David Harris.

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

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urge as a most important matter, he does not mix with other boys
as a "speckled bird," and can thus more easily get merged into
the general population as an honest, hard-working man. Labour has
always been found the best preventative of crime — a most important
consideration in aiding his ultimate reclamation. Already, in five
years, the Edinburgh Industrial Brigade has succeeded in taking

I brushed like a hatter, and yesterday's rain,
The streets makin' glaury, did add to my gain ;
And though it was late ere to vvark I gaed there.
Ere gloamin' I polished my twenty-twa pair.

"An' grannie, I polished them aff a' sae clean.
That in them our Tarn micht his shadow hae seen ;
An' had I my brushes an' bleck here the noo,
I'd gar your auld shoon look as bonnie's when new.
Some gentlemen. Curly says, whiles gie them mair
Than's charged — tliat's a penny for brushin' ilk pair,
O whilk our kind manager gies us our ivkecl ;
For to get a' our winnins we couldna expeck."



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from the streets over looo boys. The larger portion of these arc
known to be doing well, several having made small deposits in the
Savings Bank. So encouraging, indeed, have been the results that
we have enlarged our premises, that we may comfortably accommo-
date 100 boys with bed, board, and school-room.

The satisfaction of knowing that so many have been plucked
from a life of vice, and trained in some sort to one of decency, amply
repays the labour and expense of the work. As to the expense. The
economy of the scheme most strongly recommends it. It has been
proved that from ;Q\ to ;^8 per head, in addition to the boys'
earnings, will pay the entire cost, ivhcreas £20 to ^28 is the
ordina>y cost in some reformatory establishments ; ^8 a year is a
moderate sum indeed for the parochial authorities or for Government
to provide, if local benevolence won't do it.

One important branch of our scheme I have left unnoticed until
the last. (The case that more especially called my attention to the
subject was that of a boy from one of the ragged schools, who had
left, and was earning 4s 6d a week, — too little to keep him decently.
To eke it out, he had procured employment as a waiter on Saturday
nights at a public-house, receiving is 6d for doing the unenviable
work. ) We admit such boys as these as lodgers, and, without regard
to the smallness of their earnings, provide for thfem until such time
as they can pay a just equivalent, or entirely maintain themselves,
and then leave the home.

The change upon the boys themselves by Brigade life is won-
fully marked. They enter starved, pinched, and miserable; but soon
the cleanliness, comfortable clothing, and good food, constant work,
and kindly care of the superintendent and matron, do their work
effectually; and I challenge any home to produce happier faces than
those in the Edinburgh Industrial Brigade.* As might be expected,
we have had some cases of theft after admission; they were at
once committed to a reformatory as an example to the others.

At first great difficulty was experienced in getting the boys to
remain at their places of work ; but a simple plan of reward was hit
upon, — that of giving a shilling as a prize to every boy remaining in
the same employ three months, (if during that time there is no cause

* A gentleman wlio saw tliem cUirIng the first week, and then not until twelve
months afterwards, expressed his astonishment tliat, whereas they used to look
wretched and miserable, they were now '• perfectly happy."



15

of complaint against him.) That inducement is now unnecessary
and has been discontinued.

We have found it better to discontinue admitting boys from a
distance. We found restless Arabs in the habit of moving be-
tween Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, and presenting them-
selves and gaining admission at homes of this description in these
places, — a practice we have recently checked, by agreement with the
various shoeblack superintendents, to send back any Edinburgh
applicants, the same being done as regards boys who come to us
from other towns.

We have never been at a standstill from the want of funds — often
at a low ebb ; but just at the right time God has sent in the needed
amount. With such an example as Miiller's Orphan Home at Bristol,
none having faith in God need fear that He will send the means
wherewith to carry on such a work ; for has He not said — " Inas-
much as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did
it unto me?" As incentive to work, let us not forget that others
are bidding for these boys. Who bids for the destitute children ?

" We bid," said Pest and Famine,

" We bid for life and limb ;
Fever, and pain, and squalor.

Their bright young eyes shall dim.
When the children grow too many,

We'll nurse them as our own ;
And hide them in secret places.

Where none may hear their moan."

" I bid," said Beggary, howling,

" I bid for them, one and all ;
I'll teach them a thousand lessons —

To lie, to skulk, to crawl.
They shall sleep in my lair like maggots.

They shall rot in the fair sunshine ;
And if they serve my purpose,

I hope they'll answer thine."

" And I'll bid higher and higher,"

Said Crime, with wolfish grin ;
" For I love to lead the children

Through the pleasant paths of sin.
They shall swarm in the streets to pilfer,
They shall plague the broad highway.
Till they grow too old for pity.
And ripe for the law to slay.



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" Prison, and hulk, and gallows

Are many in the land ;
T-were folij/ not to use them.

So proudly as they stand.
Give me the little children,

I'll take them as they're born.
And feed their evil passions

With misery and scorn.

" Give me the little children.

Ye good, ye rich, ye wise ;
And let the busy world spin round,

While ye shut your idle eyes.
And your judges shall have work.

And your la-wyers wag the tongue ;
And the jailers and policemen

Shall be fathers to the young.

" I and the law, for pastime.

Shall struggle day and night ;
And tlie law shall gain, but I shall win.

And will still renew the fight.
And ever and aye will wrestle.

Till law grows sick and sad ;
And kill in its desperation.

The incorrigibly bad.

" I, and the law, and justice,

Shall thwart each other still ;
And hearts shall break to see it,

And innocent blood shall spill.
So leave, O leave the children !

To ignorance and woe.
And I'll come in and teach them.

The way that they should go."

" O shame ! " said True Religion,

" O shame ! that this should be ;
I'll take the little children,

I'll take them all to me.
I'll raise them up with kindness

From the mire in which they've trod ;
I'll teach them words of blessing, —

I'll lead them up to God."

We quote a sketch wTitten at the time of the first " general meet-
ing " of Arabs in Edinburgh.

On November the 4th, 1867, a general invitation to Street Arab



I?

boys was issued to meet for "tea and cookies." Fifty-seven re-
sponded to the invitation ; and the gentlemen who waited on them
had practical proof of the saying, that " One half of the world does
not know how the other half lives " — a state of matters was brought
to light, astounding even in these days of house-to-house visitation.
It was ascertained for a fact that no less than thirty of these poor
fellows were moving about the Waverley Station alone, eking out a
miserable existence in the worst state of ragamuffinism, living amongst
ihe arches and waggons. Their rags, miscalled clothing, did not
cover their nakedness ; and although here and there appeared a face
which bore the marks of having been half washed in honour of the
event, yet filth was the dominant condition, whilst their persons and
clothes were covered with vermin. More than one head bore evident
token of having been operated upon by the jail barber. Merry Irish
faces were seen side by side with low cunning ones, "looking the
thanks they did not speak," as they surveyed the lumps of currant loaf
provided for them, large enough to give them, as they said, "a
tightener." As a means of reducing this mass of commotion to
something like order, the boys were asked if they could sing ; — and
"Happy Land" was suggested. "No," shouts one; "we dinna ken
it." Presently a shrill voice announces "Jolly Dogs" as the
favourite. The announcement was followed by a burst of laughter.
Silence being procured, a quiet voice proposed " Around the Throne
of God in Heaven," which was attempted to be sung. At least one
pair of eyes was wet with tears, as Sabbath school memories were
recalled. After a few words of prayer, short and suitable, the boys
"set to" and soon made a clearance. A few words of hearty wel-
come and encouragement to the boys were then given, their names
and addresses taken down, and some general information as to resi-
dence and parentage ascertained. Seven of the boys had to be pro-
vided with a night's lodging, being literally homeless and houseless.
They had spent the previous night either on stairs, or in the manure
boats on the canal, which seem to be a favourite shelter for these
poor wanderers. A large proportion were orphans; most of the
remainder liad only one parent, and that one drunken and wordiless.

From amongst a number of opinions greatly valued I quote the
following : —

The Right Honourable Lord Polwarth, of Mertoun, St Bos-
wells : — " I can only say that this subject Avhich has been brought



i8

before us is, in my opinion, one of the most important that we can
be called to consider. I cannot say how pleased I was when the
invitation, which was sent out by Mr Harris, came into my hands.
It was a suljject which had been, not in his mind only, but in the
minds of sundry others with whom I myself was acquainted ; and I
cannot but think that, when we find different minds being brought
to consider the same subject, without any one knowing that the
others are thinking about it, there is a higher hand directing us, and
leading our eyes to see the want, and our hands to go forth to
supply the want. I think we may be disposed to go straightforward
in this work, and for this reason, as we have already heard most elo-
fjuently put before us, that, if we are not going straightforward, others
are working diligently. I hope that, without being in any way ego-
tistical, I may speak of these boys, because I know a little of them.
I have had some of these very boys at the railway station in my own
hands, and they have gone back again ; and I am not ashamed to
say they have gone back, because it is an exceedingly difficult
matter to keep hold of them, and I am always glad, when the net is
thrown out, when it catches some, though not all of them. There
area number of boys in the town who require to be taken in hand at
once. Some of the boys at the railway station have parents who
can support them. I know one boy whose father and mother have
money, and the father is quite willing to educate his boy, but he
cannot get hold of him. That boy is very clever. He goes about
playing the fife, and earns a livelihood in that way; but he is a sharp
boy, and was mentioned to me by a policeman in the Cowgate. I
know other cases where the parents would be able to pay something
towards getting their children trained, if they could be got hold off;
but it is not so very easy to get them and to keep them.

*' Now, I cannot help thinking that these boys, sharp and clever
as they are, may be made almost, if not entirely, to support themselves.
I do not think that much money will or ought to be required to carry
out this scheme ; because a great many of these boys are big and
stout, and will find work which will yield them sufficient money to
pay for their own board, provided that the food, clothing, and lodging
are all of the simplest character. In going forward with this work,
we ought to be as economical as possible. We hear about retrench-
ment and about concentration of the charities of the city ; and it
may be very wise to make a new arrangement of these charities, with
which, I confess, I am not very conversant ; but whatever is done in



19

this movement, should be done with the utmost economy. These
boys have been accustomed to nothing but the hardest usage ; and
to give them the commonest house, and food, and clothing, is to
bring them into a palace. They are delighted when they get it,
and it has a great effect upon them. I quite agree with the Chairman
as to the importance of keeping these boys at home ; but there are
difficulties in the way of doing this. One class of the boys have
parents with whom they live ; but there is another class who have
parents, but do not live with them ; and there are some who have no
parents living. One little boy told me, when I asked him if his
parents were alive, that his mother was dead and his father was in
the Crimea. That boy was a sharp, clever little lad, doing well.
One boy came out to me in East Lothian, where I have some boys
who work on a farm. Employment might be got for these boys by
making them errand boys for shops. I believe many shopkeepers
would be glad to have a boy to run messages. That was mentioned
to me by a lady who takes a warm interest in the movement. As to
the ultimate disposal of the boys, I think an emigration scheme is
one which would be most successful. There should also be a fund
provided for apprenticing boys, where that can be done ; but many
of the boys we find loitering about the town are boys who have been
occupied at some trade — perhaps never regularly apprenticed — but
who have been at a trade, and in some way or another have been
thrown out of employment, and are running about doing nothing. I
do hope that this meeting will not delay beginning to carry out the
scheme. If the boys who are to be the objects of our care were very
young boys, which most of them are not, they would require to be
supported ; but, in the greater number of cases, the boys are able to
earn very nearly their own livelihood. I am only stating my own
experience within the last two years of these boys in Edinburgh, and
in another country town ; and all I say is, that, with careful manage-
ment, and judicious employment of their labour, these boys may be
made even now to support themselves almost entirely. (Applause.)
** I do hope, gentlemen, that you will go forward in this matter to-
day. I do earnestly hope that you will see in it Christ's work, and
that He is really calling us to begin at once. By all means let us
consider it carefully, think it over, and see exactly what is to be done.
But it seems to me quite clear that there is no great difficulty in going
forward ; and I am ratlicr of the opinion which was mentioned in
Mr Harris's circular, that instead of asking for large subscriptions at



20



first, and making it a public thing, wc should begin by asking a few
friends privately. I think that in that way sufficient money might be
collected for the purpose. The amount of money which will be re-
quired depends on the number of the boys, and on the size of the
premises which may be occupied. Suppose we were to begin with
the boys at the railway station, who are now running about blacking
shoes, selling matches, and carrying parcels ; that would be a small
number to begin with, and the number would gradually increase. I
think it would be best to begin with a small number, and clothe them
with decent, wami clothing, and provide them with a home. I trust
you will see that there is no great difficulty in the matter, and there
is certainly none as regards funds. I have had a little experience in
providing food and clothing for these bo}s ; I know a little what it
costs, and what the boys can earn ; and I think you will be able to
carry on the work successfully. I wish you all God speed in the
matter, and I shall be most happy to gi^■c \"0u any assistance in my
power." (ApplauseJ



At the Annual jNIeeting, 1S70,

The Right Honourable Lord Polwarth, President of the Edin-
bm"gh Industrial Brigade, in his introductory remarks, mentioned that
the institution was yet comparatively young. He remembered of the
institution being started in the year 1867, and he was sure that for
the measure of prosperity which had been vouchsafed to the work
they had reason to be thankful. The name of the Brigade put its
character before the public. He wished that its principles were
more widely known throughout the country, and that the institution
received more general support. But a few years ago there was in
Edinburgh a vast number of boys whom the Ragged Schools scarcely
touched, for they were usually above the ages of the boys who could
be admitted to the Ragged Schools. Since its inauguration the
Brigade had rescued 3 60 boys (i S 70) from crime and assisted in replac-
ing them in respectable society, and this refuted the statement that the
Brigade was either an indigent or an indolent institution. Surely
shrewd Scotchmen would understand that police rates and prison
rates were no mere trifle, and there could be no doubt that by rescu-
ing these lads from the ranks of crime they would keep down these
rates. He ventured to say that the community at large — that the



2i

citizens of Edinburgh, whether they had taken an interest in this
association or not, and the country at large, owed a debt of gratitude
to the society. More than that, they ought in all honour to contri-
bute far more largely than had hitherto been done for the support of
the institution, seeing that it had undoubtedly aided in reclaiming
poor wandering lads, and also in keeping down the police and prison
rate. He did not think he was overstating the matter when he drew
tlie attention of the public to the fact that over 360 boys had been
rescued, who certainly would not have benefited the town without
some help. There was something very touching at the sight of poor
Avayward, wandering lads. There was crime, there was vice, and
there was misery and wretchedness ; but w^hose fault was it ? It was
said, look at the mass of drunken fathers and drunken mothers.
That was all too true. INIany were the evil influences which sur-
rounded these poor young creatures. There were few who helped
them, and many who tended to hurt them. The eye of the Christian
could not but look with pity on these poor lads, and his heart greAv
Avarm as he might think or say that the same condition might have
been his had his lot been cast otherwise tlian it was. Parents (he
said), think of your children and little boys, how they might run
about the streets as many are, their parents being dead, homeless
and helpless ! It might have been so with you or your children.
Surely Christian pity would be stirred up when they thought of those
poor lads and try to do something. They might feel thankful for the
measure of success which had attended the work. As to the prin-
ciples on which the Brigade was instituted, first and foremost, when
they commenced the work, they wished to do so in dependence on
God, They had no faith in irreligious reclamation. They believed
that for the rescue of the lost the power of the Gospel was the
greatest that could be wielded — (applause) — and that to put the
Bible in a secondary place would be a vast mistake. One other
thing which they wished to keep in mind was that they should
certainly striA-e to do all they could to make the lads help themselves.
They had a strong anti-pauperisation feeling. One thing they
earnestly Avished, Avas to teach them to be working men, and to teach
them to help themselves; and in no small degree had the lads done
so. Then don't let them forget the lads — hoAv much they had
helped in the Avork. It Avas to their credit and lionour that those
lads had helped in their OAvn way to contribute tOAvards the mainte-
nance of the institution — thus helping one another, 71ie amount of



22



money earned l)y the boys would be found in the report, and one
thing he Avished to draw attention to was the smalhiess of the amount
paid to tlie boys. Tlic highest rate of wages was 4s 6d a week. He
did not mean for a moment to say that the masters took advan-
tage of the boys, or that their wages were too low ; but he wished to
call the attention of the public to the fact that the lads were for the
most part engaged in learning skilled trades as apprentices, and that
they will be the gainers ultimately by earning higher wages than un-
skilled labourers, when their apprenticeship is over; and not a few
of them would themselves return, to a considerable extent, the money
which was advanced for their help in the days of their youth. He
was persuaded a great many of the boys would feel it to be a point
of honour to contribute to the society. Then they would have funds
coming in from the veiy class which they were now seeking to raise.
It might be waste ground they were working on now; it might
look a hopeless task to be grubbing at the thorns and thistles.
There were tough roots of vice in many hearts, but get them out,
and where thistles grew they would have beautiful crops. But there
Avas something nobler still. It was when the evil heart was rooted
out and bad practices were taken away that these lads became
honest and faithful workmen. There was a reward to gladden the
heart, and surely good interest for the money laid out. (Applause.)
The society had not been so liberally supported during the past year
as they might have expected. He felt, if he could make his voice
heard by every citizen in Edinburgh, they would lay it to heart and
feel that a penny given to this would be a pound saved otherwise,
that there would be a stronger and deeper feeling as to the duty of
contributing to this and other similar societies. Their balance was
not on the right side. He hoped that it would be speedily changed.
They did not ask a large balance in the bank, but they asked a real
place in the hearts of the people. They asked that the society
should have a deep root in the hearts of the citizens of Edinburgh,
and that they should take a real heartfelt interest in it — not that they
should give it a ^{^5 or ^10 note and be done with it, but that with
watchful eyes they should notice. His Lordship then referred to the
necessity for action being taken to increase the building fund. The
l)lace was overcrowded to such a degree that it was dangerous for the
health of the lads. And should it be said that there was to be no
more room for lads homeless and destitute ? Surely not. Could the
city of Edinburgh afford to pay a couple of thousands of pounds ?



23

Could the gentry in the city and others in the country round about
give two thousand pounds to build a home for homeless lads ? He
was sure they could, and he trusted they would. They did not want
to put up expensive premises, but just such a building as would be
a comfortable home for loo poor lads. He could not close his re-
marks without referring to the death of one who took a deep and
warm interest in the Industrial Brigade — one who had passed from
them like a ripe sheaf of corn, to be gathered into the garner. He
referred to Admiral Sir 'William Ramsay. They felt thankful that
he was permitted to labour with them in the last years of his life ;
and the removal of such men from amongst them was an urgent call
on those who were left to be more earnestly faithful while it was day.
In concluding, the chairman expressed the sympathy of the sub-
scribers, with Mr Rattray and others engaged in the active work of
the society. There was no work in which they were engaged that
might more fully and deeply take hold of their hearts and sympath}',
and he hoped that henceforth it would have a deeper hold upon the
P9pulation of the city.

The Right Honourable the Earl of Derby, at the annual meeting
of the Manchester Industrial Brigade, in moving the first resolution,
said : " I was asked some weeks ago to attend this meeting and to
move the first resolution. It is always a pleasure to me to come to
Manchester, and especially for a purpose of this kind. (Hear, hear.)
But before I agreed to undertake the honourable duty which I was
asked to perform, I thought it only right to ascertain for myself, so far
as I could, what were the principles upon which this Industrial Home
(Brigade) was established, and what was the system upon which it was
carried on. You don't require to be told that there are many insti-
tutions which, however benevolent in intention, are, from mismanage-
ment, anything but beneficent in result. (Hear, hear.) Nor will it
be a new thing to you to hear that a charity mismanaged and
abused not only does no good, but may in many cases do a great


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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 2 of 6)