IN Chapter XII. I brought the
history of our work and experiences at Hillfoot Farm down to the close of
Since then there is a good deal of
interest to record, but it will not be tedious.
There is nothing very new as to
details of work done for our children at home and abroad ; but the
work itself has gone on with unabated vigour. Last June we were joined by
a party of children from Miss Croall’s Home, at Stirling, and except one
little boy, whom I found it better to keep at home for a time, all these
are now in good homes and giving satisfaction.
Each year more boys and girls have
been placed in suitable homes, and thus enabled to do for themselves,
while leaving room for new-comers, and I rejoice to be able still
to say that the reports of them which I receive from all directions are
most encouraging. At Home all goes on as usual. I have reason to be
thankful the Home element remains unbroken, and the Home feeling among
those who have gone from us seems as strong as ever, judging from the
piles of letters, photos, Christmas cards, and other tokens of goodwill
which come from our children abroad.
I have already told of the serious
calamity in the destruction of the mill last year, and its rebuilding. It
is now at work as busily as ever, and employs more hands.
As to the farm work, we have done
much to improve the stock of cattle and sheep, since there has been
suitable accommodation for them in the new buildings. We have now a fine
herd of registered Ayrshire cattle, and the flock of sheep has been also
much improved. By dint of constant care and pains, we hope by-and-by it
will be one of the best in the province. I must not forget the Berkshire
pigs, which live in what is known as Piggy's Palace (which excited
the admiration of Dr. Lawson), and where each family has a parlour and
bedroom! one pen for eating, the other for sleeping, with access to
"Piggy’s playground," a large sunny yard where the manure from the barn is
taken, and where the pigs occupy themselves usefully in turning it over.
This part of the farm is a great amusement to visitors; and as it is
light, airy, and perfectly clean, there is nothing objectionable, as is
too often the case where piggies are less well attended to.
We have, since 1890, planted three
orchards—one of 300 trees on my cousin’s new farm, in a very fine
situation; one of pears, peaches, plums, and cherry trees, immediately in
front of the big house (where the old barns used to stand), and which, as
the ground slopes gently to the south, and is sheltered by the house to
the north, bids fair to do well. The third is on the tableland behind, and
stretching west of the big house mentioned in my description of the farm
when I bought it. We shall only be able to fill part of this ground this
year, as the space is large; but it is a good piece of work to have on
hand, as preparing the ground can be carried on at intervals when there is
not much else to do—though that is but seldom, we find!
In order to explain one great
subject of interest and increased anxiety during these years, I must go
back in our history to 1886, and tell you that no sooner were we located
here than my troubles began in another direction. A man of notoriously bad
character had brought his three children to my care in 1882, and deserted
them immediately after. When he applied for their admission, he stated he
had been a Roman Catholic, but was tired of the neglect and tyranny of the
priests, and desired to have them brought up as Protestants. As I have
said, he deserted them immediately. In the course of four years he only
once asked after them, and during the same period sent £1 17s. towards
their maintenance. But in 1886, finding that two of the children had been
sent by the directors to Nova Scotia in the course of that year, he
consulted a priest, who recommended him to a Roman Catholic agent, by whom
he was advised to apply for them. The directors then requested me to bring
them home, which I did at once, but, knowing what the fate of the children
would be, I was naturally unwilling to give them up if it could be
avoided; and as the father did not make any further attempt to obtain
them, the former application to the directors was allowed to drop. After
waiting five months, I sent them out again, and with them the third child,
who had not been in the Homes since 1884, but had been supported at my
private expense in the country, and in due course they were provided for.
After eighteen months a lawsuit was
instituted, which has been alike troublesome and expensive.
The decision in my favour recently
given by the Court in Nova Scotia in the above case has been a great
relief to me. The inconvenience and outlay have been very considerable;
but, as I was advised to carry it on in the interests of poor children as
well as of the Protestant cause, the risk seemed unavoidable.