Guide to the Papers of Reginald Thornton (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Thornton, Reginald Trelawny
Papers of Reginald Thornton (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1926 - 1929
Collection Number
7 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

A diary of Thornton's tour of Australia and Canada 1928, correspondence and newspaper cuttings. The diary contains descriptions of voyage from London to Perth, impressions of Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and country districts in Australia, and discussions with officials, employers and officers of the Big Brother Movement. Most of the letters were written by Thornton to his wife Barbara in England.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the private residence of Mrs Peggy Poole, England, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1984 (AJCP Reel: M1861). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

The private residence of Mrs Peggy Poole, Wirral, Merseyside, England.

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Big Brother Movement; Canada; Emigration and immigration: children; London, England; Thornton, Barbara; Thornton, Reginald; Adelaide, South Australia: visits to; Melbourne, Victoria: visits to; Australia: visits to


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 460, p179.

Biographical / Historical

Reginald Trelawny Thornton (1887-1968). Educated at Marlborough. Teaplanter in Ceylon 1906-14. Enlisted in Ceylon Planters' Rifles, served in France and East Africa, rising to rank of Captain and winning Military Cross. Settled in East Kent as farmer 1920. London Organizer of Big Brother Movement 1926-31, visiting Australia and Canada in 1928. Field Secretary of National Association of Boys' Clubs 1931-45, Warden of St. Pierre, near Chepstow, training college for boys' club leaders 1945-52. Awarded M.B.E. 1952.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Diary of tour of Australia and Canada, July 1928 - December 1928

4 items

An extremely detailed diary, partly typed and partly handwritten, covering Thornton's tour of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, when he discussed the problems of assisted emigration with officials, businessmen and farmers and met many boys sent out by the Big Brother Movement, and also his journey across Canada, where he sought to launch the Big Brother Movement. The diary is divided into four sections.

S.S. Esperance Bay, 10 July 1928 - 9 August 1928 (File (i))

The diary records the voyage from London to Perth via Port Said and Colombo and describes in detail the social activities on the ship and the behaviour of the boys in the Big Brother party. There are also copies of reports on the voyage.

Australia, 10 August 1928 - 19 October 1928 (File (ii))

The diary records his brief visits to and impressions of Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, followed by his lengthy tours of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Thornton visited a large number of farms and small towns, particularly in the Murray Valley, Mallee and Gippsland districts; among the larger towns that he visited were Mildura, Shepparton, Albury, Wagga, Parkes, Orange, Tamworth and Newcastle. The diary describes the landscape, economic conditions, conditions on farms, the relations between farmers and boys, the progress or difficulties of boys, talks with local officials, employers and officers of the Big Brother Movement and the New Settlers League, social activities, golf, and meetings with relatives in Sydney. There are references to Sir William Campion, V. Ryan, Col. Burrett, Bankes Amery, Sir Dudley De Chair, K.F.J. Bikersteth, H. Gepp and C. Fairbairn.

S.S. Niagara, 19 October 1928 - 11 November 1928 (File (iii))

The diary records the voyage from Sydney to Victoria, British Columbia, with visits to Auckland, Fiji and Hawaii.

Canada, 11 November 1928 - 8 December 1928 (File (iv))

The diary describes Thornton's journey and his talks with Canadian politicians, officials and employers in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. There are occasional references to Australia and comparisons between Australia and Canada.

Series 2. Correspondence, 1926 - 1928

7 items

Letters from Thornton to his wife Barbara Thornton, August 1926 - November 1928 (File (i))

6 items
Refers to lack of organization in Big Brother office in London, 31 August 1926 (Item)
Difficulties in forming parties of boys for Australia, 1 September 1926 (Item)
Fears that Big Brother Movement might be dissolved, 6 December 1926 (Item)
Meeting with H. Gepp and threat of Movement being dissolved, 13 December 1926 (Item)
Recruitment of boys at Newcastle-upon-Tyne; desperately low quota, 11 May 1927 (Item)
Travels in Australia: travel plans, meetings with friends, Mildura, Wagga, Parkes, departure from Australia. (11 letters), 14 August 1928 - 6 November 1928 (Item)

Letters of introduction for Thornton from L.S. Amery, Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to the Governor-General and State Governors, 5 July 1928 (File (ii))

Series 3. Newspaper Cuttings, 1928 - 1929

Cuttings mainly from Australian newspapers concerning Thornton's tour in 1928 and also referring to the departure of boys from England.