heanor, to become a farm labourer in Canada.

All placements were inspected periodically by government officials who reported on character of home, health, satisfaction given and child’s character. Colin was seen twice in the three years he spent in Canada - the inspectors found everything ‘good’ (image below).

Colin Lovatt Inspection Report

Colin Leaves his Placement

Although some BICA boys stayed on the same farm throughout their placement, it was not uncommon for them to have several placements.  Colin moved several times before ending up with Ed Pridham at Dufferin, in Simcoe County. Ed was a 53-year-old unmarried farmer with a live-in housekeeper and her 11 year old daughter[1].

For some reason Colin left Pridham’s farm during summer 1931[2] between June and August.

I don’t know why he left but it was just before harvest season so maybe Ed Pridham was working him too hard. I also don’t know where he was over the following 12 months. He was eventually picked up by the authorities in Montreal during November 1932.  There are no records showing what he was picked up for but, it might have been for drunkeness.

Colin Lovatt Returns to England

Without employment (during a period of extreme unemployment) and lacking the means to support himself Colin was found to be a ‘public charge’ meaning he would be costing the government money. This was a breach of his visa conditions so, at the age of 19, Colin was deported from Canada on 29 January 1933[3].

He sailed back to England on the SS Laurentic from Halifax, Nova Scotia declaring his occupation to be ‘potter’ on the passenger manifest. As far as I know, he never set foot on a farm again.

By the time he was back in Derbyshire, the family business had gone into liquidation and his mother & father had moved from their fine detached property into a small, terraced house.

Colin Lovatt's Adult Life

Colin went into engineering and became an aircraft fitter. He married in 1935 and lived with his wife Phyllis in Coventry where they brought up three children. Phyllis died in 1978. Colin continued to live at the same house in Coventry until his death in 1986 at the age of 73.

Colin was  my granduncle.


[1] Source: Canadian archives    

[2] “Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 30 December 2023), entry for Colin Lovatt, aboard S.S. Regina (Liverpool to Quebec), arriving 26 May 1929, p. 18; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Series: RG 76-C; Roll: T-14753.

[3] “English Boy is Found Dead in Employer’s Yard,” The Kingston Whig-Standard (Kingston, Ontario, Canada), 27 August 1930, p.10; imaged in Newspapers+ Publisher Extra ( : accessed 22 January 2024). 

[4] Source: 1931 census 1 June


[6] Source: Juvenile inspection report cards microfilm ref T – 15424 image 114 (as above)


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