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Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts.

Woman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers online

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the height of fellowship with God.

Beyond and above all is the personal work of the ladies living in the homes.
During the evening, the time at which the soldier is out of barracks and a free
man, one of them is always on duty in a small library near the entrance hall.
Here new-comers are welcomed, temperance pledges taken, lending-library books
exchanged ; and here, perhaps, as much as or more than in any other part of the
premises, the work of the mission has been accomplished.

All the branches already mentioned in Miss Robinson's
work are in active operation here. These are the results of
Mrs. Daniell's prayers and labours. She and her daughter
have been the pioneers in this noble work, and we cannot err
in saying that what they and their followers have accomplished
has borne fruit even unto " the ends of the earth."



167



WORK AMONG SAILORS.
BY Miss AGNES E. WESTON.

I HAVE been requested by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts to
write a paper, giving an account of my personal work in
the Royal Navy of Great Britain, and among sailors every-
where. I have much pleasure in responding to the request
of one whose active and incessant philanthropy is of world-
wide repute. I also append some notes to this paper, as
to Sailors' Rests and Homes in various parts of the world.
Although I have been working for the good of sailors for
twenty-five years, the last twenty have been by far the most
active and fruitful. About twenty-five years ago, a little
seed was sown, which, under God, was to grow into a great
tree. A Christian soldier asked me to write to a seaman, a
godly man, then serving as sick-berth steward on board
H.M.S. Crocodile. " He would like a letter from a Christian
lady," wrote the soldier, "because he misses his mother's
letters so much. She used to write to him, but she is dead
and gone." To replace that mother was no easy task, and
yet it was a plain duty to write to the man. I did so, and
he has often since remarked what a help that simple letter
was to him ; how he took it into a dark corner of the ship,
and, when he had read it, how he knelt down and thanked
God that He had given him a Christian friend to take his
mother's place. That sick-berth steward was well known in
Portsmouth. He is now in New York, where, having passed
through the medical schools, he has graduated, taking the
degree of Doctor of Medicine, and is now practising and
working for God in the Medical Mission of that city. " Never
shall I forget," said he, in writing to me, " the dear old



1 68 Woman's Mission.



Crocodile days, and never do I cease to thank God that I was
your first blue-jacket friend."

Thus the key-note of the work was struck : personal in-
terest in the brave men of the sea men who of all others
know how to appreciate true friendship, and men of all
others who are most frequently led down to destruction by
friendship of a wrong kind. This work began to grow. It
had the principle of life in it which only God could give ;
and its aim was, and has been, by every holy, Christ-like, and
home influence, to draw our naval men from pleasures that
debase and ruin them to a sober and godly life. My first
naval friend, now Dr. George Dowkontt, sent me the names
of Christian men on board other of her Majesty's ships, who
had no one to write to them, and would be so glad to hear
from some friend who would give them good counsel ; here
was a quiet way of ministering, but a useful one. Jack is
not overdone by letters : he values them, he reads and re-
reads them, and stows them away in cap or ditty box for
future reference, and oftentimes they become the touch of
Christian love that leads him to forsake the evil and to
choose the good. Twenty years ago, I found letter-writing
an important part of the work, and I find it so still. About
ten thousand letters, all purely personal, were written last
year, in reply to as many written by officers and men in our
fleet all over the world. To supplement, but not to super-
sede this letter-writing, I issue two monthly letters ; one
to the men, the other to the boys of our Service. These
letters have been circulated afloat for about twenty years.
When first issued, a few hundred copies sufficed ; but the
demand for them has grown so steadily that last year
529,682 were circulated. These little messengers have gone
through every ship in her Majesty's Service, from the grim
battle-ship to the little torpedo-boat. They also go to the
merchant seamen, fishermen, lifeboat men ; and last, but not
least, they find a welcome under the Stars and Stripes,
having been circulated for many years in the United States
Navy. The demand came in this way. One of the American
warships was lying in Japanese waters, some years ago,
alongside a British ship ; the monthly letters were passed on
board, and the American seamen wrote to me again and



Work among Sailors. 169



again, asking me to bring out an edition expressly for them-
selves. This I did ; and now each American warship
receives its consignment every month, and hearty letters of
thanks are returned.

At the commencement of my personal work in the Navy,
I was asked by the National Temperance League of London
to superintend the " Royal Naval Temperance Society."
Drink has ever been Jack's greatest enemy, and I was eager
to fight such a foe. Single-handed, I could have done nothing ;
but by organization and the help of the splendid committees
on board our ships, the temperance work in the Navy has
made a great and abiding success. Mr. W. S. Caine, M.P.,
when Junior Lord of the Admiralty, calculated that it saved
the country a million sterling a year. H.M. Consul at
Yokohama stated that while in old days numbers of seamen
were committed for drunkenness, yet, although three thousand
men were ashore on a recent visit of the British squadron, only
three were brought before him. The Royal Naval Temper-
ance Society has so extended its operations that at the present
date it is working on board every ship in our national Service.
In some ships we have solitary workers, but on board most
of them organized committees of seamen and marines are
earnestly working to save their shipmates from the professional
and moral ruin that drink brings. We calculate roughly
taking our Navy, Coastguard Service, and Boys' Training
Ships together that about one in every six is a total abstainer.
A very great help to this temperance work is a monthly
illustrated paper called Ashore and Afloat, edited by my
friend and co-trustee, Miss Wintz. It is bright, readable, and
chatty, and is heartily appreciated by sailors and fishermen
everywhere. During the past year 380,670 copies have been
sent to seafaring men. The Missions to Seamen Society, the
Mission to Deep-Sea Fishermen, and the British and Foreign
Sailors' Society receive large grants. I would gladly send
this paper with the Monthly Letter to the American Navy,
where I know it would be heartily welcomed, and would be
of much benefit, but I am deterred by the expense.

Work afloat is calculated to do much good, and I feel
very thankful that, by the kindness of the Admiralty and of
commanding officers, I havefsuch liberal access to our war-



170 Woman s Mission.



ships, training-ships, Royal Marine Barracks, Royal Naval
Hospitals, etc. Temperance meetings in these ships are a
novel sight, and the, hearty greeting that I receive is most
gratifying. The boatswain's mate pipes the notice of the
meeting on the lower deck : " Miss Weston's come aboard
and she's going to spin yer a yarn on the torpedo flat." That
is sufficient to ensure a crowd of some hundreds. Earnest
attention is given, many temperance pledges are signed, and
old friends are met The length of service in our Navy is a
great help to consecutive work. Ten years is the enlistment
term, and ten years more for a pension. Thus there are men
in our Navy now whom I knew as boys twenty years ago.
When I first paid a visit to Plymouth, one of our great naval
arsenals, the sailor-boys claimed my interest and attention.
" Somebody's boys " they certainly were, from all parts of the
country ; some two thousand let loose on shore twice a week,
without any home to go to. They were fine young fellows,
anxious to be thorough sailors, but undoubtedly going on a
lee shore ! I visited their ships and addressed them there ;
but I felt that something must be done on shore for these
boys, and that a teetotal home, which in those days twenty
years ago had never been tried for Jack, must be attempted.
Single-handed, I might never have ventured it, or if I had,
might not have succeeded ; but God, in His good Providence,
gave me a friend and helper in Miss Wintz, herself belonging
to a naval family, who became my " chum," as we call it in
the Navy, and has been so ever since. We determined to do
something in Plymouth close to her Majesty's Dockyard,
and in 1876 started a Sailors' Rest, the first of its name and
kind. Many prophecies were uttered " that the place would
be shut up in six months," and it was said that to provide
Jack with such drinks as tea and coffee was a " crank," which
could only exist in the brain of one or two misguided women.
However, the answer has been emphatically given by the
men themselves, after sixteen years' trial. The number sleep-
ing on our premises last year, at the Plymouth Sailors' Rest,
was 72,822, and at Portsmouth 42,875, making a total of
115,637 seamen, comfortably sheltered; besides the many
who in times of pressure lie about on couches, tables, the
floors, anywhere. The money taken over our counters during



Work among Sailors. 171



the past year amounted to 11,578 los. id.; and after pay-
ment of all expenses, provision for wear and tear, etc., a
balance of 1672 is. $d. remained. This money has been
placed in the " Refreshment Reserve Fund," for use in
temperance and philanthropic work among sailors ; and
shows plainly that Sailors' Rests, without the drink, may be
made to answer well. " Overcrowded in every way," is the
answer, after sixteen years' work, to the gloomy prognostica-
tions of those who declared the idea to be Utopian.

Some broad regulations have contributed much to our
success. " No blue-jacket or marine ever to be turned from
the door, even if ' three sheets in the wind.' " " No compulsion
of any kind to be used to draw men into meetings and classes;
the men to feel as free as in their own homes." " Men to pay
a fair price for food, beds, and baths, but to be able to use
the Sailors' Rest in every other way, without payment."
What is the result? Many a man once a drunkard, now
thanks God for the rule that admitted a man in drink. " I'd
spent every farthing at the Napier Inn," said a man, " and
was roaring drunk ; they kicked me out into the gutter, and
I lay there until the people from the Sailors' Rest came
out, and carried me in, publicans' leavings as I was, and
through that I turned to a new life ; and says I, God
bless 'em."

When the Sailors' Rest was first opened, naturally, as
now, the publicans looked upon us with no little disfavour ;
for was not their trade in danger? It was a fair fight, and
no favour ; beer versus coffee. Generally, we are compelled
to admit, the brewer's dray carries all before it ; and in
Plymouth the odds were heavy: nine drink-shops against
one coffee-house. The publicans loudly proclaimed the
Sailors' Rest " a disgraceful innovation, a place that ought
to be crushed by all right-thinking men." " If there is any
one on earth that I hate, it is that Miss Weston of yours,"
said one of these worthy Bonifaces to my manager; "she
brings a blight upon all honest trade." This was sad, but
yet encouraging. The seamen crowded the Sailors' Rest,
and we did all we could to make them happy ; and as to the
publicans, we advised them to change their trade to a better
one, and insured our plate-glass windows, which they had



172 Woman's Mission.



threatened to break. A pretty constant changing of land-
lords, in the six public-houses opposite to us, showed that
custom was running down ; and the result of the battle was
that the public-houses were given up. Pulled down, they
disappeared bodily improved off the ground. Time went on,
and we held our own ; enlarging the Sailors' Rest, building
a high block of dormitories, and then a hall on a large scale.
Still we were crowded out ; and the earnest petition of the
men was, " Shake out a reef, do shake out a reef." It was
plain to Miss Wintz and myself that go forward we must.
If we remained in such an uncomfortable crowded state,
we should go back. After much consideration and earnest
prayer we resolved to lessen the men's temptations, by trying
to get two out of the three public-houses still left between
ourselves and the Dockyard gates, the Royal Naval Rendez-
vous and the Napier Inn. It seemed a great enterprise,
almost an impossibility. The sum of money needed was
large. Just at the critical moment a gentleman well known
in the Navy, Mr. Robert Whitehead, inventor of the celebrated
Whitehead torpedoes, sent a torpedo against the public-houses
in the shape of a cheque for ^1000 ; others followed, and the
two grog-shops finally capitulated. Active negotiations were
now carried on with the owners of the corner public-house,
the Dock Gates Inn, so that the whole block might be
captured. About that time I happened to be visiting the
Royal Naval Hospital, Plymouth. A seaman was lying in
his bed, in the last stage of consumption ; he had served on
board one of the turret-ships and had been a picture of health
and strength. With his skeleton finger he beckoned me to
his bedside, and between his gasps he whispered into my ear,
" Have you got the Dock Gates Inn ? " " Not yet," I said,
" but I believe we shall ; we are praying for it." " And so
am I," he said earnestly, laying his bony hand on my arm.
" I am praying to God day and night on my bed to give
you that place ; there I learned to drink, and the drink has
brought me here." Poor fellow ! like a sinking boat he was
going down. Whether he was resting for salvation on Christ
was not very clear, but his one earthly desire was that the
public-house that had worked his ruin might be done away
with. Thank God, this is now accomplished. The large sum



Work among Sailors. 173



needed for the purchase of these public-houses and their
sites was raised ; and when the last barrel of beer was rolled
out and the houses were closed and the key laid upon my
table, we all rejoiced that the temptations adjoining the gates
of H.M. Dockyard had been destroyed. Although there
were more public-houses further up the street, the first doors
open to receive our man-o'-war's-men as they left the Govern-
ment premises would now be those of the " public-house with-
out the drink." Step by step, the work went on, until a noble
pile of buildings adjoining the old Sailors' Rest was raised on
the site of the taverns, and was and is crowded with the
happy faces of our blue-jackets. This building, with its
sister building at Portsmouth, is a focus of work for God in
the Navy. Bright meetings, Gospel, temperance, and social
classes, naval clubs and benefit societies, and much else make
Jack's home bright and happy. A staff of devoted workers,
ladies and others, assist Miss Wintz and myself. We
are not in debt, and we make the places more than self-
supporting. The buildings are vested in trustees for continuity
of work, and well they may be ; as the sum of something
like ;i 50,000 has been spent upon them. They are the
head-quarters of the " Royal Naval Temperance Society,"
and the " Royal Naval Christian Union." Nor are the
wives and little ones, Jack's best bower anchors, forgotten.
Large meetings of sailors' wives and sailors' children are
held regularly, winter clubs, savings bank, etc. I roughly
estimate the attendance during the year at our meetings at
150,000 seamen, their wives and children, naval pensioners,
and others, and 50,000 at our Saturday night temperance
entertainments. My system in the business of the place is
to throw the coffee-bar open to any one, and yet to keep the
Institute strictly to seamen and marines, and this plan has
worked well. Seamen are able to bring wives and friends in,
the public have the advantage of a coffee-house, and when
our fleets are absent at sea we are enabled to do sufficient
business to keep the places going, with something over. I
should like to see Sailors' Rests, on broad principles, started
all over the world ; bright and cheery ; the Bible in, the
drink out. Plenty of colour and looking-glass (we have yet
to learn that bright colours cost more than dull ones), bright



174 Woman 's Mission.



smiles also, and a hearty welcome whether Jack is drunk
or sober, are indispensable for success ; and meetings, etc.,
should be constantly going on, that he can attend or not
as he likes. These things draw him from public-houses and
places of bad resort, and give him the advantages of a happy
home. A good situation is all-important ; a commanding
building is also a great attraction. If possible, some one
should be at the head whom Jack knows, and on whom he
can bestow that best of titles, "Mother." A committee is
good, but I hope that I shall not be accused of egotism when
I say a person is better. True, all this involves the leaving
of our homes, the giving up of much personal comfort ; but
the sacrifice is to God, and we get His blessing and the love
and esteem of the brave men that throng the place. Our
Royal Family have shown great interest and appreciation,
and have personally been most kind ; the Admirals, Captains,
and Chaplains of the British Navy have left nothing undone
that could lessen my labours ; and I am sure that wherever
these homes were placed, all the good and the true-hearted
would rally round them. Our seamen do so much for us,
we surely owe them gratitude. Our merchant sailors bring
us all that we need for daily life ; our naval seamen protect
our commerce, act as police all over the world, guard our
hearths and homes, and are ready at any time to sacrifice
their lives for their country, as has been shown again and
again. If the gold, silver, and bronze medals of the Royal
Humane Society are given away, they are generally presented
to seamen. Are the slaves set free, under a burning African
sun? It is to the blue-jackets that they owe their liberty.
Bishop Crowther, of Sierra Leone, told with tears in his eyes
how he owed his life, his all, to the seamen. They captured
the slaver in which, as a child, he was bound hand and foot,
and set himself and his mother free, loading them with
kindness. "Never, never," said he, "shall I forget the ships
or the blue-jackets, God bless them." As a living proof that
the work has taken deep hold on the Navy, there is the
fact that every year a fleet has been mobilized I have been
able to band together temperance and Christian men in each
ship to carry out work for God. Every national navy, and
I would say also every merchant navy, should have some



Work among Sailors. 175

organization on board each ship able to foster this life of
godliness. " Without men of a high moral stamp," said the
late Chief Constructor of Portsmouth Dockyard, " our modern
intricate ships can never be manoeuvred." True, moral men
we must have, and Christian men are best of all. May this
be realized internationally, and may the motto of every navy
be, "Defence, not Defiance."

I wish that I could give a better account than will be
possible, of other work in the same direction ; but I have
gathered some information as to the working of Sailors'
Rests in England and other places. The Missions to
Seamen Society has done and is doing excellent work, prin-
cipally in the Merchant Service. They have thirty-five
Seamen's Institutes, in thirty-one seaports ; sixteen mission-
rooms in fifteen seaports ; and fourteen churches in fourteen
seaports. The idea is to provide companionship, recreation,
instruction, and worship. The larger ports are better provided
than the smaller ones ; the best buildings being at Cardiff,
Bristol, Sunderland, South Shields, Newport (Mon.), Liver-
pool, Maryport, and Southampton. They are open without
payment to seamen of all nations and creeds. The society
aims at providing on the ground floor a large, well-lighted
hall, supplied with newspapers, books, harmless games, writ-
ing materials, etc. Lectures and entertainments are given
in this room, and there is also an officers' room. A gymna-
sium, with classrooms for instruction in navigation, Bible
classes, etc., are a part of the scheme. The church, on the
top floor, is used for mission services on week-days and
Sundays, including the administration of the Lord's Supper.
There is no sleeping accommodation for seamen in these
institutes. That the institutes are valued is shown by the
numbers frequenting them, and by the pledges against
drink. It is estimated that, in the course of the year,
at several of the institutes, from two to three thousand
different sailors attend week-day services. " The dual insti-
tute, half church and half institute, is," says Commander
Dawson, "a great success. It is greatly valued by sailors
as a place of refuge. We are supplementing the mission-
rooms by these new buildings, in which the place of worship



176 Woman's Mission.



is under the same roof as the place of recreation, the latter
being the feeder of the former."

The British and Foreign Seamen's Society is another of
the great agencies brought to bear on seamen all over the
world. It has its head-quarters in Shadwell, the East of
London, its boats on the Thames, and its institutes, including
Lady Ashburton's Sailors' Rest, at the Docks. Its agencies
are found all over the world, as well as round the coasts of
the United Kingdom. The British and Foreign Seamen's
Society believes that it has a mission to sailors, large as the
manifold nature of man, and wide as the sea. This society
is the oldest of our sailors' societies. Its flag is borne by
249 shipmasters and fifty-four helpers on all seas. It has
active relationship with eighty-three ports. In these ports
are seventy-two institutes, Bethels, rests, reading-rooms, or
homes, and three floating Bethels. By the munificence of
Louisa, Lady Ashburton, a fine pile of buildings for the
benefit of seamen has been built at the Victoria and Albert
Docks, and another at the Millwall Docks, on the river
Thames. These are both worked by agents of the society.
The work of this society is so extensive that it is impossible
to chronicle it here.

The Wesleyan Army and Navy Committee have done
much for the good of seamen of the Royal Navy. They
have Homes at Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke, Malta,
Bombay, Simon's Town, and Sydney, N.S.W. The Homes
are open to all denominations, but are especially intended
as a rendezvous for Wesleyans in the service. The Rev.
J. Laverack, writing from Malta, says, "The Soldiers' and
Sailors' Home, Floriana, Malta, was established in 1871,
and has remained open without charge to soldiers and sailors.
Such has been its prosperity that enlargement after enlarge-
ment has been necessary, and for some years it has supported
itself by the profits on the business. It contains refreshment,,
reading, writing, and recreation rooms, lecture-room, prayer-
room, beds, baths, etc. Religious and temperance meetings
are held regularly. The home is under the direction of the
officiating Wesleyan chaplain.

In Madeira, at Funchal, an undenominational Sailors'
Rest is carried on by Mr. W. G. Smart ; it was opened in



Work among Sailors. 177

1882, and three thousand men entered the Rest in one year.
Mr. Smart visits all ships, English and American, and does
good work. In Yokohama, Japan, the Rev. W. and Mrs.
Austen have an excellent home for seamen, which is fre-
quented by large numbers. Our British seamen speak
warmly of the kindness and friendliness shown to them by
Mr. and Mrs. Austen, who have been the means of saving
numbers from destruction, moral and spiritual.

The Rev. J. Shearston, of Sydney, N.S.W., has built and
opened a splendid home for seamen, which is thoroughly
appreciated by the men on that distant station.

I might mention many others, but the limit of this paper
warns me to draw to a close, or in nautical language to
" pipe down."

Sailors' Homes founded on broad lines, undenominational,
catholic, bright, teetotal, with (if possible) a personal and
motherly element pervading them, where Jack can feel free
and happy, where he may smoke his pipe, play his games,
read his paper, yarn with his shipmates where, if necessary,



Online LibraryAngela Georgina Burdett-CouttsWoman's mission; a series of congress papers on the philanthropic work of women, by eminent writers → online text (page 17 of 49)