Thomas John Bernardo, born in Dublin in 1845, was converted to protestant evangelic at the age of only 16 years. He set his destination to fulfill a medical mission in China. So Bernardo left Dublin in 1866 for London.
2. The Education
Bernardo reached London to earn a doctor’s certificate. He was admitted to London Hospital and also started studying there. But he did not finish the course. Throughout his life, he was called Doctor Bernardo. But he never qualified as a doctor.
3. The First Experience
London during that period in the 18th century had changed a lot after the Industrial Revolution took place. The population increased. Poverty began to get exposed. The employment problem became acute. Bernardo watched a disparaging cholera, which killed nearly 3,000 people and made their families insolvent.
4. The First Shock
After watching destitute children on the streets of London after that devastating cholera, Bernardo opened a school in East End for those ragged children to provide a primary education. One day in the evening, a boy at his school named Jim Jarvis asked Bernardo to roam around the place. And the doctor saw a lot of children sleeping on the roofs and even in the gutters. This was the first shocking incident Bernardo got. And the doctor was so stunned to have watched this miserable scenario that he cancelled his China trip permanently.
5. The Mission
The East End disaster and its destitute children had changed Dr. Bernardo’s objective for living. The doctor had opened his first school for the boys in Stepney Causeway in 1867. The boys were taught carpentry, metal work, and shoemaking so that they could at least earn money on their own.
6. The New Oath
In the beginning, Bernardo’s school was offered to a limited number of boys. That is why the home had to refuse several boys who were appealing to take shelter there. Once, in a similar incident, an 11-year-old boy named John Somers was disallowed, as the school was full. The boy was found dead within a span of only 48 hours. The reason was recorded that he was suffering from acute malnutrition and exposure. Dr. Bernardo, having realized the fact with deep anguish, had taken a new oath that no destitute child would be refused.
7. The Progress
Within a span of the next seven years, Dr. Bernardo had purchased a huge amount of land in East End. He established a school, a home for an employment agency, and a missionary church. He even acquired a children’s magazine. Then in 1873, Bernardo, after receiving a gift of a 15 years’ lease on a big lodge for his wedding, had started a home for girls. By 1900, Bernardo had been able to introduce 65 cottages, a school, a hospital, and a church around three village greens only for the girls. Around the 1920s, Dr. Bernardo’s great initiative had taken the number of girls in his village to an amazing 1,500.
Bernardo died in 1905 of a disease named “angina pectoris.” In between 1867 and 1905, it has been estimated that more than 60,000 poor and helpless children had been rescued; and they had been provided better living and earning for their future. The statistics also show that in a span of 39 years, Dr. Bernardo’s charity had established 96 homes and had helped nearly 8,500 children.
Thomas Bernardo was married to Sara Louise Elmslie. They had seven children. Three among them died in early childhood. One of the children, Marjorie, turned out intellectually disabled. And another daughter named Syrie was later married to legendary novelist Somerset Maugham.
10. Jack the Ripper
Dr. Bernardo was one of the doctors who was a suspect in the famous Whitechapel murders in East End in between 1888 and 1891. But, finally, no concrete evidence could be established against Bernardo; and he was freed from the allegation.