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Darling Memorial Sketch Book
Parochial Board

There remains to be noticed another sphere of usefulness in which Mr Darling did noble service in the last four years of his life. He was chosen by his fellow-citizens as a member of the Parochial Board of the City of Edinburgh, his practical benevolence, well known by this time over the city, having, no doubt, commended him to their choice. It is a great public institution, embracing in its care the city poor, and including in its management indoor relief especially in the administration of the poorhouse at Craiglockhart, and outdoor supervision and relief to multitudes scattered over the parish and living beyond the boundaries of the hospital. He was no mere ornamental Director, known principally by having his name in the almanac, or noisy debater and stickler about trifles at board meetings. His conscience and his heart alike would not allow him to appear in either of these characters; but from the beginning his presence and beneficent influence were felt in every department of the institution.

There were two features which specially characterised and commended his personal administration. One of these was his taking up cases of individuals in which he had not only to deal with poverty, but with intemperance or some other form of vice which had in part produced the poverty, and perseveringly plying every practicable means to produce a reformation. Temperance pledge tickets were always borne about his person as surely as his purse, and wherever the offender yielded to his persuasion and took the pledge, he hailed it as a hopeful step that might lead, by God's help, to a more thorough change. And he continued to hope, and advise, and even entreat the object of his anxiety, in cases where many would have given up the battle in despair. He was a strong believer in the ultimate triumph of goodness, and the instances in which he succeeded, after long waiting and working, were sufficient to justify his confidence. When he beheld signs of begun reformation, he was not slow out of his own resources to add to the help supplied by the City charity; and when he became convinced that the good change had come to bear the marks of stability, he used almost incredible efforts to obtain employment for the object of his many cares and prayers.

A second marked feature in his dealings with the poor, was the heart and sympathy which, of set purpose, he always endeavoured to associate with the distribution of the statutory doles. Every one knows how apt relief is to be given in those great public institutions with a chill of indifference, and, as it were, with an iron hand. In James Darling's ministrations to the poor, kind words and looks were associated with the benefactions, and one of the bitterest ingredients was taken out of the cup of poverty when the man was treated, not as a pauper, but as a brother.

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