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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XXXI. Counsels to Young Men

THE words of the wise are worth remembering. They never lose their value. Circumstances alter, but truth abides, and it is as necessary for the making of character and the moulding of life in the present as in the past. Our "Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association" was started in 1880, and it still lives and prospers. When the Association was being organised, the President wrote to some men of light and leading, asking words of counsel and sympathy. His request was kindly responded to, and the letters then received were read with much care, and have been cherished ever since with gratitude and pride. We feel honoured in giving them a place in this Parish record.

"But words are things; and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
‘Tis strange the shortest letter which man uses,
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link of ages."


1st January, 1881.

"MY DEAR SIR,—It is at any rate an encouragement to me in the opening of the New Year to find that a minister of Christ believes I am able to be useful to the youth under his charge. But I have little hope myself of being heard in anything, for, on the whole, my messages are depressing to the worldly ardours of our day, and not glowing enough to kindle the heavenly ones. But it seems to me that if you could persuade your young Halbert Glendinnings to set themselves first to get a pure and noble conception of Scottish life as it might be lived in Scotland, and then to found all their literary and other studies on a faithful desire to embellish their Scottish homes, and to stay in them, and make their days long in their own land,—not rich nor powerful in other people’s lands,—you would get at a rule and system of reading, not to say of thought, which in itself would be extremely delightful, and open into higher walks for all who felt qualified for them. Perhaps if your little society were at first to acquaint itself accurately with the mineralogy and flora of its neighbourhood, it would be found a good beginning for all else. If you were to tell me more definitely your wishes and difficulties, I might perhaps make a more pertinent answer.— Believe me, always faithfully yours,

"J. S. Rusxrn."

"4th February, 1881.


"DEAR SIR,—You are doing the right thing. The hope of the age is in the young men, and they must learn both to instruct and to amuse themselves in a rational way; otherwise the steam that is in them will puff itself off unprofitably, or what is worse, dangerously. In the association and the co-operation of the intelligent part of the community for moral and intellectual culture we find our only safeguard against the evils which are inherent in every form of democracy; and towards democracy, in some shape or in some degree, the governments of the world are everywhere tending.—Ever yours,


"Buaidh agus Piseach !"
[literally, Victory and Presperity, a phrase used to express "Good Luck to you !"]

15th February, 1881

"MY DEAR SIR,—I am glad to know that you see your way to establish a reading-room for your young people. There is probably no way in which you could more benefit them. In two directions, at least, your exertions can go—1st, To enlighten the young as to the natural world in which we live, which encompasses us on every side, and which extends from the dust beneath our feet to the remotest stars that telescope can reach, and beyond. 2d. To help them to know the world of men, what human life has been in past ages, and what it is now, with some thought of what it may be here and hereafter.

"This is the benign influence of literature, that it enables those who study it to know the best thoughts that have been thought by the best men throughout all the ages, and to converse across the gulfs of time with those men, know their characters, share their confidences, sympathise with their hopes and fears and aspirations.

"And this, by reading good books, a young man may do in the remotest glen of the Monaliath as well as in Edinburgh or London—perhaps better, because of his freedom from distraction. I trust that you will be successful in your good undertaking, and that you may be guided to select good books, and, if periodicals, only the wholesome ones. For there are some of these last which are not wholesome altogether. Also, I hope that amid wider aims you will not neglect anything that will help the young men to study local history, to know the past of their own neighbourhood and to respect it, and to cultivate a knowledge of whatever is best in Gaelic poetry and song. I have sometimes observed that a little knowledge—the first beginnings of education—tends to make young men despise these local matters, as though they were trivial and of no account. This is a great mistake, as all see who have attained to a more thorough knowledge and genuine insight into the truth of history and of human nature.—Believe me, yours very faithfully,


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