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Our Children in Old Scotland and Nova Scotia
Part II - Chapter XV - The Last Two Years

IN Chapter XII. I brought the history of our work and experiences at Hillfoot Farm down to the close of 1890.

Since then there is a good deal of interest to record, but it will not be tedious.

There is nothing very new as to details of work done for our children at home and abroad ; but the work itself has gone on with unabated vigour. Last June we were joined by a party of children from Miss Croall’s Home, at Stirling, and except one little boy, whom I found it better to keep at home for a time, all these are now in good homes and giving satisfaction.

Each year more boys and girls have been placed in suitable homes, and thus enabled to do for themselves, while leaving room for new-comers, and I rejoice to be able still to say that the reports of them which I receive from all directions are most encouraging. At Home all goes on as usual. I have reason to be thankful the Home element remains unbroken, and the Home feeling among those who have gone from us seems as strong as ever, judging from the piles of letters, photos, Christmas cards, and other tokens of goodwill which come from our children abroad.

I have already told of the serious calamity in the destruction of the mill last year, and its rebuilding. It is now at work as busily as ever, and employs more hands.

As to the farm work, we have done much to improve the stock of cattle and sheep, since there has been suitable accommodation for them in the new buildings. We have now a fine herd of registered Ayrshire cattle, and the flock of sheep has been also much improved. By dint of constant care and pains, we hope by-and-by it will be one of the best in the province. I must not forget the Berkshire pigs, which live in what is known as Piggy's Palace (which excited the admiration of Dr. Lawson), and where each family has a parlour and bedroom! one pen for eating, the other for sleeping, with access to "Piggy’s playground," a large sunny yard where the manure from the barn is taken, and where the pigs occupy themselves usefully in turning it over. This part of the farm is a great amusement to visitors; and as it is light, airy, and perfectly clean, there is nothing objectionable, as is too often the case where piggies are less well attended to.

We have, since 1890, planted three orchards—one of 300 trees on my cousin’s new farm, in a very fine situation; one of pears, peaches, plums, and cherry trees, immediately in front of the big house (where the old barns used to stand), and which, as the ground slopes gently to the south, and is sheltered by the house to the north, bids fair to do well. The third is on the tableland behind, and stretching west of the big house mentioned in my description of the farm when I bought it. We shall only be able to fill part of this ground this year, as the space is large; but it is a good piece of work to have on hand, as preparing the ground can be carried on at intervals when there is not much else to do—though that is but seldom, we find!

In order to explain one great subject of interest and increased anxiety during these years, I must go back in our history to 1886, and tell you that no sooner were we located here than my troubles began in another direction. A man of notoriously bad character had brought his three children to my care in 1882, and deserted them immediately after. When he applied for their admission, he stated he had been a Roman Catholic, but was tired of the neglect and tyranny of the priests, and desired to have them brought up as Protestants. As I have said, he deserted them immediately. In the course of four years he only once asked after them, and during the same period sent £1 17s. towards their maintenance. But in 1886, finding that two of the children had been sent by the directors to Nova Scotia in the course of that year, he consulted a priest, who recommended him to a Roman Catholic agent, by whom he was advised to apply for them. The directors then requested me to bring them home, which I did at once, but, knowing what the fate of the children would be, I was naturally unwilling to give them up if it could be avoided; and as the father did not make any further attempt to obtain them, the former application to the directors was allowed to drop. After waiting five months, I sent them out again, and with them the third child, who had not been in the Homes since 1884, but had been supported at my private expense in the country, and in due course they were provided for.

After eighteen months a lawsuit was instituted, which has been alike troublesome and expensive.

The decision in my favour recently given by the Court in Nova Scotia in the above case has been a great relief to me. The inconvenience and outlay have been very considerable; but, as I was advised to carry it on in the interests of poor children as well as of the Protestant cause, the risk seemed unavoidable.

I cannot leave this subject without thanking my cousin J. H—— for his help and kindness to me all through this trying time.

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