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Our Children in Old Scotland and Nova Scotia
Chapter III - Progress of Work for Various Classes of Children


A FEW months after I began the Day Nursery work I felt constrained to open a home in the autumn of 1877, as I found so many children who had no home to go to at night, unless the Common lodging-house could be called so, and so many others brought by fathers, the mother having died and left the poor things to the care of the even more-to-be-pitied man, who had now to be father and mother and all. Need I say it likewise grew?

At this time, in 1878, I consented to have a board of Directors. When I accepted their co-operation, I kept in my own hands three items

Ist. Provision and amount of food.
2nd. Entire control of the servants.
3rd. Admission of cases.

This I thought fair and reasonable, as I had undertaken to be responsible for the expenses of the Institution.

Then a terrible class of little sufferers were brought to meóthe inmates of baby farms. These I was enabled to protect efficiently by the help of the police, and many were rescued.

But there was a class even beyond these, more numerous and varied in bitter experience, as well as in age; for when does the drunkardís child, even the half-grown boy or girl, cease to be the victim of its parentís sin?

Many and harrowing were the cases for which my help was asked from all quarters, and in an extraordinary variety of circumstances. Sometimes help was needed only for a limited period; sometimes, until in a year or two, I could put the boy or girl in the way of doing for themselves. More frequently the little ones were left a burden on my hands altogether, until at last I had, for a long time before I left Scotland, 300 children to feed every day, to say nothing of clothing and education; and as all my Home children went to the public schools, the school-fees were a heavy item.

Thus the Home, once started, grew rapidly; first one house was opened, then another, till in 1883 I had Homes for girls and little ones ató 11, Mackenzie Place, Stockbridge, Edinburgh; 2, Craigholm Crescent, Burutisland, Fife; For boys, at 1, Craigholm Crescent, Burntisland, and 4, Bayton Terrace, Granton, near Edinburgh. Three of these were arranged to accommodate twenty-five children in each, besides two or three older girls as workers, and we often had to stretch a bit when those pleading for admission could not wait in cold, hunger and nakedness till some other had been provided for. At Bayton Terrace we tried to keep to eight boys.

I lived on both sides of the Forth, and my own houses, Merleton, Wardie, and 16, Craigholm Crescent, Burntisland, had many occupants, little ones, delicate children, or those requiring special protection from cruelty. I may mention that my servants, except the housekeepers, were all taken from the elder girls who had behaved well enough to deserve such promotion.

At this time I can well remember many a winterís night, when leaving Stockbridge at 8.30, after a hard dayís work, when very pressing applications had been made and sifted for admission to the Mackenzie Place Home, I had to take two or three of the improved inmates from Stockbridge Home to Wardie with me, in order to leave room in the beds for the perishing little new-comers. Do you blame me? What else could I do? Could I have gone home to sleep, and know I had left little children to perish,óthe little children whom the Lord Jesus Christ told us all to in His name?

I was careful only to admit children who were either victims of cruelty or really homeless, and without the necessaries of life; though, strange to say, from misfortune (too common at that time of general depression and want of work, consequent on the commercial crisis) many became destitute, whose parents had been respectable and well-to-do people. But I never, that I know of, refused to admit a single destitute or cruelly treated child or young person, though I have refused hundreds of cases of mere convenience!

By 1880 the work had attracted a good deal of public attention and a good deal of criticism; and when the British Association met in Edinburgh, in October of that year, it was made the subject of discussion, introduced by our Chairman, Mr. Colston, which provoked most decided and, it seemed to me, most unjust opposition. I had been previously invited to read a paper on Day Nursery work, and the help and protection necessary for little and innocent children, unsuited by their age and lack of even petty crimes for Industrial Schools. I took the opportunity of pleading the cause of little children, whose only crime was their poverty, as earnestly as I could, and was listened to with much sympathy by many people, with amusement by others. At the close of my appeal a gentleman standing in one of the passages asked for leave to join in the discussion, and made a most touching and eloquent speech in defence (much to my joy and relief) of the cause of little innocent children. That speech, I am certain, turned the tide of public opinion in Edinburgh, and the speaker was J. H. A. Macdonald, Esq., then Sheriff of Perthshire, afterwards the Lord Advocate, and now Lord Kingsburgh, the Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland.

Here I may remark that in opening all these houses since 1878 I always sought the advice of the directors in every important matter, and when they failed to attend the meetings to which they were regularly summoned, I frequently went to them at other times. Thus, in December, 1884, I added the Shelter from Cruelty, 150, High Street, to the list of houses, the reason for this being, I had found it necessary to receive so many children requiring special protection from cruelty at Merleton, Wardie; and as this was extremely inconvenient to myself and my household, I thought it better to incur the expense of another house somewhere near the Police Office. Besides, it was extremely desirable to have a kind of test-house through which doubtful children could pass on their way to the Home.

At this time there was an idea of some other friends beginning a new society for the same end, i.e. of Prevention of Cruelty to Children, but finding how fully the Edinburgh and Leith Childrenís Aid and Refuge (which was the name now given to this work) occupied the ground, these friends thought it better to join us and all work together.

In May, 1885, we were greatly cheered and encouraged when the Earl of Aberdeen, who was at that time Lord High Commissioner, did us the honour to visit the Shelter from Cruelty on his way from the General Assembly, accompanied by the Countess of Aberdeen, the Dowager Countess of Aberdeen, and members of the suite. His lordship, who was patron of the original society, expressed his satisfaction with the arrangements, and especially commended the manners and appearance of the children whom I had brought from the Homes for his inspection. The ladies also were most kind and cordial in their approval and sympathy with the work carried on in the prevention of cruelty to children.

That day I received a request from Mr. W. T. Stead to go to London and give evidence concerning what was known as the Leith case (of which further details will be found in chapter v., headed "German Children"), which was desired for the effort then being made to secure the passing of the Criminal Amendment Bill. This I did, and went through a good deal of annoyance in consequence, as did everybody who ventured to meddle with the subject which so agitated the country at that time. I was therefore not sorry that I had previously arranged to go to Canada that summer, and carry on the inquiries, begun in 1882, relative to the emigration of children and the protection to be obtained for them. On this occasion I met with more success, and obtained promises of help of various kinds from various people; and matters having become serious, so far as I was concerned, financially, I told the directors I must avail myself of the opening, with such children as could not be provided for otherwise. I further said if they (the directors) wished to withdraw from the undertaking, which had so outgrown its original proportions, I could only be obliged to them for what they had done. If they, on the other hand, decided to go on with me, I should be glad of their help. They decided to go on.

In the meantime I took a short lease of the farm at Leadburn Park as an outlet for our older boys, and as a means of employing them profitably, and training them for work in Nova Scotia. There were two houses on the place, one of which was very convenient for younger children in summer.

Thus, in 1886, when I sailed for Nova Scotia, and had closed my two private houses of Merleton, Wardie, and 16, Craigholm Crescent, Burntisland, I had still eight houses full of children, besides many boarded in the country. Under these circumstances, with 300 children to provide for, I was forced to see what I could do in the new country, unless, indeed, I accepted the alternative of giving up the children, which I could not do. You will say, "Did you get no help ?" I answer, "Very little in proportion."

The Town Council of Edinburgh and other public bodies gave annual grants, and the public contributed latterly about £500 a year; but, as I said before, it was understood I was responsible for the expenses of the various branches of the institution, which before I left Edinburgh amounted to at least £8,000. This seems a large sum, but when you consider this paid the expenses for eleven years of so large a work, that at a very moderate computation 3,000 children had passed through my hands, and that about 700 young people had been started in the world, the amount does not seem extravagant. In Nova Scotia I have spent about £2,000 more.

In March, 1886, I accepted the invitation of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to attend (as the representative of the Edinburgh Society) at a meeting held at their Shelter in Harper Street, where I met Mr. James Grahame, chairman of the Glasgow Society, and others. The Rev. Benjamin Waugh greeted me most warmly, and introduced me to the meeting as "a veteran in the work," having been fighting the childrenís battle against cruelty since 1877, while, as he was pleased to say, stronger people had only awakened to the necessity in 1884. In the course of the meeting we Scotch representatives urged the necessity for legislation in Scotland, and were advised to ask the help of any parliamentary or official friends on whose support we could rely. I brought the case before the Hon. J. H. A. Macdonald, who was the Lord Advocate of Scotland at the time, and he most kindly arranged a meeting in one of the side rooms of the

House of Commons, which was attended by the Hon. Preston Bruce, M.P., Dr. Farquharson, M.P., and some other Scotch members. The Lord Advocate presided. James Grahame, Esq., represented the Glasgow Society, and I attended by special invitation to represent Edinburgh, which I believe was an unusual honour for a woman ! Our friends spoke encouragingly, and promised to do all they could, though it was not until 1888 that the law regarding cruelty to children was altered. Praise the Lord!

I am thankful to have thus been the means of laying the foundation and developing in Edinburgh the work which since then, by joining the Glasgow Society, has become the Scottish National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.


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