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Friday May 13

Looking Back: Boys' Home in Glasgow

Published in the Woman's Guild supplement to Life and Work in May 1906, praise for the Church of Scotland's 'new direction' into social work.

 

THE CHURCH'S SOCIAL WORK IN GLASGOW

By the Rev. Thomas Bartin, D.D., The Barony

THE new departure of our Church in the direction of strenuous social work* in the large cities of Scotland may prove to be epoch-making in her history. In Glasgow, the opportunity for such work is immense, and the need for it is urgent. It may be confidently asserted that in this city thousands who previously did not know of the Church of Scotland even by name have, since she initiated her scheme of social work, become not only aware of her existence, but intelligently interested in her activities.

I shall confine my remarks to the Home for Boys near Kelvin Bridge, of which, being chairman, I can speak confidently and from experience.

The Church of Scotland Boys’ Home in Herbert Street is quickly becoming a household word in Glasgow. As we looked about with some anxiety for a suitable building, we were happily surprised by the generosity of two benevolent ladies who had heard of our scheme; and the large and comfortable house now used as the Home has been given by them free of rent for five years. The Home was opened in November 1905. The average number of lads in residence has been seventeen; and these lads, most of whom have been by misfortune or shameful parental neglect cruelly cheated of boyhood’s birthright, find here a home indeed.

The majority of the lads are orphans; some have been deserted by one or both parents, and all of them have become acquainted with such sad forms of homelessness as expose the young to terrible perils. Some of the inmates of our Home were found sleeping on stair-heads in the winter nights, others were taken from the selling of newspapers on the streets, others, being convicted as first offenders, were rescued from sentences of imprisonment, and not a few, bewildered and woe-begone, came themselves to knock timidly at the door of the Home.

The first endeavour of the Superintendent is to discover what the lads are fitted for, and to secure suitable work for them. It is encouraging to find how many employers are willing to take the risk and give the boys a chance. All of them are at present engaged in some occupation, and several are regular apprentices. Their weekly earnings are taken over by the Superintendent, and a trifle for pocket-money is handed back to them. As might have been expected, some of the boys have disappointed us and have gone off with their wages; but there are nearly a dozen in the Home who have been in it from the beginning, and who are proving steady apprentices.

Altogether the hope in this work is far greater than the discouragement. When visiting the Home some months ago, the Superintendent with a smile asked one of the boys to show me his “love-letters.” The lad brought some well-thumbed sheets and handed them to me with tears in his eyes. They were “love-letters” indeed, though the letters of a sister. The brother and sister had been left orphans and friendless; the boy took to newspaper-selling and the girl ultimately got into domestic service. The letters I read were from the sister at Crieff, and in them were such sentences as these: “Oh, dear brother, take care of nasty companions”; “if your pray to God He will help you to be good”; I am trying to be a good servant, and I am always praying for you.” When recently visiting the Home again, I found this tender sister, who had got a holiday, sitting beside her brother in the parlour. It was truly a touching and sacred scene.

As the work in the Home goes on under our eyes, there grows on us the certain conviction that thousands of young lives in our cities that are ready to drift into careers of shame and ruin are yet as ready to respond and be rescued, if only hands of sincere, loving, and vigilant friendship be extended towards them.

* The Church's Committee on Social Work, forerunner to modern-day CrossReach, was set up in 1904

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