David Harris.

A plea for industrial brigades, as adjuncts to ragged schools (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamphlets) online

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"We Help those who try to Help Themselves."





DAVID HARRIS, F.S.S., Edinburgh.




" Blessed is that man who has an idea which he thinks will benefit his fellows."


G L A S G O AV :

[works — too STIRLING ROAD.]

Out in the snow,

By winter night o'crtaken,

(3n the cold step he sits, his liead bent low,

By all but God forgotten and forsaken.

For help he calls

To God, his heavenly Father,

Whose eye beholds one sparrow when it falls,

And notes a boy — a starving boy — much rather !

Out in the snow.

No home, no hope, heart-broken,

A lonely lad, — ah ! whither shall he go ?

Where find a friend, or hear a kind word spoken ?





' Do you hear the children weephig, O my brotliers,
Ere the sorrow comes with years?

Tliey are weej)!!!^; in the play-time of the others —

111 the country of the free.
And well may children weep before you.

They are weary ere they run ;
They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory,

Which is brighter than the sun ;
They know the grief of man, without liis wisdom ;

They sink in man's despair, witliout his calm
Tliey are slaves, without the liberty in Christendom ;

They are martyrs, by the pang witliout the palm ;
They are worn, as if with age, yet unrelicvingly —

The blessing of its memory cannot keep ;
They are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly — •

Tliey weep — shall we let tliem weeji ? "

"l UiUC



" When the winter wind whistles along the wild moor.
And the cottager shuts on the beggar his door ;
When the chilling tear stands in my comfortless eye,
Oh, how liard is the lot of the Wandering Boy ?

' The winter is cold, and I have no vest.
And my heart it is cold as it beats in my breast :
No father, no mother, no kindred have I,
For I am a parentless Wandering Boy,

' Yes : my father and mother were summoned away.
And they left me to hard-hearted strangers a prey ;
1 fled from their rigour with many a sigh.
And now I'm a poor little Wandering Boy.

' The wind it is keen, and the snow loads the gale.
And no one will list to my innocent tale :
I'll go to the grave, where my parents both lie.
And death shall befriend the poor Wandering Boy."

H. KiRKE White.


HAVE somewhere read of an artist being so struck with the
innocent beauty of a Uttle child, that he sketched the face.
^^i To this picture he had given the name of " Innocence ;" and
as years rolled on, he became anxious to paint a companion picture,
to represent " Vice." With this object he visited the prisons con-
nected with the criminal courts, and at last, in Newgate, he found a
prisoner of mature age so branded with iniquity, that he at once
resolved that this should be his model. The picture was finished
and hung side by side with the one of the little laughing-eyed boy,
when, to his amazement, he discovered that the man and the boy
were the same individual.

All who are engaged in the work of refomiing or preventing boys
from falling into crime, will agree that, however innocent the child
may be, without proper training there is no depth of iniquity to

5 . •

which, as a man, he may not sink. It appears to me that the pre-
sent dread of "shooting Niagara," of the power of the "lapsed
masses," as they are called, should make us more earnest in every
way to carry out the idea which first gave birth to the reformatory
movement. On every hand we have evidence that the evil is spread-
ing ; and, if not checked, great evil will ensue. The passing of the
"Crimes Prevention Act," and the "Habitual Criminal Act," are proofs
of the increasing danger feared from the criminal classes. It was but
the other day that the mayor of one of our large cities called a public
meeting to consider w^hat should be done to reclaim the lawless boys
of that city; and in almost all our large towns and cities the same
question is forcing itself upon the attention of social reformers. We
believe that these boys are more sinned against than sinning ; for,
Nnth the rearing and example they have, it would indeed be wonder-
ful if they did become decent members of society. I quote from the
Saturday Revieiv as to their condition : —

" So with these street Arabs. It is not because they are not at
school that they are half-naked, wholly thievish, blaspheming little
blackguards. They are what they are, because they are born under
the influences which did not allow them to become anything else, —
because their parents swore and thieved, — because they prefer idle-
ness to work, and beer to wages. Send these boys in a body to a
school where there are no others, or only a few others, and you will
have a miniature reproduction of their fathers' boozing ken. You
may save five per cent., perhaps, for a cleaner and better life, but the
majority will be what they are now, — the same half-naked, half-
savage, dirty little rascals. If you want to change the class radically,
take them as soon as weaned, exile them for ever from the wretched
hovels of their birth, clothe them, feed them, and then send them to
school. But what beneficent patron, what paternal state, is going to
adopt 30,000 infant children in one town, appropriate them, feed,
clothe, and teach them ? And if so trained, how would they support

These outcasts, born perhaps upon a lodging-house floor, or even
upon the street, — deserted at the very first chance, — kicked about
by the poor-law officials, who just give them food enough to keep
life in them, but teaching them nothing, is it surprising that they
acquire vicious habits from the adult paupers ? Looking upon the
police as their natural enemies, — cast adrift upon the wide, jostling
world, homeless and friendless, to become " city Arabs," with their

hand against every one, and, as it seems to them, every one's hand
against them, — no wonder

"That the judges have then- work, and the lawyers wag the tongue,
And the gaolers and folictm^n are the fathers to the young."

Our ragged schools are noble steps to a better state of things. I
take it that the first link of our chain of philanthropic effort, in the
attempt to reclaim or save the vicious youth of our land, is forged in
the ragged schools, and the last completed in the reformatories. I
urge in this paper what I regard as a still further extension (or link
if you please) — viz., Industrial Brigades as adjuncts to, but in no
sense superseding the efforts that already have been put forth with
the same end in view ; and, at the outset, allow me to say that, so
convinced am I of the importance of this movement, that I earnestly
hope an Industrial Brigade will be, ere long, connected \vith every
ragged school, reformatory, and every workhouse in the kingdom.

The peculiar feature of Industrial Brigades is well put in the
motto we have adopted: "We help those who try to help them-
selves." For helpless cases other charities must come in. We think
that the sooner a boy can be made self-reliant, the better for his
future good conduct, and the greater chance of saving him from a
career of crime. It may not be quite out of place for me to describe
the class of material we have to work upon.

Destitute boys; orphans, or worse than orphans. (One boy was
admitted lately, the father having poisoned himself; another — both
parents had died of cholera.) Many never knew either father or
mother. Some were deserted whilst l>dng ill in the Infirmary ; ille-
gitimates in plenty ; thieves, and sons of thieves ; sons of soldiers ;
bad cases after having passed through the reformatories ; children of
tramps ; others there are whose only fault is their poverty ; Sunday-
school boys not quite hardened in sin ; waifs of all sorts brought by
missionaries and Bible-women. Sly, filthy, ragged, and wretched ; but
whilst all this and more, we must never forget that they are huma?i.
Properly treated, there is many a bright jewel (a black diamond, it
may be) in the dark soil ; and why should it not be ours to bring
them to the light, that they may be fitted one day to shine in the
Saviour's crown ? Those who know the class will wonder not that
our streets are so bad, but that they are no worse.

Most of the boys now in the Brigade Homes were once home-
less, friendless wanderers, who laid their heads by night in whatever
nook or stairhead they could find, and some of them, to satisfy the


cravings of hunger, were ready (and hardly restrained by fear of
consequences) to steal as opportunity served. It is a sad delusion
to think that before entering the home these lads received no teach-
ing. In every close and garret the educational process was and is
going on, inuring the young in habits of criminality, teaching them
to be pests of society, and fitting them to be the inmates of a jail.
There are still upon the streets of our city (and we cannot see the
wisdom of the ostrich policy of shutting the eyes and declaring we
cannot see that which half an hour's walk would discover to either
resident or stranger) scores of poor friendless boys, scrambling for a
livelihood, and only making street occupations, such as they are, a
cloak to cover a life of dishonesty.

I would urge the plan of Industrial Brigades — the details of which
I am about to point out — as a further step in connection with our
ragged schools ; for, as a rule, the boy is sent adrift from them just
at that age when he needs most some exercise of authority until he
acquires the power of self-government, and is able to earn sufficient
to maintain himself entirely and honestly, and I would also urge it
as an efficient remedy for the evils which are so glaring in our
present workhouse system.

I do not by any means hold up the Edinburgh Brigade as a perfect
model. The movement was experimental, but five years' of experi-
ence have more than confirmed the theory. The Industrial Brigade
partakes partly of the character of an industrial school, and partly of a
night refuge and oia Poor Boys' Club under proper supervision^ where
the boys may find a place resembling a comfortable and happy home.
Such an institution trenches no doubt very closely on the ground
already occupied by ragged schools ; but the fact that veteran advo-
cates of these latter are among the founders and friends of the former,
furnishes some assurance that there is little likelihood of any conflict
arising with regard to the peculiar sphere intended to be occupied
by Brigades. It is true that, while the main feature of ragged
schools is educational, some of them at least partake of an industrial
character ; but it is obvious that the latter feature of these institutions
must necessarily be of a very circumscribed nature, and not at all
adequate to the number of young people attending the schools. It
will probably be found that in most, if not in all ragged schools, in-
dustrial occupations are represented merely by tailoring and shoe-
making, which are more likely to be beneficial to the institutions
themselves than to the lads when they are cast upon the world.


Ragged schools also arc intended more for children ot a tender age
than for those of more advanced years who will be fotuid in the
homes of the Industrial Brigade. • Then, again, when boys leave the
ragged school to become apprentices, some of them are not unlikely
— from the absence of proper supervision and discipline — to lapse
into previous bad habits. There is, it is understood, some oversight
usually taken of these lads when they quit school ; but if they have
not good homes, that oversight on the part of the school managers
must be more or less of a loose description. From the nature of the
case it cannot be otherAvise; and the consequence probably is, that
a large percentage of these children, from the evil associations into
which they subsequently fall, are ultimately lost to virtue and gained
to vice.* And it is just at this point that Industrial Brigades
come in as the " missing link "' in that chain of charity towards
the destitute and degraded youth of our large towns and cities,
which should be a more prominent feature than it has yet become
in the "good works "' of Christian men and Christian churches.

The pressing need for some such adjunct to our present efforts is
clearly shown in the number of boys who, after having gone through
our ragged schools, are afterwards committed to refoniiatories. The
master of one of the latter assured me that one out of every five of the
boys under his charge has been in a ragged school. We have, fur-
ther, the startling fact, that whilst the proportion of youths of ages
from fifteen to twenty form not quite one-tenth of the population, they
are guilty of nearly one-fourth of the crimes committed. The need
of such work we have in the fact that there are 7000 youths annually
added to our criminal population. Ragged and industrial schools
are doing their utmost, along with the reformatories, to reduce the
number. Colonel Jebb, in his evidence before the House of Lords
Committee, stated that if there were any suitable agency for giving
them help when the period of their discharge arrived (thus prevent-
ing them from being again surrounded by their old associates),
they might find work and be disposed of in this countrj-. He
further adds, " I think, in the disposal of boys, a certain num-
ber might be got rid of if people would find places for them.'t
The very thing that we purpose to do by means of an in-

* One such case we were compelled recently to refuse for want of room. Tiie boy
lias since been guilty of liousebreaking, and sentenced to seven years' hard labour.

+ Private benevolence cannot accomiili^h this for Street /in;^-.

fluential Board of Directors associated with the management of
the Industrial Brigades. May not the Industrial Brigade be made
a part of the outlet question? To cast these poor boys adrift is
the wrong way. "No one will employ me," they truly say ; but
if we bring to bear on the boys' behalf the kindly influence of some
employer of labour — if need be, give the guarantee required for his
honesty : be the patron, and then see the change. The Rev. Sydney
Turner says, " Place him, after proof and training, in new and better
circumstances, and you will see no more of his delinquencies." From
the experience at Mettray we have the weighty words, " that employ-
ment and kindly surveillance will save the boy."

After five years' eftbrt in connection with the Edinburgh Brigade,
it is most gratifying to find, from the statistics of Governor Smith, of
the Edinburgh Calton Prison, that results have been noticeable in
the decrease of the number of youths committed to prison between
the ages of fourteen and sixteen.


Return of the number of juA'eniles committed to the prison of
Edinburgh in the twenty-six years ended 30th November, 1872 : —

No. under No. 14 and
Dates. 14 years of under 16

age. years of age.

Year ending

3otli Nov..

, 1847, .

.. 260 .

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Online LibraryDavid HarrisA plea for industrial brigades, as adjuncts to ragged schools (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamphlets) → online text (page 1 of 6)