Arnold was born in a beautiful, mountainous region of Switzerland to Julie, a kitchen maid. His reputed father disowned him and deserted his mother. This may be why as an adult Arnold chose not to be known by his father’s name - Dombald Thilibert.
Arnold was living in Vaud, Switzerland not far from his mother where she could visit him. It’s unclear how Arnold came to be in London, but his mother signed a total surrender agreement handing him over to Barnardo’s in October 1885 when he was just three years old.
His entry record describes him as a “most engaging little fellow … who prattles very prettily in a peculiar Swiss patois”.
Arnold was boarded out [fostered] in the summer of 1886, age four years old, first with Reverend and Mrs Darling and then by the vicar’s gardener and wife; Mr and Mrs Whyard in 1893.
Reverend Darling, vicar of Eyke, came from a humble background in Northumberland. A wealthy patron enabled Darling to study at Trinity College, Dublin. As a result, he wanted to help other children from humble origins. According to Eyke Village School records, where Reverend Darling and his wife taught, they took in around 100 Barnardo’s children as well as ‘local paupers’.
In 1898, Arnold left Barnardo’s to work at the Hotel Belgravia on the prestigious Victoria Street, London.
He made regular donations all his life to Barnardo’s in thanks for the thirteen years of care he received. When he died in September 1963, he also left Barnardo’s $21,000 in his will which would be worth around £134,000 in real terms today.
Sadly, there are still children and teenagers who have been through more than any child should have to. What they need is a stable, loving home and committed foster carers who can help them to achieve their potential. Could you help a child?