David Harris.

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

. (page 5 of 6)
Online LibraryDavid HarrisA plea for industrial brigades, as adjuncts to ragged schools (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamphlets) → online text (page 5 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

much satisfaction as the work connected with the Brigade. If
there was an institution in Edinburgh round which philanthropic
people should rally, it was the one whose interests they were met
that day to plead.


A Leader from The Times, January, 1873.

English Conservatism has many difficulties to contend with in
our day, but in the guidance and support of Lord Derby it possesses
an element of strength which ought to count for a great deal. We
may sometimes be disposed to fret against the cold rigidity of pur-
pose with which Lord Derby endeavours to exclude the sentimental
element from his view of life, and we believe that even with the most
practical of our countrymen this fanaticism of practicality makes him
sometimes miss a point. But, as a general rule, Lord Derby's influ-
ence in social and political discussions is thoroughly healthy and in-
vigorating. The light which he pours upon a subject is, in the strictest
sense, what Bacon calls 'Mry light." The ^^ lumen siccum" of his
calm intelligence is never damped and darkened by the mists of pas-
sion, nor coloured by the prismatic splendours of imagination. We
do not know of any subject more fitted for the beneficial exercise of
this characteristic power than that on which he dilated at the annual
meeting of the promoters of the Boys' Refuge and Industrial Home
in the Manchester Town Hall on Monday evening. The work in
which the founders and helpers of this and of kindred institutions
have engaged is of great importance to the community, but it also
requires the most cautious and delicate handling. Rightly carried
out, it ma}', and we trust it will, confer a benefit both on the imme-
diate objects of relief and on the nation at large; rashly tampered
with or unskilfully managed, it must be mischievous. Lord Derby
is not the man to encourage recklessness, and his words of warning
will possibly check an ignorant and unthinking habit of liberality,
while his approval of more measured and intelligent efforts will no
doubt conciliate the support of practical men, who would be inclined
at the outset to hold themselves aloof from enterprises which appear
merely designed to supplement the Poor Law and to multiply facili-
ties for the nurture of a pauper nation.

The condition of the semi-nomad, semi-brutal population which
throngs our great cities is a problem which is pressing more and
more painfully upon English statesmanship. The streets are the
school in which our habitual criminals are reared, in which our men-
dicants and vagrants learn their trade and pick up their precarious
living, into which the " City Arabs," the "gutter children," and the
adolescent " roughs " escape from the grasp of the Educational In-
spector, the clergyman, and the philanthropist. Among this fluctu-


aling mass of human waifs physical as well as moral evil breeds and
spreads. Can nothing be done to improve the ground ? The pro-
moters of industrial schools are ready with an answer, which, so far
as it goes, is sound, but which we are afraid docs not, after all, carry
us very fixr. They argue, and very justly, that the vices of the
''street Arabs," and of the "roughs" into whom the "street Arabs"
develop, are not innate, but are the offspring of circumstances; they
maintain that when you take a destitute child off the streets, seclude
him from evil influences, and give him a proper training, you give the
State a good citizen instead of a bad one ; and they reason as though
the process might be carried on w-ithout limitation until all the waifs
and strays of our large cities had been swept into Industrial Homes,
and there drilled into habits of decency, obedience, and prudence.
The demoralization which in such a case would ensue, if an operation
so extravagantly large could be completely effected, is not sufficiently
taken into account by the well-meaning people who look no further
than the institution they patronize, or, at most, the town they dwell
in. Just as the multiplication of creches and Foundling Hospitals in
some Continental countries is found to have a directly demoralizing
influence, as proved by an increase of illegitimate births and of child
desertions, so we should discover that the practice of relieving
parents of responsibility by removing all vagrant children from
the streets into Industrial Schools would end in casting upon the
State the duty of supporting and launching in the world all the chil-
dren of the poor. The institution on behalf of which Lord Derby
pleaded on Monday is not open to the reproach of any such mistaken
aims or mischievous practices. It need not be said that Lord Derby
himself most strongly enforced the importance of the checks and
safeguards which are applied in the Manchester Boys' Home. But
all similar institutions are not so wise, and very few philanthropists
who favour industrial schools possess the foresight of Lord Derby.
In seven out of eight cases the lads admitted to the Industrial Home
at Manchester have no parents alive or discoverable ; in all cases
they must be " boys from thirteen to fourteen years of age, not con-
victed of any offence, too old to enter a certified Industrial School,
and having no home except the streets, or possibly such a home as
is worse than none." This Institution, therefore, fills a special place,
supj)lcmentary to the industrial schools maintained by Government
grants, and is said to be — though we must take the statemctit with
due allowance — nearly self-supporting. If this be so, we may admit


Lord Derby's argument that, on the lowest economical calculation, it
is wise to take these lads who have no home to shelter them, no
parents to help them, no hope of making their way in any career
except crime or beggary, and try to turn them by wholesome dis-
cipline, well-directed teaching, and active moral influence, into good
citizens, skilful workmen, and honest men. But let it be clearly
understood that such institutions have a special, and not by any
means a general, function ; that they deal with a very small section
indeed of the social problem which vexes this generation ; that they
can promise us no large or lasting relief; and that when tliey de-
part from the limits laid down for them they are likely to do more
hann than good. Lord Derby, at all events, will not encourage them
to go far beyond those limits, though even he seems to hint that the
rule restricting the benefits of such Homes to orphans might be more
frequently relaxed. On the whole, it appears fiir better to relax this
rule as little as possible, though here and there a special case may
present itself which may demand a more generous interpretation.

Within even the narrower boundaries to which the Manchester
Boys' Home confines its labours there are still some doubtful ques-
tions unsettled, and the doubts which arise here apply equally to the
industrial schools maintained by Government grants. It is certainly
satisfactory to hear that the boys who Avould other\vise grow up in
the practice of crime or mendicancy become in a sense self-support-
ing, and that their labour goes a considerable way to meet the
regular outlay for establishment charges. But we do not think this
interpretation of the phrase "self-supporting" should be strained so
far as to annul the obligation between the boys thus taught and
trained and the community which undertakes the charge of them.
No doubt the State derives a benefit indirectly when six or seven
years' discipline in an industrial school — whether wholly or partially
maintained by public subscriptions or State contributions, it matters
not — transforms a young thief or beggar into a skilled workman.
But the boy himself has directly received a far more than commen-
surate advantage. He has been saved from cold, from hunger, and
from an early initiation into vice. He has been fed, and clothed,
and educated, and started in life. Does he owe nothing in return to
the community? In such a case we think the lad who has enjoyed
the advantages of an industrial school owes a debt to the State which
the State has a right to exact from him. Nor is the metliod of paynicn i
far to seek. TheGovernment requires for the defence of the country the


service of a certain number of men for the army and navy, and every
year it becomes more difficult, under the modern system of volunteer-
ing, to find the men for these services. We do not think any
principle of justice would be violated, while the recruiting of the army
and navy would be materially aided, if a rule were to be adopted
that every boy trained in an industrial school should serv^e, after his
discharge, for a fixed term, either in the army or the navy. The
lads, of course, should be allowed a choice between the services ;
and now that the three years' term has been accepted, it would be
quite easy to give them the option of leaving the army at an age
when they could begin life as artizans or labourers with fair hopes of
advancement. If Lord Derby would give his support to a scheme
of this kind, he would find that he had enlisted the sympathies of
many who at present look somewhat coldly upon the growth and
multiplication of industrial schools.


Extract from The Scotsman, Monday, March 2, 1868.

Last Saturday night, invitations became due for an indiscriminate
festive gathering in the Home of the Edinburgh Industrial Brigade,
No. 9 Leith Street Terrace. The object of the assembly was to
show to the little ragged urchins brought in from all parts of the
city, the "clean contented faces" of the Brigade boys, and to make
offer to them, for their free and unconditional acceptance, of the
benefits and protection of the Home. Neglected boys had been
sought out during the week, and presented with tickets for the
party \ and at the hour of meeting upwards of forty of these inter-
esting but unceremonious guests were found in their places in the
" dining hall" of the institution. The Brigade boys, well scrubbed
and dusted, occupied benches against the wall along each side of
tlie room, so as to form a cordon round their friends " the lumber" —
a gaunt and motley crew, who filled the centre seats. The room
was free of decorations, but it was well-lighted, and cheerful. Mr
David Harris, Mr E. E. Scott, and other gentlemen interested in
this movement for aiding destitute lads to gain a livelihood, were
present ; and under their active and solicitous superintendence the
festival proceeded.


One boy, who had been expected, was not present to cry
" Adsum" to his name, and his brother, a blythe but viciously dirty
little vagabond, only very partially covered by a shapeless collection
of rags, was sent in quest of him. The messenger sprang over the
benches with a triumphant flutter, his bare black feet seeming
scarcely to touch the boards. A hymn was called for in the mean-
time, and proved to be a popular one — " There is a land of pure
delight" — for it was sung with great energy, and with an enthusiastic
contempt for harmony. A brief prayer followed, and then the boys
were spoken to for a few minutes, and exhorted himibly and honestly
to deport themselves, so that the days of their youth might not be
spent in vain. "Who are the happiest people in the world?" it
was asked ; and a shower of answers came — " The workers," " The
believers in God," " The good," " The angels," &c. These appetis-
ing exercises concluded, a kind voice exclaimed, " Now, we will
have the mugs brought in ;" whereupon the hungry, humming mass
of boys, seized with an uncontrollable impulse, sprang from their
groaning seats, and, with their grasping hands put forward, cried,
"Jugs! Jugs!" in contradistinction to the less capacious mugs
which it seemed were " ben the house." The mugs, however, were
brought, and not another word was said so long as each boy was
enabled to get possession of a vessel. Next appeared a huge tray
of dumpy currant-rolls or " German twists," each measuring over a
foot in length, and having a dimpled glossy surface, almost too pretty
to be broken. These delicacies were greeted with an irrepressible
exclamation of delight, a greedy and protracted cry of "He-e-e!"
going round the room as numerous busy hands distributed the spicy
blocks of pastry. The boys wagged their cakes in each other's
faces with savage glee ; for a time there was cause to fear that a
general me/ee would ensue. " Order ! order ! " was the repeated
command of the superintendent; but these "weavers' beams,"
which the confectioner had furnished in such liberal abundance, were
meant to be handled demonstratively; they were the better for
" being shaken well before taken." Feats of balancing were also
suggested by the festive rolls, which forthwith were poised on many
a dumpy chin and nose, and even rufiled " toppins " were patted
down for the accommodation of the now dusky and well-battered
piles of provender. The distribution having been terminated, after
wearisome repetitions of " Order ! " " Not a boy one unless he is


sitting down ! ' kettles of tea were handed in, and the managers,
taking up their positions in different parts of the room upon benches,
])Oured out the Hquid in hot streams into the mugs which were held
up to them, and which were chipping each other out of their places
beneath the bounteous spout, each boy desiring to be served first.
Once fairly set agoing, the boys did unsparing justice to the good
tilings provided for them. They were "feeding on nectar and
ambrosia." They ate and drank as for a wager, only pausing now
and then in silent satisfaction to contrast the power of their respective
jaws by comparing the result of their exertions upon the rolls, as Joe
and Little Pip were accustomed to do with their bread and butter.
Towards the end of the repast one of the party called out, " Here's a
boy eaten twa twists."' " I never did,'' replied the accused. "He
could not eat two," interposed the doubting superintendent; but a
boy, taking the official sharply up, exclaimed — "Not eat two? I
could eat sax." This alarming declaration was followed by a de-
nouncing cry of '• Oh ! " from all parts of the room, and one or tvvo
of the boy's nearest neighbours sat looking upon him for a moment
or two in mute alarm. After a great supply of tea had been issued, the
boys were told to hold up their hands, those who had not had enough.
"Oh, we have had plenty," was the general cry; but one or two
hands were held up, and the kettles were again turned on, that all
might be satisfied. This latter task was ultimately accomplished,
and the mugs were collected. Mr Harris remarked that he was very
glad to see that the boys had all been to his friend, the pump ; he
did not see one black face. "Yes, Tommy Arthur has a black face,"
sputtered out a ravenous urchin, with his mouth crammed full of roll ;
and forthwith Tommy was inspected by the whole house, but without
condemnation. Mr T. R. IMarshall, with great skill and readiness,
put the boys through a general examination, in which they acquitted
themselves with surprising credit. Many of the answers, it is true,
were ludicrous enough, but, on the whole, wonderful intelligence was
displayed. They were able to tell their examiner all about the growth
and manufacture of tea and sugar; and while some averred that China
was a " land of pigtails," others would have it that that great country
was in the East Indies. Considerable acquaintance uith the objects
and researches of the Livingstone expedition was manifested ; and
the purpose of the Abyssinian expedition was variously described —
some stating that it was to " capture King Theodore," others that it
was to " kill King Theodore," and one boy, ^^•ith a determined fro^vn,


answered, "To make old Theodore pay the cost of getting the cap-
tives." The boys had each their own commander for the expedition
— the names of Garibaldi, Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, and
the Duke of Cambridge all being given in answer to the question.
One anxious boy made a wide guess at the locale of the Falls of Nia-
gara, by declaring that they were in the Nile. The question was put
— " What benefits have you derived from becoming members of the
Brigade ? " and answers were given — *' To keep us clean and get us
clothes " (with a snap of the boy's fingers) ; " Keeping us from get-
ting into the police ofiice ; " " Getting a drink of tea," &c. One boy
stood longer than the others with his hand up : Examiner — '* Well,
what is it? " Boy — " Making us young gentlemen, sir." There was
great laughter at this, and the audacious youth got his head well
knocked by those of his companions who were near him. But before
the laughing had ceased, the party were told that every boy was a
gentleman who behaved like a gentleman, no matter how he was
dressed. In answer to further questions, the jail was spoken of as
"Mr Smith's lodgings," and "Mr Smith's hotel." A few parting
words were addressed to the boys by Mr Harris, and at the close,
just before a hpnn was given out, one of the guests rose, and, with
the utmost gravity, said — " One of the boys is very sorry he had
such a hard bed last night ; his ribs ha'e been sair a' day." The pro-
ceedings soon afterwards terminated.

It may be interesting to give a few particulars respecting the
working of the Brigade. Its history is a matter only of yesterday.
A circular was sent out, in September last, by Mr David Harris, to a
few philanthropic citizens who were known to take an interest in
promoting the well-being of the juvenile population, inviting them to
meet together to consider the matter, and decide whether an attempt
should be made to organize such an institution. The chief effort to
be made was to provide employment for the destitute lads of the
city, and for those whose times of probation and instruction at the
Ragged Schools had expired. The circular set forth, with considerable
confidence, that by a united effort of a few persons interested in such
matters, an institution of the kind conceived might be started during
the pending winter, at a moderate expenditure in the first instance,
with a fair prospect of its ultimately becoming wholly or nearly self-
supporting. A meeting was accordingly held, under the presidency
of Sheriff Watson, at which it was resolved that a brigade should be
established as an adjunct to the Ragged Schools, for the purpose of


aiding the destitute lads in the city in their efforts to gain a liveli-
hood ; and that the management of it should be vested in six
directors, chosen chiefly by the existing Ragged School Boards.
This meeting was followed up by two conferences with the directors
of each of the Ragged Schools in town, with the view of avoiding
anything in the shape of collision with these institutions ; and as the
result of the investigations, the directors were perfectly satisfied that
there was nothing to prevent harmonious working. Efforts were at
once made to put the scheme into operation ; and on the ist No-
vember last the institution was opened. The premises first occupied
were in Cockbum Street, but the institution has since been removed
to No. 9 Leith Street Terrace.* Fifteen boys formed the number of
the Brigade at the opening, varying in age from thirteen to sixteen,
none being taken under thirteen, as till then they are eligible for the
Ragged Schools. During the five months the scheme has now been
on foot, between thirty-five and forty boys have been taken off the
streets, and as many of them have proved themselves on a trial of
one or two months to be worthy of confidence, regular employment
has been procured for them. The chief object of the movement is
to reclaim these boys as quickly as possible from an idle street life,
and those who give promise of improvement are only employed as
shoeblacks until better, more constant, and more skilled work can
be procured for them. Thus two of the boys have got situations
in chemists' shops, where they have every prospect of advancement ;
others have been sent to grocers, others to bakers, one has gone to
the drapery business, another is a clerk, another a blacksmith, another
a painter, another a stone-mason, and one — spoken of as a remark-
ably fine fellow — has gone to sea. Considering the wretched class
from which these boys are drawn, results such as these are extremely
gratifying and encouraging. For those thus fortunately apprenticed
out the Society provide board and lodgings at a charge of 3s 6d a-
week, with 3d extra for washing. Any poor boy can have the advan-
tage of this accommodation without becoming a shoeblack; the
institution is at all times open to such applicants, and this feature
makes it peculiarly a home; At the present time there are about
twenty boys in the Brigade. The working hours of the shoeblacks
are from half-past eight to five. Prayers are said in the Home at
half-past seven ; breakfast takes place at eight ; the boys then turn
out to work, and return for dinner at one ; at two they go out again,
* Now the Home is at 72 Grove Street.


and work till five; six is the hour for supper, and school duties
extend from half-past six to half-past eight. Many of the boys learn
remarkably well, all are quick, and there are but few who are not in-
dustrious. Only one of their number has been in the hands of the
police, and this one, after twice selling his shirt, and afterwards ap-
propriating the money he had earned and taking a trip to Dundee,
has been convicted, and sent for five years to a reformatory. One
feature of the institution is that no sect or denomination is recog-
nised within it. The boys, both Catholic and Protestant, have full
permission to attend their own places of worship ; but whilst the
Brigade Home is quite open to visitors, who are invited to inspect
its working, no recognised minister of any denomination is permitted
to exercise any authority within the walls. Since the public meeting
was held, no donations or subscriptions have been solicited in behalf
of the institution, the anticipations of its supporters that it would be
self-supporting having been so far realised that only the superinten-
dent's salary and part of the clothing fund have been to provide.
Several persons have presented donations of books to the Brigade,
and have othenvise manifested a kindly interest in the boys. The
most practical shape such sympathy could assume would be for those
who have opportunities for rendering such assistance to endeavour
to procure suitable situations for the boys as they are received into
the Brigade. The effect of such efforts would soon become apparent
in the removal from our streets of the hordes of little ragamuffins by
whom, at present, they are so lamentably infested.


The following histories have been given as a sample of upwards of
I GOO such. The touching tales of woe would melt the hardest
heart, and beget Jacob's prayer on the boys' behalf, — "The angel
that preserved me from all evil bless the Lads !" —

No. I, after having been an inmate of one of the City Institu-
tions, was for five years a shoeblack at one of the railway stations —
an uncouth city Arab in every sense of the word. After a good deal
of trouble and patience, on the part of the Superintendent of the
Brigade, he was got into something like order, and has been for


upwards of four months apprenliccd to a stone mason, with every
prospect of remainmg a decent working lad.

No. 2 had received a good education, and his habits of order and
neatness gave proof that he had been carefully trained ; his mother
being dead, and his father married again, and removed from Edin-
burgh, leaving him and his stepmother behind. The latter is a
drunkard, who ill-used the poor boy, and turned him on the street.

No. 3. His father is dead ; but the boy's recollections of him are
of his getting drunk, and beating his mother and himself. After his
father's death, his mother formed a connection with another man.
They used to beat him, and take his earnings to get drink. (He
told the sad tale with a burst of tears.) Previous to joining the
Brigade, he had been for some months a shoeblack at the railway
station, but without a home.

No. 4 is the son of a hawker, evidently a poor wretched drunken
woman. He bears on his body the marks of her ill-treatment. He
is an instance of how the ill-treatment of former days is remembered
and resented. It made one shudder to hear him declare, that as his
mother, when she had plenty, ga\'e him nothing, so, when he had
plenty, he would see her starve.

No. 5 is the son of a travelling lecturer on phrenology and

1 2 3 5

Online LibraryDavid HarrisA plea for industrial brigades, as adjuncts to ragged schools (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamphlets) → online text (page 5 of 6)