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Darling Memorial Sketch Book
Band of Hope Work


We have already had occasion, more than once, to refer to the special importance attached by the subject of our narrative to Bands of Hope, which he evidently regarded as, on the whole, the most hopeful and easy means of rooting total abstinence from strong drink among the principles and habits of a people. The sayings, as we have seen, were daily on his lips as household words, that the character of the next generation mainly depended on the moral training of the children of the present, and that it was always a more easy thing to prevent evil than to recover from its bondage. And associations under such names as the "League of Juvenile Abstainers" had existed early in the history of the temperance movement, and done good so far as they went. It was not, however, until 1876, that the Edinburgh Band of Hope Union was founded, and that similar societies for the young began to be recognised everywhere as a regular part of the temperance organisation; and from the initiation of the Union until the end of his life, Mr Darling was one of its most active Directors. He delighted in children, and this made him all the more ready to give himself to the movement with all his heart; for them he had the sunniest smile and the heartiest laugh, and his facility in addressing them increased with his experience and age. He knew how to speak to children without being childish; and while there was often very little attention to logical sequence in what he said, his addresses abounded in homely pictures and in pithy sentences with hooks which laid hold of the juvenile mind. Even the boy "roughs" in the closes of the Old Town were won by him, and he knew how to lift them out of the gutter without walking into it himself. By no meeting of young recruits of total abstinence did Mr Darling receive a warmer welcome, with his beaming countenance, than the Band of Hope in his own congregation of Broughton Place; and their affection sometimes sought tangible expression in gifts, the value of which was greatly enhanced by the thought of the loving young hearts that gave them.

His zeal in this matter, as in some others, overleaped the boundaries of Edinburgh. He would willingly travel long distances to assist in forming or fostering such Unions. Those in Kirkcaldy, Falkirk, Stirling, and Jedburgh, and many other towns, honour him to this day as one of their founders.

One story out of many illustrates his tact in dealing with children. He had undertaken the management of a church social meeting in a village about eight miles out of Edinburgh. A multitude of the village boys had gathered around the place, more, it is likely, from the love of fun than of mischief, but impeding the entrance and making noisy demonstrations. Some men, in such circumstances, would probably have come forth and scolded them, threatening at the same time to bring the policeman with his "pains and penalties" to disperse them. But our friend adopted a course which showed that he better understood the hearts of such youngsters. Coming out and looking kindly on them, he asked them to be quiet, and stand aside for a time, promising that as soon as their parents and friends had been suitably entertained, he would provide them with an equally good meal, and inviting them one and all to meet him at a given time in a neighbouring barn to which he pointed. Of course he was punctually true to his engagement, and so were the young and hungry guests to theirs. Arranged in good order, tea was served, and bread and buns of every description were distributed without stint, and by the time that the feast was over, Mr Darling and his new friends had come to be on the best terms with each other.

But this by no means exhausted the programme which had all the while been in Mr Darling's mind. Referring to the humble barn in which they were met, he began to speak to them of Jesus Christ the Saviour of men, who had been "born in a stable and cradled in a manger." By easy transitions he found his way to the subject of intemperance, expatiating on the misery and shame and ruin which it brought upon those who yielded to become its slaves. Would it not be well for them on that very night to join in forming a Band of Hope against this evil in its root and branch? He had stricken the iron when it was hot, and his words did not fall to the ground. Within a week, the news came to him that thirty-five names had already been enrolled in the new society, which continues to flourish up to the present day.


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