David Harris.

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

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in later life for Newgate or Portland. (Hear, hear.) He was glad
that this was to be called an Industrial, and not a Reformatory
School. (Hear, hear.) Were it othenvise, it would be mis-called.
They might just as well call Eton and Harrow Reformatory Schools;
He held that to apply anything like a penal description to a school
for young children, was a mistake. (Hear, hear.) He remembered
on one occasion visiting the Industrial School at Mettray, near
Tours, which was apparently a refuge for the most criminal and
apparently hopeless children of all ranks of the French population.
He heard of a boy there who had been sent from one prison to
another, and whose case appeared so utterly hopeless that, as a last
resource, the experiment of Mettray was tried with him. He had
generally succeeded in making his escape from other prisons in which
he had been confined. At last he was sent to Mettray, where the
block system was in use, and where a portion of the time of the
boys was employed in farm labour. That particular boy was once
asked why he had never attempted to escape from Mettray ? He said,
*' What is the good of trying to escape from Mettray? You have no
wall." (A laugh.) There was a good deal of philosophy in that
answer. The truth was that at Mettray he was treated with a degree
of confidence and kindness which disarmed his worst passions, and
rendered him amenable to those softer influences which, as every one
in authority there knew, was the only possible way of reaching boys
like him. (Hear, hear.) He need hardly say more to commend
the institution they were called together to promote to the public
consideration. It was seldom an object was brought before them
to which they could all feel they could safely and conscientiously
contribute. Every one present had probably some personal experi-
ence of throwing away money on charitable objects which had done
infinitely more harm than good. He read in the paper the other
day a report of the case of a Mr Cox who had received no less than
;!^3ooo towards what was called a Fre.e Dormitory Association, and
if he himself had not taken the precaution to consult his friend
Colonel Eraser, the Commissioner of City Police, he, too, might also
have been let in for a trifle. (A laugh.) As it was, he was glad Mr
Cox had fallen into the hands of the police. If half that sum of


_;^3o°o had been applied towards some such benevolent object as
that which they were now engaged in promoting, it might have been
productive of enormous good. He would not anticipate the response
to such an appeal, but perhaps he might be allowed to say there
never was a time in his recollection in which he had heard more of
the unbounded prosperity of the country, and notably of the City of
London, than during the past year. (Applause.)

At Annual Meeting of the Edinburgh Home,

The Chairman, Admiral Sir William Ramsay, K.C.B., then dis-
tributed the medals and prizes of money and books awarded to the
boys for good conduct. In doing so, he congratulated them on their
clean and tidy appearance, and in being placed in a position to
enable them to earn their ovm. livelihood. He reminded them that
a shilling earned by one's own industry was worth five received by
going about the streets. He spoke from experience. He went to
sea when he was thirteen years of age, and he well remembered the
first shilling he earned on board a man-of-war, where " every cat was
made to catch mice." (Laughter.) He advised them to avoid
strong drink as they would poison, and likewise urged them not to
smoke. The fact was, he said, that those who took tobacco while
growing never became strong men. (Applause.) He did not set
himself up as a purist in the matter of smoking ; he had no objection
to a man of some fifty or sixty years of age taking a whiff", but when
he saw boys going about with pipes in their cheek it nearly drove
him to distraction. (Applause.) The gallant Admiral then proceeded
to explain the objects of the institution, and to point out the good
that had been effected by the reclamation of the "city Arabs." He
mentioned that Lord Polwarth had taken twenty-five of the boys
out to the country to work on his farm. In appealing for in-
creased support, he said that people could not be "taken in" by
subscribing towards this institution, as if the boys did not work
they were packed off". (Hear, hear.) The boys were very \nlling
to work if employment could be got for them. (Applause.)
He said that in all large to\\Tis there had lately been a great
deal of jealousy amongst charitable institutions, and the opinion
had been pretty generally expressed that they had done more
harm than good. He was not alanned at this, because he knew that


the institution with which they were connected would stand the test
of the closest inquiry. Perhaps people might say that it was only
the Ragged School over again, but this was not the case. The
Ragged Schools were registered, and got assistance from Govern-
ment. The principle of their institution was, that it was as much
as possible self-supporting. If the boys would not work they would
be turned away. Then the Ragged Schools were for the purpose
of educating poor children; and this was what the Directors of
the Industrial Brigade did not pretend to do, except in the even-
ings, when unsectarian education was given to the boys. Then
there was this great difference between the Ragged School and the
Brigade, that the latter included no boys under fourteen years of age,
while the former had none over that age.

The Very Rev. Dean Ramsay said that although he had not
been at all mixed up with the working of the institution, he had not
been insensible to its merits, and he had observed much that had
been going on. It might be said that the institution went to the
root of the matter — to the foundation of the sin and misery
amongst us — by dealing with those young, unfriended creatures,
who were going about living upon their wits, the very worst thing
for young people to live by, and living in such a manner as to
show they were on the road to be future pests and nuisances in
society; and the object of this institution was to rescue them from
that perilous position, and make them respectable members of
society. All charitable institutions for distress and sickness were
valuable, but surely there was something peculiarly interesting in
an institution of this kind, which took charge of the young, and
provided for those whose position was more than doubtful, so as
to fit them for being useful, independent, and valuable members
of society. Most of the audience would have heard of the move-
ment to erect some memorial worthy of the character of our great
and distinguished Thomas Chalmers. (Applause.) There was no
doubt that one of the chief features which recommended the char-
acter and teaching of Chalmers to Scotland and to every intel-
ligent mind, was the view he took regarding the mode in which
benevolence should be exercised, based upon his work — "The
Civic Economy of Great Cities." Dr Chalmers was well aware
that indiscriminate, injudicious charity had a. tendency not to raise
men, but to pauperise them — to make them depend not upon


themselves but upon others — and therefore to take away the great
stimuhis to respectability and to usefulness. He mentioned
the name of Dr Chalmers, because this institution seemed so
peculiarly to act in accordance with the principle he had laid down
of helping those who were trying to help themselves. It had
been said — "Yes, that is the best monument you can raise to Dr
Chalmers. Sweep away all your present institutions, and get up
institutions strictly upon the principles of ' The Civic Economy of
Great Cities.' Have no statues and no blessings in commemora-
tion of him but those institutions, in accordance with his own
principles.'"' He (the Dean) said he need scarcely speak of the
difficulty of carrying out such a plan as that, but he would rather
give the answer — '* These things ye ought rather to have done,
and not to leave the other undone." (Applause.) The Very Rev.
Dean concluded by urging the directors' special scheme on the con-
sideration of the meeting.

The Rev. Dr Maxwell Nicholson moved — " That this meeting
regards with satisfaction the hitherto successful progress of the Edin-
burgh Industrial Brigade, and resolve, trusting in the continued blessing
of God, to promote and extend its operations." He thought there
was abundant reason for passing the first part of the resolution, seeing
that the institution had tripled its operations in the past year. Two
hundred boys had been assisted, twenty who had passed through the
brigade were now in regular employment, and giving every prospect
of doing well, and seventy-two -were in training at the present time.
These had been taken from the streets, supplied with a comfortable
home, brought under humanising influences, and put in the way of
becoming self-supporting. It was pleasing to observe, as they did
from the interesting report which had been distributed, that the boys
had in general given so much satisfaction to those who had taken
such a kindly interest in them. He thought the meeting had reason
to regard, not merely with satisfaction, but with the deepest thank-
fulness, the success of this movement. (Applause.) With reference
to the second part of the resolution, he thought it should also com-
mend itself to the meeting. Twenty-five boys applied for admission
to the institution, and had to be refused, because there was no room
for them in the home. If;^ioo orp£"200 could have provided these
twenty-five boys with a comfortable home — could have helped
them in the way to usefulness and respectability in this world, and in


the way that leadeth to everlasting life, he said, shame upon their
Christianity if the sum was to be withheld or even was to be grudged.
Then let them think what these twenty-five boys would cost to the
country if they went on in ways of their own. But these twenty-five
boys were not all. Just go into the poorer places of the town, into
their closes, wynds, and streets, and look at the state of matters there
— look at the circumstances in which the youth were being brought
up, and they might well have compassion on them. They were born
into misery, they were baptized into crime, and were brought up in
association with the criminal and vicious. They charged them with
crime, found them guilty, turned their faces against them, and called
them the foes of society. These boys might turn upon them and ask
them — "Are we the foes of society, are we not rather its victims?"
(Applause.) Dr Nicholson concluded by bidding God-speed to the

Rev. Dr Lindsay Alexander, in seconding the resolution, said
the report of the institution contained the most eloquent advocacy and
commendation of it that could be given to a Christian and intelligent
community. The very name of the institution had a certain charm
— The Industrial Brigade. It sounded warlike, and seemed to speak
of battle, but it was not, as war often was, a battle against industry,
but a battle for and with industry. It was, in fact, a great depart-
ment of that army — now happily so large in our country — which had
been summoned forth to wage war against some of the greatest evils
that infest society. It was the war of industry — the mother of plenty,
the promoter of civilization, the protector of society, the friend of
science, and literature, and art, the ally and the child of religion and
morality — against idleness, the mother and source of want, and
poverty, and misery, and degradation, and crime. (Applause.) They
might therefore confidently ask for it the support of all good and wise


Ldtcf to The Manchester Examiner and Times.

A. B. Fleming, Esq., of Hillwood, Corstorphine: — " I take a keen
interest in every endeavour of a kindred description in any of the
great centres of industry on either side^ of the Tweed, and it is with

great pleasure I learn of the successful starting of the institution iii
Manchester for the rescue of poor boys, 'The Boys' Refuge and
Industrial Brigade,' with a first home in i8 Quay Street, which was
recently visited by the honorary secretary of the ' Edinburgh Industrial
Brigade.' Wherein is the difference between the ' Industrial Ragged
Schools ' and the ' Boys' Refuge and Industrial Brigade ' (with us
called the ' Industrial Brigade and Home '), and wherein exists the
necessity for supporting the latter? is a question that is naturally
asked, and with your kind permission I should wish to say a few words
in answer. The Ragged Schools admit children, and retain them till
they attain the age of 14. They also teach trades within their
own walls — carpentry, turning, shoemaking, tailoring, packing-box
making, &c.

"The Industrial Brigades only admit applicants of 14 years and
upwards, retaining them in the home or refuge until they are enabled
to pay, out of their own earnings, for comfortable board and lodging
in a respectable family. Industrial Brigades, as a rule, have no
description of occupation or trade within their own walls, the pro-
moters procuring employment for the boys in the various workshops
of the city.

"Street employment is generally taken advantage of by promoters
of Industrial Brigades as a commencement, the blacking brush and
shoe box and crossing sweeping being the ones most easily taken up.
As a rule, however, eveiy description of street occupation is given
up as soon as possible, as it is impossible to wean the boy from his
Arab tastes as long as he is free of the streets and master of his
own time. Indeed, street occupations are only one degree removed
from the old roving Arab life led by the street boy; hence the
necessity of substituting a more regular employment as speedily as

" These two descriptions of charitable institutions dovetail admir-
ably into each other without the least clashing of interests or duties ;
the industrial brigade, taking the boys by the hand on their leaving
the Ragged Schools, and providing a home for them, under judicious
supervision, prevents many a lad from falling back into evil courses,
from which he had been dragged by the Ragged School.

" Another duty industrial brigades and refuges perform is the re-
clamation and rescue of street boys who are fourteen years old and
upwards — this rule, of course, is not very rigidly observed — and who
have never been within the walls of any Ragged School. Homeless,


helpless, starving lads are thus rescued, but only those willing to
work for their bread are taken by the hand, the great object of these
brigades being to assist these lads to earn an honest livelihood, giv-
ing them a home to live in, with the advantage of a night school,
the rule being to assist those who are willing and anxious to work.
Till industrial brigades were started, no institutions whatever existed
through which lads of either of these two classes could be assisted in
getting work or in finding a home and friendly guidance at this the
most critical period of their lives.

" I would further venture to suggest a still more valuable method
of securing aid for these poor children in their terrible struggle to
raise and keep themselves from sinking hopelessly into the foul mire
of vice and destitution from which they are attempting to drag them-
selves, or have been already dragged by the blessed instrumentality
of the Ragged Schools, namely, by creating such aid into a inoiwito
mori to departed friends, or, it may be, to a valued citizen no longer
\vith us. What could be a nobler or more enduring monument than
the foundation — and possibly the endowment also — of a branch home
or refuge, for the rescue of poor, homeless, friendless, starving boys
and girls, calling such home or refuge after the lost relative or de-
parted friend, and placing it under the management and supervision
of the head institution already formed ? Suppose a large tenement,,
with the upper portion for the accommodation of, perhaps, from
twenty-five to thirty girls, and the lower for an equal number of boys,
under the care of a j udiciously selected master and matron — man
and wife, if possible — the latter to take sole charge of the girls.
Such a description of refuge would necessitate separate entrances,
keeping the boys completely separate and distinct from the girls. I
cannot help feeling that such a foundation would be infinitely grander
and more loving than the proudest monument friends could conse-
crate, whether on polished marble or glowing cathedral window."

The Rev. William Robertson, D.D., of New Greyfriars : —
" Having had charge for more than twenty years of the first and largest
Ragged School in Edinburgh ; having frequently had more than 400
of these destitute children under my care, and having known a good
deal of their character and habits, I have only to add my name as
giving my entire approbation to the scheme started by Mr Harris.
(Applause.) And as to the objection arising from want of funds,
after what I have experienced of the liberality of Edinburgh, I


should be ashamed of myself if I had the smallest doubt upon
the subject. I have been a beggar to a considerable extent;
and I know this right well, that you cannot put before the people of
Edinburgh a really well-digested case, without having ample funds
provided for the purpose. I have frequently got as much money as
I could desire for schemes of benevolence ; and I have more than
once been obliged to cry, " Hold hard, for I don't want any more !"
I am very glad that my experience has been borne out by Lord
Polwarth. There are few persons, even with grey hairs, who have
done more than his Lordship for the promotion of the welfare of that
class of boys. I shall not soon forget two happy days I had with
him, when I saw lads engaged usefully in agricultural pursuits, pre-
paring to be useful citizens. That is a great work; and I would
earnestly long and pray that every country gentleman were following
in his footsteps, and gathering the poor people together, and helping
in the way Lord Polwarth is doing. / look upoti this as an adjimct
to the Ragged School system; and it is in that point of view that I
regard it as of value. I think that these wild street boys may not be
easily broken into harness. There is a degree of excitement in play-
ing on the fife, or wandering about selling matches, and these boys
would not be easily broken off their wild ways ; but I consider that
you will be able to succeed with boys who come from the Ragged
Schools, where they have been in training since infancy. They get
plenty of wholesome food and pure water at the Ragged Schools,
and there are no truants there ; and it is from the Ragged Schools
that you will derive the greater proportion of this industrial brigade.
I trust it will go on well, and I perfectly agree with Lord Polwarth,
that it should go on at once, and that there should be no delay."

Edmund Baxter, Esq., W.S., Auditor of the Court of Session, Edin-
burgh : — "I appeal to the citizens not to rest until the Brigade embraces
every boy who is a fit subject for being received into the institution.
Prevention from crime is much more to be desired than reformation
from crime; and, if you are true economists, you will more readily
give your shillings to prevent these boys falling into the lapsed
masses, than give your pounds for coercing and punishing the cri-
minal classes in our great cities. Mr Baxter said he thought the
mind of the country had been made up that they had been going
the wrong way to attack crime. They had been very anxious to
punish criminals, and had spent large sums of money for that purpose.


They were now taking the more sensible course of educating the
young, and they had a practical evidence of the benefit of that in
this Brigade, Men of all Christian denominations — men even of no
denomination — were awakened to the fact that we must educate the
young, and he thought by encouraging this Brigade they were doing
a great deal to repress vice. If they trained up the youth to be
found in the streets in paths of virtue, they would not need to spend
thousands of pounds in punishing vicious men. (Applause.) He
said that the secret of the Brigade's success was to be attributed to
the fact that God-fearing men were at the head of it. Besides, the
institution had been conducted on sound principles. It was upon
the principle that society could not be reformed by attacking crime
when it was fully developed. No principle of prison discipline,
however admirably organized, or expensively conducted, would be
sufficient to repress crime. The young must be taken and reformed ;
the green tree must be bent before it becomes old. It appeared to
him that this had been admirably worked out both in this and other

The Loi'd Bishop of Manchester, in moving the adoption of
the report of the Manchester Home, said he had made himself
acquainted with the details of the institution from the pages of
a very interesting little pamphlet entitled " The First Six Months
of the Boys' Refuge and Industrial Brigade." In all these ex-
periments one felt that he was attempting to solve some of the
most difficult problems of modern society. The difficulty was,
lest, amidst our great, startling, and painful contrasts of wealth
and poverty, we should, in attempting to relieve poverty, aggravate,
instead of mitigate, pauperism. Such a result would, of course, be
very mischievous, and it was therefore important that in all institu-
tions of that kind the greatest possible vigilance and circumspection
should be exercised in the administration and use of the funds placed
at their disposal. It was said of Archbishop Whateley, who was a
strict political economist at heart, and a very benevolent man, that
in the course of his life he gave away ;^4o,ooo in charity, yet had
never given a sixpence to a beggar in the streets. On the other
hand, he read in a biographical sketch of a gentleman whose mortal
remains were that morning laid in their last resting-place (the late
Mr George Wilson), who played in the course of his life no incon-
spicuous, and, as those who differed from him would admit, always

a consistent part in the great arena of public questions, whether
political, municipal, or social, that, in spite of his strict political
economy, it was believed no beggar in the streets ever asked him for
aid and was sent away unrelieved. It might seem that the two
instances were contrarient one to the other, but they really were not
so. After all, the world was not governed absolutely by principles.
We were not living in Utopia, but in England ; and he was sure that
in the present state of society, whatever our political and economical
I'jrinciples might be, everybody would admit that there was abundant
room for the display and practical development of any benevolent
sentiment. He co?ifessed that he, for one, should be glad to see the
day come luhcn the Legislature, instead of fighting the battles of
■political parties, ivould gird up its loins to the great task of ascer-
taining and seeing whether some practical solution could not be
given to the many social problems which 7vere now before the public.
He, therefore, most emphatically approved of every principle which
he found expressed in the pamphlet to which he had alluded — the
principle of trying to help those who were prepared to help them-
selves, the principle of trying to mitigate pauperism by finding
healthful and remunerative employment for neglected boys, without
interfering with the rightful duties and responsibilities of parents.

The Rev. J. H. Wilson, M.A., of the Barclay Church, Edin-
burgh, moved : — " That this meeting feels deeply the loss which the
Edinburgh Industrial Brigade has sustained by the death of one of
the Vice-Presidents, Admiral Sir William Ramsay, K.C.B., who,
from the foundation of the institution, was one of its warmest sup-
porters." In support of the motion, he said that, than this Brigade,
he knew of no philanthropic or religious movement in the city which
had rallied round it a band of steadier and more devoted friends
who had given more than money — their precious time and costly
labour — to rescue these boys from the street. And of these
friends there was none more devoted than the venerable man
whose loss they mourned that day. He believed there was no
work in which the late Admiral was engaged which gave him so

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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 4 of 6)