IN a former chapter, when giving an
account of the progress of the work, I alluded to the rapid growth of the
Homes and the number of houses required.
were eight altogether, from 1883 to 1888. These were :—
Day Nursery, 10, Mackenzie Place, Edinburgh.
Girls’ Home, 11, Mackenzie Place, Edinburgh.
2, Craigholm Crescent, Burntisland.
Boys’ Home, Rosebank, Leadburn Park.
1, Craigholm Crescent, Burntisland.
4, Bayton Terrace, Granton Road.
The Shelter from Cruelty, 150, High Street, Edinburgh.
I know that some friends objected to
having so many separate houses on the score of expense and in creased
difficulty in supervision, but, after all, the
Home is the first
necessity of a homeless child, and I am convinced, a real home, and
therefore individual attention, can only be secured where there is a
manageable number of children; beyond that it ceases to be a home and
becomes merely an institution, which I believe to be a very different kind
of life, and which I have always been most careful to avoid for our
The Homes, as they existed at the
time I write of, may all be described together, as they were all conducted
on the same principle—exclusively that of a family. Each house was
complete in itself, with Treasurer, some friend in the neighbourhood, who
was entirely responsible for management of stores, accounts, etc., thus
preventing any habit of waste or extravagance, which even in the best
regulated (large) families is always too ready to creep in, this treasurer
at the same time fulfilling the very important duty of seeing that the
stores, etc., were used in the best way, and that the children actually
got all that was intended for them.
I had not the means to build or
adapt cottage homes all conveniently close together, and so I just made
use of plain, ordinary buildings in suitable situations as I could find
them, when the need for a fresh house arose. As to looking after them, no
doubt it entailed a great deal of exertion on my part, even with all the
help the treasurers so kindly and willingly gave me.
Next in authority to the Treasurer
came the Nurse, whose duty it was to be mother in the Home. I did not
encourage the children to call her so, for I think anything unreal is a
mistake, and many of them who remembered good, gentle mothers of their own
could not have failed to resent it. They so often told us touching little
stories of how happy and well cared for they were "when my mother was
living," and how sadly matters changed when she was taken ill. How, for
instance, "Bobbie was a bonnie bairn, with curly hair, and my mother kept
him aye clean and bonnie, and syne when she took ill she could na sort him
ony mair; and she could na bide to hear him greet: and we tried to do, and
we could na; and she was taken away to the hospital, and—and—" The poor
little historian at this point would frequently throw itself on my lap in
an agony of grief. Some were more composed with a precocious gravity and
care of "the baby" that was even sadder. A very troublesome baby of
fourteen months was brought to us; he was accompanied by his elder sister
of nine, because, as she explained, "he won’t go to any one else." When I
saw them at Mackenzie Place, I thought they were too delicate to stay
there, and took them home with me. Master baby paid me the compliment of
being pleased to go to me; and next day when I had him in my arms, playing
with himself in the grass, Maggie stood watching us with great interest,
and said in a tone of sorrowful composure, like an elderly woman, "Baby
thinks you’re my mother; that’s why
he’s pleased with you." I said, "When did he see
your mother, my dear?" "About a fortnight ago, and
she’s died since;" and
poor little Maggie heaved a deep sigh and shook her head.
But I must be done with
recollections, as these Homes in Scotland are now a thing of the past, and
it is only necessary to refer to them by way of giving a history of the
work which would otherwise be incomplete. My views as to the management of
Homes for homeless children will doubtless appear hereafter, when I tell
you the story of our Homes in Nova Scotia, where the same plan is carried
on, and where the chief object is to make the Home a
real home to each member
Before I leave the recollections of
this happy time of work in Scotland, I must mention the boarding out
system, which I was obliged to have recourse to in 1884, when house
accommodation failed. I was very careful in the selection of those with
whom they were placed, and the children were arranged in groups of four or
six, so that the friend who acted as treasurer and paid their board
monthly, could see exactly how they were attended to, and look after them
in every way. I beg to thank those friends in the country, especially Mrs.