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Life Jottings of an Old Edinburgh Citizen
Chapter Ten


" The siniles and tears of boyhoods years."
Moore.

1844 - 46

IN these last pages there has been an unavoidable lapping over beyond the period of actual childhood, as some of the features of life occurring first at a very early time, were not incidents of the moment, but were carried on into more advanced boyhood. Returning now to the time when the definite advance from infancy to boyhood occurs, that step is generally marked by the transition from petticoats to trousers, but memory fails me as to the exact time at which this occurred ;n my case. I suppose it was when I first went to school at Circus Place, near St. Stephen's Church. The school has long ago appeared. It was then the day when such a thing as a playground for boys was not thought of. We had no schoolboy association together, when class hours were over, and during the short intervals of classes we had to be content to play at marbles or whip-top or spinning-top in the backyard of the house, or on the street. We also had a game called "papes"'—a boy's corruption, I suppose, of "pips." It consisted in laying a row of cherry stones along between the first and second finger, and throwing them from a short distance into a small hole made at the bottom of the garden wall opposite the school. He who got the most of the number into the hole took those of him that failed. The stones were counted by "caddels," another corruption of "quadrille," which meant four "papes." It was a good game, and the cheapest prize sport in existence. I inquire at boys about it now, and they do not know what I am talking about. Cheapness in sport, as In everything else, is not the order of the day.

There were not many stirring incidents at Circus Place, but there was one which I never can forget, as it was so marked an illustration of the want of sense that teachers sometimes show, which leads to their doing injustice without intending to be unjust. I was a poor hand at writing, as I am still, and on one occasion I had to write what was called a "specimen." When t was presented to the youthful teacher he tore it up, produced his tawse, the Scottish instrument of torture for boys) and administered six strokes, well laid on. This might have been right enough—I say nothing against it. But he immediately set me down to up to another specimen, and when I had done so, with eyes full of tears and fingers smarting and trembling from the whacking, he took up the torrn pieces of the first specimen and compared them with the second, declaring the latter to be the worse of the two. Surely that the second should be worse than the first was not surprising, being written by smarting fingers. Again he administered the same as before to my already well-bruised hand. One learns early in life not to expect to pass through it without meeting with injustice. . Every parent should warn his children that they must not expect always to be treated justly, as every parent knows, probably from his own experience, that such a tiling is not to be expected. The severest flogging I ever endured was for an offence of which I was absolutely innocent, and I barely escaped another, though threatened with the very worst if I offended again —the alleged offence being one of which Iwas not guilty. The longest period of family disgrace I ever endured was also for a supposed offence which had not been committed. Perhaps all this was good for me. I do not know. It may have taught one to be very sure before dealing with one's own.

The Edinburgh boy had for his favourite sweetmeats two particular delights, not known at that time elsewhere. Curiously enough they both took their name from the same place. It's an indication how, in the early part of the century, names connected with war came to be applied to ordinary things. They may take their place beside the name Wellington boot and the name Blucher boot. One of these sweetmeats was called "Gib," and the other was called "Rock"—the one the first syllable, and the other the last syllable of the name "Gibraltar Rock." Edinburgh Rock is a "goody" of a much later date. When I hear anyone speaking of the fort as "Gib", it recalls the "gib" of my childhood, not without misgivings that the warnings 1 got from my elders, that if I could see how it was made I would not suck at it so eagerly, and which were unwisely disregarded.

However it was made, we boys liked it, as we did its rival of the other syllable, for a change. I wonder if anyone except myself remembers Kitty Ferguson of Clyde Street, a most decent old lady, who had no fine shop, but had a great clientele among little people—aye, and among older, sweet-toothed people too—particularly as she produced most excellent toffee, and always threw in a little more than the weight. She was as celebrated in youthful circles as her namesake in George IV Bridge among the "grown ups," as we called them.

Perhaps my most pleasant recollection of the Circus Place School was the training in gymnastics I received from Mr. Roland and his two sons. The occasional hour with them was the brightest and most free from unpleasantness of the whole curriculum. More perfect gentlemen, and gentlemen with a knowledge of a boy's feelings, and a power of discipline without its being felt disagreeably, never lived. Their annual exhibition in the Music Hall was always delightful, both to boys and parents. We little fellows in white ducks and shirts with a pink handkerchief round the waist, and the older boys in green jackets with a silver-clasped belt, went through our evolutions, and fencing and gymnastics, Mr. Roland presiding in black silk breeches and stockings, and old as he was giving his younger assistants all they could do to hold their own against Tim with the foils, The Military Academy sent a company of their students in military dress, to give an exhibition of sword exercise and gun drill. There were no men more respected :n Edinburgh than the family of the Rolands at that time.

Referring to early boyhood's amusements outside of school-life, the fact that by the energy of my colleague Lord Salvesen and others, Edinburgh now possesses a Zoological Park of modern style, leads me to say a word—it cannot be of praise—of the Zoological Gardens of my childhood, which were situated opposite East Claremont Street. It was of course a purely cage collection, where lions and tigers moved round and round, or back and forward in close cages, and a wretched bear was kept in a deep stone pit, with a tree stem and short cut branches in the middle, up which it climbed to get buns held out in clips at the ends of rods. A more depressing sight could not be imagined, than a creature which when free lives in woods, put down at the bottom of a stone-lined dungeon, with no life to live—monotony unrelieved by anything resembling Nature. The monkey house, although we boys enjoyed the antics we saw there, was a terrible place, the smell of which was indescribable, and we learned from our elders that there was difficulty in keeping it up, as consumption carried off so many of the inmates every season. One cannot help wondering how many specimens of the tuberculos-s bacillus found their way into the little people, who were sent by their parents to the gardens, to incur much more serious dangers than those external perils from which the fathers and mothers sought to shield them, by forbidding this and forbidding that. Reasonable care is one thing, over-coddling is another. When the child has become a boy his life necessarily changes in many respects, and liberty must begin to be accorded to him in degree. Control must be reasonable and not rigid, and not applied as a chain. The boy who has a nature calling on him for courageous outgoing must be taught to take care of himself, which he will never do if he is tied up too much and over watched.

The strings that held him to the apron, whether of mother, or nurse, or of governess, must be loosed. If the attempt is made by excessive restrictions, under which he is forbidden to do this or to do that, because it may expose him to some danger and to keep him out of danger, he is too likely, as the spirit of adventure grows on him, to invent dangers for himself. I feel sure that if my parents, who covered me with injunctions, and prevented my doing what other boys did, to keep me out of risks, had only known what real dangers my companions and I devised for ourselves, their lives would have been made miserable. To climb up the house-stair to the third story by the outside of the banisters was a common amusement


DEAN BRIDGE, LOOKING NORTH-WEST

when the parents had gone out to dine, an ingenious way of countering their making it impossible to slide down the banisters by coiling coloured rope round them. We went out sailing in boats, when we were supposed to be making sand castles on the shore. Our greatest feat—I shudder to think of it now—was to creep along the two-inch skirting at the back of the Academy, holding on by window-sills, and to get into a corner where a stair went down some fifteen steps to the cellars, standing on this slight foothold with the back in the angle, the hard stone steps below us, certain to break our limbs or crack our skulls if we should fall. The slightest slip on the narrow skirting, and death, or at least broken bones, were well-nigh a certainty. Boys will take risks, and all that can be done to warn them to be careful. It is better to trust them to a Higher Power than to try to keep them absolutely on the leading rein, by which process they will never be fitted to take good care of themselves. A dear lady, a friend of mine, once said to me when I was lunching with her in London on a Sunday: "What am I to do to-morrow with my little fellow, who has come home on exeat from the preparatory school? I know I can't amuse him all day." "I will tell you what to do," I said; "after breakfast put a half-crown in his hand, tell him to find his way to the Zoo, and to enjoy himself till a fixed hour, and then come back." Her eyes distended, and she exclaimed: "Oh, Mr. Macdonald he's the very apple of my eye."—"I quite believe that I said, ''but you can't keep him in your eye, be trustful, and give him a chance to make a man of himself, T'he sooner he learns to do it? the better." I would give the same advice always, and be sure I was doing the best for the little fellow and for the mother alike. Any other course will produce either a molly-coddle or a rebel—a prig or a leader of a double life, both disastrous.

To make a man the boy must learn to face risks, and parents must not be without faith. Having fallen into moralising, I will ask leave to add that too often parents, teachers, nurses, err in measuring a fault, not by the importance of the thing itself, but by the annoyance it causes at the moment. Shakespere's is a wise word:

"Chide him for faults, and do it reverently,
When you perceive his blood inclined to mirth."

Punishment should always be measured out in just scales, according to the quality of the thing done, and not according to its effect on the person having the duty of inflicting the penalty. Penal action should never be an ebullition; it should always be a thoughtful application of discipline. Many readers may not need such advice. Let them forgave me for the sake of others, to whom it may be useful, and for the little ones, whom it may tend to protect from unnecessary sorrow".

The measuring of censure in true scales is a duty. A child can appreciate the incongruity, when today it is scolded and slapped for breaking a cup worth twopence, and to-morrow when an old tabby of a visitor knocks over a Sevres china vase worth much, it hears mamma say: "Ob, never mind, it's of no consequence."

There can be no greater mistake in the training of the young than to treat all youthful faults as if there was no difference between them as regards their heinousness: Let censure be proportionate to the offence, not indiscriminately severe, In nothing is a sense of proportion more called for.

I ask to be pardoned for this digression from narrative. Memory makes me feel strongly on these matters. I have seen so much evil follow from ill-judged repression of the spirit of adventure, and also from the want of judicious discriminate in between the great and the small in the dealing out of censure and punishment, that I can ask the reader to believe that here "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," and so I trust to be forgiven.

To return to the Zoological Gardens, my recollection is that the only animals that seemed to thrive were the elephant and the polar bears. These latter had a great bath in which to disport themselves, and in which they took abundance of playful exercise. A polar bear will play with a big wooden ball ;in his bath in a way delightful to behold. Of course our east wind, which constantly decimated the collection, had no effect on polar constitutions. The elephant's liberty and obtaining of exercise arose from his—or her probably— capacity for work. Carrying dozens of children about the grounds during the whole day was the elephant's only exercise.

For years these gardens were in a moribund condition, from the losses caused by disease, and although great efforts were- made by organising concerts, acrobatic performances, and illuminations with Montgolfier balloons and fireworks, to make them popular, at last the day came when failure had to be confessed, and the site was handed over to the speculative builder. It is sincerely to be hoped that the opening of a new exhibition of wild animals on a much more favourable site, and under much more practical views, both as to the showing of the animals in a way that will give pleasure, and in the more enlightened treatment of them as regards their physical condition, will be followed by permanent success.

All boys in my day, as such, read Uncle Torn's Cabin and when on one occasion Mrs. Beecher Stowe, with her husband and her brother, Mr. Ward Beecher, came to Edinburgh to be the Show Abstainers at a great Temperance Soiree, I was allowed to go to it. It took place in the Music Hall, and I duly got my paper bag, containing Scotch cookies and raisins, and an orange, and got mental food in a little book of songs and hymns to be sung at the meeting. I made my way to the orchestra, where tea, already sugared—terribly so—was poured into our cups out of kettles. On examining my book, I was pleased at finding "Auld Lang Syne" in it, but at my tender age, it surprised me that teetotallers should be prepared to shout that they would "tak 'a right guid Wullie Waught," unlill1 notic:ed that opposite the word "cup" there was an asterisk, and on looking to the bottom of the page I saw this: "When sung at temperance meetings, the cup here mentioned is understood to mean a cup of tea"!

The recalling of this harmless bit of Jesuitry, reminds me of an experience of a friend, who, when dining with a family of Roman Catholics in Bavaria, was surprised—the day being Friday— to see the cover removed from a pair of fine fat ducks. His host looking up from carving, and seeing surprise in the guest's eyes, patted his arm and said, "We call it fish."

At the soiree I listened to very vigorous addresses from Professor Beecher Stowe and Mr. Ward Beecher. I must confess that I was not much impressed by their Yankee way of putting things. Mr. Beecher thought he made a great hit, and so apparently did his hearers, by punning on the word champagne, saying that for his part he objected to both parts of it—the "sham," and the "pain' :of the headache afterwards. Professor Beecher Stowe, knowing that he was addressing an anti-tobacco as well as an anti-drink audience, told what was intended to be a conclusive argument against snuff. He said that an old lawyer, a friend of his, on being offered snuff, declined, saying: "If God Almighty had intended my nose for taking snuff he would have turned the other end up of it (applause, and roars of laughter). My youthful sense of reason at once suggested to me that it would be equally sensible to say that if the mouth had been intended for having food put into it, it would have been on the top of the head. Mrs. Stowe did not speak. I feel sure if she had, she would have spoken better sense than either her husband or her brother. I left the soiree with my admiration of her undiminished, but with not very respectful feelings for her men folk.


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