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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: Seaside Mission 1900

Looking Back


Looking Back: Children's Seaside Services

A report from July 1900 into the embryonic seaside mission movement in Scotland

A GOOD many years ago Mr. Josiah Speirs, whilst spending a summer holiday at Llandudno, observed that common feature of every seaside resort – little knots of children playing on the sands. The idea came to him to utilise the play for instruction.

With admirable tact, he soon go on friendly terms with the little ones, helped them to lay out texts on the sands, such as “God is Love,” and riveted their attention with a fund of Bible stories. From this beginning there has arisen a systematic and well-organised series of Children’s Holiday Services.

Hitherto the Children’s Special Service Mission has not ‘caught on’ in Scotland to the same extent as in England. A real beginning, however, has been made. Carnoustie and North Berwick have each seen at least one mission, and for the past two summers Nairn has been worked by parties of Edinburgh University students.

At the last-named place, each morning, for three weeks in August, a number of boys and girls might have been seen eagerly building the seats, organ-pit, and pulpit of ‘St. Sand’s Cathedral.’ The text for the day was written round the base of the pulpit. At 11 a.m. the beach service began. This, however, had been preceded by a prayer-meeting. At these services and at all meetings the essential truths of the religion of Christ were put forth as simply, as clearly and as forcibly as possible.

But these services only formed one part of the work. The afternoons of each day, except Sundays, were entirely devoted to games, cricket being the most popular with the boys.

During the first week the interest and attention of all was drawn to the fact that on the following Saturday a map of China was to be made upon the links, and that missionary addresses referring to that land were to be delivered. The children entered into this with eagerness and delight. Every afternoon, they spent half an hour gathering white stones from the beach, and carting them to a corner of the links where the map was to be made. Many of them were out at seven o’clock on Saturday morning ready to begin the outline.

While some laid the stones others were gathering yellow wildflowers with which to trace out the boundary lines of the provinces. Zinc had been generously supplied by a local tinsmith, and this, bordered by sea-weed, made a fair representation of the lakes. The mission stations were distinguished by coloured cardboard. Over the five Treaty Ports floated miniature Union Jacks. Everyone was justly proud of this map, measuring 50 by 60 feet.

The “Pic-nic” and “Sports day” were two other events of the mission. These, however pleasant, were important only in so far as they served to break down reserve and foster formation of friendships.

Too much cannot be said of the hearty sympathy and willing help which was extended by the ministers and by many ladies and gentlemen in the town.

To those who hope to carry on the work this summer it would be a great source of strength to know that friends in all parts of Scotland were following this effort with their earnest prayers. Need the day be far distant when at many of our Scottish seaside resorts the Children’s Special Service Mission shall have gained a firm hold?

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