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Farming for Boys (1930)


Main image of Farming for Boys (1930)
35mm, black and white, silent, 754 feet
Production CompanyTopical Film Company
SponsorYoung Men's Christian Association

A group of boys trains in farmwork under the Boys' Farm Training (Migration) Scheme.

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Liverpool was Britain's leading migration port from the middle of the 19th century until the 1930s. As well as through-migration from continental Europe to the United States, Liverpool handled many of the British adults and children who migrated to Canada, Australia and South Africa. Religious and philanthropic organisations arranged free or cheap passages, and governments also subsidised fares. Motives were mixed, combining a genuine belief that people would have better lives overseas with a desire to remove some of Britain's 'surplus' slum population. While some prospered, others, especially orphans and other institutionalised children, faced years of hardship and permanently lost contact with families in Britain.

This newsreel film publicises one of the better-organised schemes from the 1920s, with young men being trained for farm work in Lancashire and then carefully escorted through Liverpool to the ship that would take them to Canada. Well aware of the reputation of the city and of the migration process, the filmmakers took great care to reassure migrants and - perhaps more importantly - their families. Accordingly, there is particular stress on paperwork, respectable clothing, responsible officials, religious organisations and family ties, all of which symbolised security and confidence in this era. There is also prominent use of recognised respectable 'brands', most notably the YMCA and the Canadian Pacific shipping company.

A few locations are identifiable in the film. The railway sequence was shot at Lime Street Station, while the YMCA enquiry office was close to the landing stage at the Pierhead. The arrival and departure of liners of this size from the Liverpool waterfront was a normal daily event in this era.

Graeme Milne

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Video Clips
Complete film (12:33)
Travel Cunard Line - Canadian Route (1923)
Liverpool: Across the Mersey