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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland


CC, Page 188.  Poor, and Poors' Funds

The funds for the relief of the poor have been stationary in those districts where the inhabitants hold their lands. In the Highlands of Perthshire, even in 1816 and 1817, years of unprecedented pressure on the poor, when great sums were subscribed for their support in the South, there was no increased demand beyond what private benevolence supplied. The clergymen, who have the management and distribution of the funds for the poor, find no clamorous call for charitable aid; on the contrary, they are obliged to search for proper objects, who conceal their wants, suffering every privation, rather than humble themselves to ask for public charity, at the same time that they will gratefully receive private aid from any benevolent or more opulent neighbour. In a letter from a respectable clergyman in Athole on this subject, he says, "I have witnessed many singular instances, and have been astonished and gratified, to see how long poor creatures will struggle with their fate before they submit to that painful degradation. How eminently useful is it to step forward to their aid before the virtuous pride is altogether destroyed, and they are reduced to that last resource which they so justly and greatly dread!" [Letter from the Reverend Mr Duff, minister of Mouline.] Another able and zealous clergyman writes: "I must always search for objects of charity in my parish. When questioning individuals on their state, I have seen a blush of shame and confusion spread over their countenances; and while they endeavoured to conceal their wants, and pointed out to me others more needful, I knew that they were in great necessity." [Ditto from the Reverend Dr Irvine, Little Dunkeld.]

In the parish of Mouline, containing a population 1947 souls, there are thirteen poor receiving permanent relief, and eleven occasional assistance, but no itinerant beggars in the parish. Indeed, the fund could not afford much, as the amount has not exceeded L. 22, 10s. on the average of the last five years. To this may be added the interest of small sums bequeathed by benevolent individuals some years ago. In the parish of Dull, with a population of 4236 persons, the number of poor is sixty-one, assisted by a fund of L. 92, 15s. annually. Weem parish has no itinerant beggars out of a population of 1484 souls. The amount of the funds is L. 24, 10s., on an average of five years, and the number of poor on the same average fifteen persons. In the parish of Logierait, the poor have lessened in late years, when there was a great increase of them in the Northern Highlands. The number of inhabitants is 3015, with little variation for several years. In 1812, the paupers were forty-one, and in 1817, the number was thirty-two persons. Dr Smith, in his "General Survey of the County of Argyle, drawn up for the Board of Agriculture," in speaking of the poor of Argyleshire, says, "The number supported by private or public contributions or otherwise is, in general, very inconsiderable, as they have a modesty and spirit that makes them endure absolute want before they can bring themselves to the mortification of receiving any public aid. This innate disposition keeps them from being any where 3 burden. In the island of Tyrie, in Argyleshire, there are 2446 persons, with fifty paupers. In the island of Coll, the number is 1193, and thirty-four poor receive aid. The annual distribution to each individual from the poor's fund is 3s." With such a fund, it is absurd to speak of the allowance to a pauper as a support.

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