The Georgetown Boys

Jack Apramian. Edited, revised with an introduction by Lorne Shirinian. Toronto: Zoryan Institute, 2009, 226p.

This is a remarkable story of survival and cultural preservation. The ability of these Armenian children to retain their cultural heritage in the face of tremendous pressure to assimilate, both direct and indirect, is especially inspiring.

Near East Relief and the Lord Mayor’s Fund of London, England selected 109 Armenian orphan boys from orphanages in Turkey and Greece and sent them to Cedarvale Farm in Georgetown, Ontario, beginning in 1923. These orphans were rescued from the carnage of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, committed by Ottoman Turkey, and given a chance for a new life in Canada, where they were to be brought up as good Canadian farmers. They became known as “The Georgetown Boys.”

Never had such a scheme been undertaken before. At that time, the Immigration Department had strict rules, some of which were based on false racial considerations, and immigrants had a very difficult time entering Canada. When Orders-in-Council gave permission for the entry of 100 orphaned Armenian lads “on an experimental basis,” it was an immigration first, and soon became known as “Canada’s Noble Experiment.”

This is the story of the Georgetown Boys told by one of the boys, himself. Having lost everything, the most precious thing remaining to them was the memory of their families and their heritage. Based on original documentary research, interviews, and first-hand experience, Jack Apramian gives detailed insight into the daily lives of the boys, the challenges they faced adapting to their new country, and how they fared. Their story is told with a sense of humour, humanity, and history. An account of the dark and light moments that made up these rescued boys’ reality and the resilience of children, this book is essential to our understanding of multiculturalism’s best intentions.

Prof. Lorne Shirinian has edited and revised the late Jack Apramian’s classic book and provided a new introduction, setting the story in its historical context, both Armenian and Canadian. He has included previously unpublished documents and photos, enhanced the photographs, and added appendices of a list of the Georgetown Girls and information sources for on the Georgetown Boys.