THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD.
By ISABELLA FYVIE MAYO.
also Isa Craig's essay, "Emigration
as a Preventive Agency."]
"IN all the wide
world I wonder if there is a place where we are really wanted?"
It was a sad speech for a girl of nineteen to make to another
of twenty. But perhaps there are few, either men or women,
whose hearts have not known that bitterness at some time or other,
though it is oftenest on the lips of those who do not make
themselves very desirable blessings. She who uttered the cry
now might easily be forgiven for doing so. For when one has
been fatherless and motherless nearly all one's life, and has passed
from orphan-school to teaching in a boarding-school, and has for the
last three months looked daily through three newspapers'
advertisements of situations vacant, and written upwards of fifty
"answers" thereto, all fruitless, it is small wonder if one feels
disheartened and even despairing.
The elder girl, Bell Aubrey, did not answer for a few
minutes. She had had a life-history very different from that
of Annie Steele. For Bell Aubrey was the third daughter in a
family of eleven; and in the house of her father—a country
surgeon—there had always been joy and love, and simple plenty in her
younger days. It was only of late that the burden of life had
begun to press upon Bell. One of her elder sisters was an
invalid; the "boys" had got to be started in life, and five of the
younger children had still to be educated. Papa was growing
careworn, and mamma's eyes often "filled with tears." We girls
must be doing something," Bell had thought. "I must begin.
But for what am I fit?"
That was a serious question. It was in a secret hope to
find its answer that Bell Aubrey had gone to pay a long visit to the
Misses Brand, distant connections of her mother's, who kept a girls'
boarding-school. One of the Misses Brand had been indisposed,
and Bell undertook some of her duties, while Annie Steele was
temporarily engaged to fulfil the rest.
But Miss Brand was now convalescent, and so Annie Steele's
engagement was drawing to an end, and Bell Aubrey would be free to
return home. And instead of having found an answer to her
question, all the progress the poor girl had made was the
discovering what a very perplexing question it was.
She had never hoped that she might be a governess, for she
had no accomplishments; but she had had a thorough English
education, and she had thought she might be a school teacher.
Now she knew that she did not like teaching, and did not teach
well—that by the time lessons were over she had not cleared her
pupils' brains, but had only confused her own.
"It is dishonest to try to get a living by doing what one
cannot do well," mused straightforward Bell; "and, besides, here is
poor Annie, who loves to teach, and yet can get no engagement."
But when Bell heard Annie's despairing cry, she felt "this
would never do."
"Of course, there is a place for us,” she said, cheerfully.
"We may be quite sure of that. All we have to do is to find
it, only that seems the difficult thing."
"Those dreadful letters!" wailed the poor little teacher.
"After paying all my necessary expenses here, every penny that might
have saved from my salary has gone on stationery, and postages, and
advertisements. And what an investment it has been!You know
the answers I have got! Nearly all of them from school
agencies, telling me what a large connection they have, and advising
me to register at once, and then, as soon as I have paid my fee,
writing back that there is nothing on their books at present to suit
me, but that they will let me know when there is. And two or
three from people at the other end of the kingdom, offering me
sixteen pounds a year to teach everything to six children. And
then that terrible letter, Bell! That has done me more harm
than anything, because it has frightened me. I always knew
there were wicked people in the world seeking to lead others astray,
but I never realised that they were so near us. I feel like a
poor lost sheep in a wood, with wolves dogging it behind every
"Poor little Annie!" said Bell, soothingly. "I am so
sorry you burned that letter after you showed it to me, for I would
have sent it to papa, and he would have given it to the police, and
the wicked people who sent it might have been punished, or at least
disturbed in their wickedness."
"Oh, I could not help burning it!" cried Annie. "It
seemed a disgraced to have had such a letter sent to one. And
then, Bell, even if I do get a situation, I shall never be able to
save money, not so much because the salaries are low, as because the
situations are so uncertain; and when one is obliged to leave, one
is sure to have to wait weeks and weeks for another, and spend all
one has on board and travelling expenses. It may be very well
for girls who have friends."
"No," said Bell, with decision; "it is not well for girls who
have friends, for girls who are doing work in the world should be
able to help their friends rather than be driven to prey on them.
I'm not at all sure whether it is not the way in which girls are
content to be propped up, and to think they may shuffle along
anyhow, in hopes they may get married at last, which has made things
so hard for working women."
"But most women do get married, of course," said Annie,
"especially girls with happy homes and circles of friends."
"Yes, certainly," said Bell. "But don't you think there
is something wrong in the way in which girls will spend their lives
doing fancy work to earn a few shillings for finery, spoiling their
health, and learning nothing which will be of any use to them
afterwards, instead of dismissing the servant and doing their own
housework, leaving crewels and so forth to those who have no servant
to dismiss, and who, being too poor to save, are obliged to earn?"
"But if many girls did that, what would become of the
servants" asked Annie.
"There are plenty of places for them," said Bell. "If
you knew all I know of domestic service, you would understand that
it would be a real blessing to them to find that they could not get
work unless they were really honest, capable, and respectable.
Besides, they are wanted everywhere. They are the only people
which are too scarce in England. And they are the very people
who are always welcome in the colonies."
"I wonder if there is a corner in the colonies for me!"
"I have wondered that, too," said Bell. "And the other
day I saw in the papers an announcement about a women's emigration
"How you have thought over these things!" exclaimer Annie.
"And it is quite time," said Bell, gravely. "I must be
as self-dependent as you. At our house we keep no servant; my
mother and sisters do everything; and they have managed perfectly
without me for these four months. We can save no more at home,
and yet it is not enough. I must not think of going home
again. Your experience has convinced me of the uselessness of
advertising for teaching appointments. Annie," she added,
suddenly, "suppose we write to this emigration society, and see what
they can offer us?"
Annie caught her friend's arm in a tight clasp. Her
grave face was lit up. A breath of hope and adventure was
wafted over her Sisyphus-like life.
"We can, at least, see what they say," she cried. "But
your people will never let you go abroad, Bell."
"Yes, they will," said Bell "if the circumstances are such as
to make it right and fit for you to go, they will let me go.
My father is a wise man; he and I have had many talks over these
And so a letter was despatched to the Secretary of the
Women's Emigration Society. The girls kept that a secret.
"It will be time enough to tell anybody when we see what answer we
get," said Bell. And while they waited they went about their
work with a delightful feeling of enterprise and elation. Two
or three days brought back a little packet of circulars. Annie
Steele knew what it was when the servant laid it down beside Bell's
breakfast-plate, and Bell put it into her pocket unopened.
Both the girls sought their bed-chamber at the earliest opportunity,
and eagerly devoured its contents.
First came a statement of a public meeting at which the
objects of the society were discussed. Among the people
present were good and great men in many walks of life, ladies of
rank, and influential colonies perfectly familiar with the subject.
Attention was drawn to the fact that emigration is almost given over
to men, thereby leaving undue number of women in the mother country
deprived of their natural duties and employments, whether domestic
"People will say we go to look for husbands," murmured Annie.
"Never mind what they say," said brave Bell.
At this meeting it was further said that to the objection
often raised in England by women upon whom emigration was urged,
"How can I leave all dear to me?" it might be replied that there is
hardly a family in the highest class the members of which do not
travel and settle in different parts of the world and that surely,
then, other classes may do the same.
Another question, "How can a woman take her passage in a
merchant ship to find her way to a distant colony?" the Women's
Emigration Society was intended to answer, as all preliminary
arrangements together with adequate provision for the safe transport
and reception of emigrants, were now made by it.
Then a distinguished statesman said that he supposed there
was no parish in the United Kingdom which had not already sent its
contingent to the colonies, and that the class of educated women is
perhaps the only one which is not represented in them. He
dwelt upon the excellent arrangements made for the transport of
emigrants of all ranks, and the almost paternal care which many of
the captains show to those under their charge.
Then a colonial bishop rose and remarked that when he first
went to his work in the southern hemisphere he found that the
greatest want of the colony was the presence of women of a class
superior to those hitherto sent out by the ordinary mode of
emigration, and wherever he went he found the need growing still
Another bishop from a northern colony dwelt on the importance
of a careful selection of the emigrants, and of providing them with
specific recommendations to employers in the colonies. He said
that in his diocese there were Young Women's Christian Associations,
who made it their business to welcome persons from England, and to
secure situations for them; and that there is ample room for a large
influx of servants, and also for women, who, though they may not
have actually been in domestic service, are capable of practically
assisting the ladies of the family in cooking and household matters.
And the account concluded with a statement of the number of
women who had already gone out under the auspice of the society
during the first year of its working, and who were now doing well at
their respective destinations.
"I think it will do," said Bell Aubrey, though at that moment
there rose before her mind's eye a vision of the old house at home,
and the merry children shouting and playing among the ancient hedges
of the roomy garden. And it did seem so hard to have to go
away. But she said nothing. Why should she cry out,
because it was now her duty to give up what Annie Steele had never
"I shall write one more letter to the society before I tell
father," she said. "I shall write and ask what it costs to get
to the respective colonies—in short, the step which should be taken
next by young women in our present positions, if desirous of
emigration. You see, Annie, we are as yet only seeking full
information; when we have obtained that, it will be the right time
to ask for counsel and consent."
Then followed a few days more of patient waiting, and then
came a little packet enclosed in the prepaid book-wrapper which Bell
had sent to the secretary along with the modest request.
The first paper the girls unfolded was a large sheet, which
set forth on its front page the principles on which the Women's
Emigration Society work. It stated its functions as―(1st)
"Collecting and distributing information from reliable sources
respecting each colony; its climate, resources, &c.; (2nd) arranging
for the comfort and safety of emigrants during transit to those
colonies, for which their circumstances appear to render them most
suitable; (3rd) establishing relations with trustworthy persons at
each port, who shall pledge themselves to receive and befriend the
emigrants accredited to them by the society; and (4th) raising and
administering a fund for the purpose of assisting, after due and
careful investigation, the emigration of suitable women of sound
health and good character, who are unable to raise the sum required
for the purpose, such assistance taking the form of a loan, for
which security is required and interest expected."
As Annie Steele read the last words her brightened
"It may do for you, Bell," she said, "but I have no money of
my own, and who would be security for me, even if I cared to start
in life under a load of debt?"
"But stop a minute," said Bell, turning over the page.
"Listen to this." And she read―
"Free or assisted emigration is still open to most of the
colonies for young single women who will register themselves.
The women must be of good character, and willing to perform domestic
service, as the agents in England are responsible to the colonial
authorities for the class of emigrants they send out; but, of
course, many of them are very rough. The accommodation is
divided into compartments containing eight or ten berths, with a
separate mess for each party. The present regulations in
emigrant vessels removed all the real dangers to which single women
were formerly exposed when on board ship. The best or saloon
end of the vessel is set apart for them, and they are not allowed to
quit it. A well-qualified matron is put in charge of them;
they are under strict rules and discipline as to leaving their
berths, taking the air on deck, &c."
"There!" said Bell, "I should be able to 'register,' as they
call it, for domestic work is exactly the work I want to do.
You are a governess, Annie, and wish to be a governess wherever you
go; but if you are willing to take a situation as a nurse or a
sewing maid till better chances are offered, I have no doubt you
will be allowed to register, too."
"But I don't believe your father will allow you to go in that
fashion," suggested Annie.
"I think I might persuade him," returned Bell. "Look at
the cost of the paid passages," she said, running her finger down
the next page, below items varying from eight guineas to twenty-six.
"If I can once prove to father that there is no hardship or
roughness which any good girl need fear, I think he many yield.
To put up with a few privations, such as the families of the
Mayflower pilgrims and of all other pioneers must have encountered,
is not a bad way of earning such a sum of money as that."
The other papers were simply a detailed report of work
already done by the society, and a schedule to be filled up by
intending applicants for its assistance.
"I shall write to father at once now," said Bell, looking up
from the papers with a set, steady face.
"It will all end in nothing," sighed Annie Steele.
"Your people will never consent, and I shall be afraid to go alone,
and shall have to go back to my hopeless advertisements and my
"I shall go home in a fortnight from this time," said Bell,
not heeding Annie's sorrowing tones. "But I shall write and
tell father all about it while I am here. I think it may be
easier for him and mother to consider it all calmly while I am out
of sight. I shall tell them you want to go too, Annie.
There has always been a great deal about you in my letters home.
They say they seem to know you quite well."
There were some people who said that Bell Aubrey had a secret
for getting her own way. Perhaps Bell had a knack of
convincing people that her ways were likely to he right.
Perhaps one of Bell's secrets was that she always stated her case
temperately, making due reservations for the exercise of lawful
authority or of wisdom greater than her own; also, that she looked
facts in the face, and admitted the existence of unfavourable ones,
even while she brought forward others which seemed to her to
She wrote how she found she did not like teaching, and how
many women were contending for every post that was to be had.
Then narrated her impulse towards emigration, and enclosed the
papers with which she backed it up. Next, she spoke of Annie
Steele's friendlessness and poverty. Emigration was doubly
desirable for Annie, yet Annie could not emigrate, except she went
in the humblest way. And if that could be right and safe for
Annie, it could not be wrong or dangerous for her. For if she
went, they might indeed spare the money to pay her passage, but they
could only do so by deducting something from money already needed
for the other children. Did not they know that she would work
very hard, that her brother next in age might get the
drawing-lessons he coveted so eagerly, and which might set free a
real gift struggling within hint, and so elevate and brighten all
his life—for that matter, all their lives? If they thought she
had a right to this passage-money, let them allow her to save it in
this way, and give it to him instead. And that would also
enable her to do Annie the service of accompanying her. And
they knew she always delighted in adventure!
It was two days before Dr. Aubrey's answer came.
"Dear Bell," he wrote, "your have made us very sorry—and very
glad. We are very sorry to think of parting from you, and very
glad to feel that one of our daughters is proving herself to be a
brave, true woman―a working bee and
not a destroying moth. I cannot go into all your arguments
now, and must think over them much longer and get much more
information upon the matter before I can give them any answer worthy
of them. You will not wonder that the thought or the first
child's going away, and going so far, touched your mother to the
quick. She cried out that when one of a family takes flight,
more are sure to follow the lead! But after the pain was over,
she realised fully that we cannot keep you all at home, and then she
thanked God, through her tears, that the lead you were giving was so
good and so unselfish. And when your poor lame sister said,
'What could we do without Bell?' our mother actually said, 'I can
see even that is a happier question than the other, 'What can we do
with her?' which so many households have to ask about their
daughters. All I shall say now is, that we cordially invite
Miss Steele to accompany you on your return home, and then we can
all think over the whole matter together, and at leisure."
And Annie Steele thought within herself, "They will let her
go after all. They have invited me there that they may know
the companion Bell is to have, and so be able to make a better
picture of her in their minds when she is away."
As under no circumstances were either of the girls to return
to the Misses Brands' school, they packed up all their little
belongings to take with them to Dr. Aubrey's. The good
governesses rather wondered that Annie Steele going away for a short
holiday, and with no engagement in view, could be so excited and
elated. Just at the very last, Annie confided their secret to them,
and found that they were aghast at its bare idea. They almost
frightened Annie by the picture of horrors which they conjured up. It needed all Bell's calm philosophy to restore her courage; most of
all, it needed Bell's reassuring, "We will see what father says." It
is only very foolish young people who chafe at authority; the wiser
sort know that it does not impose a fetter, but grants true and safe
Beyond a very few words on the night of the girl's arrival at the
old green-clad house in the country, nothing was said on the subject
of emigration for some days. At least, nothing was said in the
general household. It is quite true that more than once Dr. Aubrey
took Bell to drive with him in his rounds among his patients. Perhaps it was then that Bell reiterated her telling arguments.
"If it is not right and safe for me to go out in this way, then it
cannot be right and safe for an orphan like Annie Steele. If there
is nothing worse than hardship and privation, then I must be a poor
creature if I cannot endure them that I may spare you so much money. Father, let me go. I shall be able to send you
home word if there
are any openings out there for my younger brothers, and if they
should go out, you would not feet so anxious about them, if I, quite
an experienced colonist, was there to receive them."
During those early days, too, the Doctor was taking great note of
"She is such a fragile-looking thing," his wife said. "Though Bell
is our own daughter, and I am likely to be fanciful and tender over
her, I should say she is twenty times more fit for hard work and for
roughing it than is this poor little fairy."
Annie was made free of the kitchen, and she expressed delight in no
measured terms for what was a real blessing to one who had spent her
life in schoolrooms and drawing-rooms. Annie was made free of the
garden, and could race and romp with the children without fear of
compromising tutorial dignity. It was a little difficult for her to
see children in any light but that of "pupils," but a few days'
experience of the young Aubreys made it easier. Annie's voice began
to ring out in merry laughter. The roses began to bloom on Annie's
"She's healthy enough," said the Doctor, who was a great gardener. "She has only been potted too long. She wanted planting out. Give her
plenty of active work and a due share of hope and joy, and she has
as good a chance of reaching a hundred years as most of us."
It was hard to tell when "out there" gradually changed to the more
definite locality of Queensland. For one thing, the society, when
applied to, recommended this colony. For another, the Doctor thought
its climate would suit Bell, and would be decidedly wholesome for
Annie. So they got the schedule for "applicants," and with a little
pathetic merriment they wrote out answers to questions as to age and
condition, health, religion, and capabilities, and stated their
determination to accept the free passage offered to any who could
describe themselves as "domestic servants." There was a little
debate as to how this could be done honestly in Annie's case, since
she wished ultimately to find employment as a governess; but as she
was quite ready to engage as a sewing woman or to give assistance in
any domestic duty within her strength, that difficulty was soon got
over. For Bell there was no difficulty. She could simply describe
herself as a "daughter at home," who had done household service in a
school, and was prepared to do it again, wherever she could find it. References as to character were, of course, easily obtained by both
the girls, and each got a favourable medical certificate. These
formalities being finally gone through, they were warned to hold
themselves in readiness to sail in a fortnight's time, which would
be about the end of March.
There was not very much time to be sad: there was so much preparation
to make. Mrs. Aubrey and her elder daughters winced a little when
Bell received the "Regulations for Female Emigrants." They brought
before them so plainly that their bonnie pet was going to seek her
fortune as a simple working woman. But Bell did not wince; she said
there was some comfort in seeing that female necessities in the way
of garments could be reduced to the bald list of "the lowest
quantity that can be admitted"—to wit, "six shifts, two warm and
strong flannel petticoats, six pairs of stockings, two pairs of
strong shoes, two strong gowns—one of which must be warm." She was
not sure whether life, even if really reduced to such necessities,
might not stand a chance of being truer, more wholesome, and more
womanly than life under conditions stringently requiring frills and
As for the Aubrey boys, they found fine fun in the description of
the "ship kit" with which the girls would be provided on payment
by each of £1, which seemed, indeed, a very moderate sum to buy "a
pillow and a bed, a rug, two sheets, one wash-basin, one plate, one
pint drinking-mug, one knife and two spoons, three pounds of marine
soap, and a canvass bag."
As a matter of fact, Bell and Annie took with them considerable
outfits of a plain, serviceable kind. Old under-linen and stockings,
even of extreme "holiness," as Bell expressed it, were utilised for
voyage use, to be worn through once more and then thrown overboard,
to spare the labour and discomfort of ship-washing. Each girl was
provided with two robes, made in easy dressing-gown fashion, the
one of dirk flannel for use during the colder parts of the voyage,
the other of strong "Oxford shirting" for the tropical regions. For
head-gear, each had a thick wadded hood, and a light straw hat of
wide, antiquated shape, which Bell picked up for a few pence at a
village shop. In the matter of shoes they happened to be
particularly fortunate—friends of Dr. Aubrey's presenting each with
a pair of "alpargátas," an article worn in Spain and Spanish
colonies, and which might be introduced into this country with great
advantage, since it gives the maximum of warmth and protection from
damp with the minimum of weight and noise. When Bell put them on she
said she felt "like a cat." The upper part of this shoe is roughly
made of any material (in this case it was white canvas), tightened
across the instep by bright-coloured braid, while the sole consists
of fine rope twisted and bound into the proper shape. The article
might form a new-industry for the blind or for cripples, and has
many special advantages for wear in kitchens or in hospital wards.
They found they would not be allowed to take trunks into their
berths, and that the clothes for use on the voyage would have to be
contained in the "canvas bag." So they each made themselves a second
and smaller bag, which they stocked with underclothing-neatly cut
out, which they could make up during the leisure of the three
months' voyage; and being duly warned that they would find such
leisure very long and tedious, they further provided themselves with
materials for lace-work, selecting them as capable of being packed
into very small compass. They provided themselves with plenty of
foreign writing paper, a big and strong travelling inkstand, some
pencils, and a few sheets of stronger paper for possible sketches.
Inquiry proved that the ship commissariat would be ample and
wholesome for all ordinary purposes, but that emigrants usually
provided against emergencies by a few little dainties of their own. Therefore they procured an ordinary tin biscuit-box, which they
stocked with the following creature comforts: two pounds of good
tea, a pound of fine sugar, a small box of figs, a pot of Liebig's
extract of meat, and a bottle of strong home-made calves'-foot
There was a goof deal of fun over these little arrangement, and the
many wild suggestions which were made. The interest in the girls'
adventure had spread beyond the Aubrey household, and they were for
the time the heroines of the neighbourhood.
"How happy everything seems!" Annie Steele mused, as she jogged home
in the Aubreys' old chaise, through sweet new-budding, English
lanes, steeped in silvery moonlight. "I have just learned to love my
country and to find how kind its people are, as I am going away. But is there not something like
that all through life? I have heard
old people say that we have only just learned how to live when it is
nearly time for us to die. It seems sad, if one looks at it only in
one way, but not in another. Perhaps it is God's way of teaching us
that love is the only-true possessing, and that this life is but the
school for another."
There was a little pathos in packing the trunks, which would be
opened and unpacked so far away, and amid such different scenes.
Bell would pack hers entirely herself, the secret of which she
confided to Annie.
"If mother or the girls did it, I could not bear to lift out and
unfold the things when I get there!" she said, looking straight into
Annie's face. Annie's own eyes filled a moment, but Bell's remained
bright and dry.
Those trunks were most sensibly stocked. No ready-made bonnet or hat
was taken; only useful materials for the same, nicely prepared, were
neatly packed away. Then followed some plain dresses suitable for a
hot climate, and a pretty store of neat ribbons and washing frills,
folded up "in the rough," together with packets of buttons, marked
stockings, thread gloves, and other little sundries which would
spare the young emigrants' purses for a long time after their
arrival. They had a due store of well-chosen books, each of them
with some dear autograph in it, mostly flanked by a date or the
name of some place, which would serve to keep tender memories alive.
One friend contributed a few sheets of the newest music. The invalid
Miss Aubrey set herself busily to copy some simple "out-line" work,
which adorned the bedrooms at home, and whose replica would take
little space in packing, and give a kindly welcoming look to the
strange home in the far-off land. Another sister added two or three
hand-painted wooden plaques for the same purpose, while a little
portfolio was made up for each girl containing as many slight
sketches, small engravings, &c., as could be mustered.
At last came the letter from the secretary of the emigration
society, bidding both the girls to be ready to go one shipboard at a
southern port in the first week in April, and announcing that six
more young ladies were also starting out under the same auspices,
and that the eight would have the advantage of berthing and messing
together, and so escaping all immediate contact with any rougher
Bell put in a petition that they should say "good-bye" at the
familiar green gate of the old home-garden. "I should like to have
my last look of you, all standing together," she said. "You could
not all come to the sea-port, even if we could afford the expense,
and we should not leave a sweet last impression on each other, if we
parted after a day or two of fagging in railway carriages and among
And to her father she said, "Mamma, could not come you know, and it
would be terrible for her not to have you beside her in the first shock
and silence of our going away."
And to her sisters she said, "Dear Alice cannot leave her sofa, and
it would make her feel her weakness so much to have to stay behind
while you came with us."
And to her mother she said, "It would be very trying for papa to
have to part from us at last in the crowd at the depot, and to return
alone by the same road as that on which we had accompanied him."
Once more, Bell got her way.
But to Annie Steele she said, "All I have urged against their seeing
us off is true, but, above all, I did not want them to have too
vivid a picture of the hardships we are encountering. It is
harder to see what others have to bear than to bear it oneself; and
things always look at their worst at an embarkation, and it is not
easy to realise how much better they will be when everybody has
settled down and the ship is out of dock and on the broad, free
So at last they said "good-bye." Bell even persuaded her father to
humour her "last wish" by not driving them to the railway-station,
which was twelve miles from home. The two girls kissed and hugged
them all, and then went back into the house to stroke the cat, and
came out and kissed and hugged them again, and then took the reigns
into her own hands and drove steadily off without looking back till
she was so far off that they could not see her face, and she could
only discern their forms against the bright spring hedge. There,
just where a turn in the road would hide them and the old home from
view, she stood up in the chaise and waved her handkerchief—once,
twice, thrice; and then as the old horse jogged on again she dropped
into her seat and gave way to one storm of tears. It was not very
long, but when it ceased it seemed to Annie Steele to have taken
something from Bell Aubrey's face which never came back again.
But all she said was, "Now we must begin to take notice of
everything pleasant, for the sake of the first letter home."
HOW the two girls got through their railway journey they never quite
remembered. Poor Annie Steele sat wide awake, dreamily looking at
the landscape they were flying past, and vaguely thinking over the
dull, monotonous details of her life, over whose dreariness there
now gleamed a pale ray of that tender sunshine which always
illumines the past. She did not speak to Bell, whose dry, glazed
eyes and clenched, burning lips told their own tale. Only once, when
between station and station they chanced to be alone, she put out
her hand to clasp Bell's, but Bell's was hastily withdrawn. Only for
a moment. The next instant it was outstretched and folded about
Annie's. Bell was of too generous a nature to repel sympathy, even
when her heart was so sore that its soft touch wrung it.
But when the girls alighted from the train at Plymouth they felt as
if they had awakened from a troubled slumber. There lay the little,
wild, scrambling seaport town, full of hearts which knew all about
the pains of parting and the aching longing of absence. And there
stretched the wide, sunny sea, and there was the soft summer sky
bending over it. Bell stood still and drew a long breath.
"When one is out in the open air," said she, "it seems always as if
there was time for everything. I think God's days are long, so that
we can spare to lose sight of each other for a little space, while
we do our business and His."
They took a cab and drove straight to the emigrant depôt. Annie
Steele winced a little as Bell gave that address to the cabman, and
he received it with so matter-of-fact an air that she felt her
shrinking had been quite unnecessary.
"He must have driven others not so very unlike us there before,"
pronounced Bell. The depot was a huge building, situated in a corner
of the harbour, and enclosed by gates. The girls' hearts sank a
little when they found that, having once entered it, they would not
be permitted to leave it till they embarked on the tender which
would convey them to the emigrant ship.
This they found would not take place till Thursday, and this was
Monday. One or two of the lady emigrants had obtained this
information beforehand, and had stayed with friends in lodgings in
the town; but others of their party who, like themselves, had come
from a distance, like them also had taken up their abode in the
There was nothing to be done but to make the best of things, and the
utter novelty of all surroundings made some matters endurable which
might have otherwise been hard enough. Despite the medical
certificates already obtained, they underwent another medical
scrutiny, and were then free of the establishment, and at liberty to
introduce themselves to the community of which, for the next three
months, they would form a part.
A handsome, dark-eyed young woman, neat in attire and peasant in
manner, looking something like the daughter off a respectable farmer
or shopkeeper, came forward to meet them, and saying that she
fancied they "must belong to our party," offered to introduce them
to the others, to show them the place, and to "explain things."
"My name is Miss Gunn," she said; "I come from Shropshire. I arrived
here this morning. Everything seems very queer at first, but I
suppose we shall soon get used to it. And our party will keep
together. It's not the tin pannikins and the cleaning-up which
signify much—it's the company. I'm afraid that some of it, not of
our party, will not be too select."
"I suppose not," said Bell. "You know the secretary never said there
would not be hardships, but only that we should encounter nothing
that a good woman need shrink from."
"These are our beds," announced Miss Gunn, leading the way to a long
room with great windows overlooking the beautiful harbour. Annie
Steel gave an involuntary-grip to Bell's arm. How queer and dreadful
these beds looked!—like nothing so much as tiny "four-posters" all
stuck together, with nothing but the posts and a narrow ledge to
"You are lucky in being two friends," said Miss Gann, with a comical
grimace. "For we sleep two in a bed, and you two will keep together. My bed-fellow to be has not arrived yet."
"Why! there are two rows of beds, one beneath the other!" exclaimed
"Oh, yes," said Miss Gunn, "and I have not yet made up my mind which
is the greater drawback: to have to mount on high when one goes to
one's rest, or to creep into the lower shelf and feel as if a
mattress was coming down to extinguish one. But hark, there's the
bell for supper! We must go down at once, though I hope you are not
hungry, for we have always to sit waiting nearly half-an-hour before
the meal is served. We 'mess' ten at a table, but on hoard, they
say, the mess consists of only eight. One of each ten is called the
'captain,' and she appoints two 'butlers' each day. I am one to-day. Of course, we wash up and sweep the floors ourselves; that is the
duty of the 'butlers' for the time being, and oh! the knives were
dirty to-day—dirty with ancient dirt—but we shall have fresh ones
when we go on board."
"Is the matron here yet?" asked Annie Steele.
"Oh, yes," replied Miss Gunn.
"And of course she is kind and nice," observed Bell Aubrey.
"She is like a little cackling hen," was Miss Gunn's rejoinder.
"I don't think our new acquaintance looks on the sunny side of
things or people," whispered Bell to Annie, for she felt by the
tightening grasp of Annie's little hand that her companion's heart
But Annie's spirits were somewhat revived by the sight of three or
four nice girls who came to their mess, and who, belonging to their
party, would remain their nearest companions through their long
journey. Of course, even names, still less histories, could scarcely
be learned at first sight, but shrewd Bell was not long in forming
certain opinions about these more interesting fellow-travellers. There was the sensible, worn, rather weary-looking spinster, Miss Wylde, who had probably trodden other people's staircases, and sat
at other people's tables, till she found the competition for even
such humble dependency waxing too strong for her, and who was not so
much going out to a new country as being driven forth from the old
one. And there was Miss Thorpe, strong and countrified, physically
fit for the roughest farm service, and yet with something of
breeding and mind that might well make her prefer the harder life
and higher chances of a young community to the pampered menialism
and rigidly limited range of an old civilisation. And there was Miss
Gunn herself, energetic and wiry, with a suspicion of acidity and
unrest, which might have mitigated her friends' regret in parting
from her. And there was the pale, picturesque-looking person who
called herself "Agnes Perceval"
without prefix of Miss or Mrs., whose voice was so low and sad, and
whose dark eyes seemed ever fixed upon some vanished scene.
"Now, Annie," said Bell, softly, as the two walked up and down the
little bit of the quay which belonged to the deport, "there is
hardly anything in our new life just now which has not a pathetic and
a comic side. We may think of the pathetic one, but I think we'll speak
of the comic one. Is it not funny to find that our food is suddenly
become 'rations'? I mean to send home all particulars about these
rations, and then the dear folks will be certainly convinced that we
are not starved. We cannot say we have a very limited dietary
either, Annie. It contains everything necessary and wholesome, and
some decided luxuries. You see it includes beef, pork, preserved
meats, suet, butter, biscuits, flour, oatmeal, peas, rice, potatoes,
carrots, onions, raisins, tea, coffee, sugar, molasses, mustard,
salt, pepper, water, and actually mixed pickles, and lime juice
twice a week! Do you you suppose Christopher Columbus had such
fare? Why, Annie, I begin to think that by-and-by everything will
be made so easy and comfortable for everybody everywhere that there
will be no chance for heroism. I declare I am cheated out of my
dream of adventure. The molasses and the mixed pickles detract from
the glory of a pioneer."
And then there was silence, for Annie could not altogether respond
to Bell's high hearted appeal. Rather too much of the glory of
hardship and adventure still remained for her. Amid the constant
shock off strange discomfort she could not help building new hopes
that things would be better on the ship.
But after the day of embarkation had come and passed, and they were
all fairly on board, when Annie ventured to resume a diary-letter
which she had promised Bell's invalid sister should be kept and
forwarded home on the first opportunity, and in which she had
already described the depôt, the first line she added was:
"I have told you all about the depôt—now for the ship. It is very
much like it—the same four posters, with hardly room to move down
the one side that is not joined to other beds. And we eat in the
same room, cook is the same room—one room common to a hundred
girls, or rather some of them are uncouth, rough Irishwomen. There
are few among our 'mess' who can take things as bravely as Bell
does, or even as I do, for having her with me keeps me up. We are
now recovering from what was only to be expected. Some of us are not
well yet. Bell was very ill at first, only I was not sea-sick; only
directly I went below deck the first night the smell of the room
turned me faint. But the 'rolling' of the ship has no such effect. At last we have got the place into something like order. I have been
down on my hands and knees this morning, doing some honest
scouring―such a floor as I have never seen anywhere but in an
Irish cabin. I am thankful to say that 'our mess' are all once more
on their feet. We are a pattern of order. You never see waste in our
quarter, and our tin things are always clean. We have a farmer's
daughter among us—Miss Thorpe; she is our cook; and we had a very
good tart to-day. So you see we make ourselves comfortable in spite
of circumstances; in fact, after a little sea air, we are rather
oblivious of our surroundings during meals. But this happier state
of things is only just beginning. The coarse habit of some of the
people during the first few days were simply abominable. I think
many of us would have turned back if we could, but it only seemed to
rouse Bell's courage."
A few days later Bell took up Annie's pen and continued her
"Things are looking brighter and brighter. For about a week we
'tipped it up lively,' as some of the Irish girls sang, but today we
are becalmed. There are one or two vessels in sight, all like
'painted ships on painted oceans.' Oh, it is warm—and yet we have
been only one week on the water. Our party are getting more
sociable as they get better, and we all feel we are having a regular
holiday. I bought a chair at the depôt, and to-day have been
sitting with a book in my hand, but did not read mach. I am all
bruised from the knocks I got thorough the rolling of the ship, and
as we do not sleep much at night, we cannot resist it during the hot
day! Though this is the matron's sixth for seventh voyage, she suffers
from sea-sickness, and is keeping her cabin still, though we are all better.
There two sub-matrons, one an Irish girl, the other one of 'our
mess,'—both very nice girls. Our party are in very good favour; when we send
our dishes to be baked them ship's cook improves them, and the
officer are all most polite to us; but the Irish have a sort of
league among themselves, and are very jealous of everybody. They
have threatened to murder one of the sub-matrons when we land. I must
tell you something about our doctor, who is always a very important
personage on an emigrant ship. Ours is a jovial, amusing fellow, who
calls us his "seven and sixpences," and tells us the funniest little
anecdotes, which we only half believe. We all bother him to let us
have our boxes up, and he says the word "box" will be found
written on his heart, and tells us of a man who came on board a
vessel at Glasgow, bound for Sydney, and whose box got lost and
could not be found during the voyage. Wherever anything went wrong,
or any accident happened, that man always shook his head and
hinted that if he could only have got at his box he could have
repaired the damage, or done whatever service was required. On
arriving at Sydney the famous box turned up among the cargo―a
says the doctor, 6 feet 4 by 3, and anxious to see what a box so
large and so light (for it was light) could contain, he stood by
while its owner opened it, and there he saw—a hat, an old pair of
shoes, and four red hearings! This story is told to insinuate what
he thinks of our declarations that we could be quite happy if we got
our boxes. We are about the line now, and have only seen land once,
and that was the Cape Verde Islands. I am to be 'watch' to-night;
the duties are to sit up half the night, to give alarm in case of
fire breaking out or water coming in, to shut the ports, if stormy,
and keep the lights burning. I have been 'watch' once already. Next
week I shall be 'on duty,' which means that I shall have scrubbing
to do, the washing of our mess utensils, &c. I had rather my turn
had come in a cooler part, but I shall be glad when it is over. Annie has had her turn already, and got through it very cheerfully. I think she is contented now.
I am really enjoying myself. There is a
very decent library of fiction on hoard, but the supply of fancy
work to occupy us, of which we were told, is a delusion and a snare. I am glad we brought work of our own, but we might have brought a
great deal more. Ours is the only 'mess' that has not quarrelled; we
set quite an example of sisterly love and community. The captain
reads service to us on Sunday morning, and in the afternoon fathers
and brothers visit their respective relations. We have a dog, a
canary, and two cats on board."
Later on, Annie Steele resumed the task of reporter.
"On Friday last we saw a meteor. It was
like a flame or fire proceeding from a star. The flame
disappeared, as the meteor shot across the sky. It fell into
the sea with a tremendous thundering noise, that I thought would
never cease. The heat in the cabin keeps one in a continual
bath. As soon as we are down there for the evening we put on
our nightdresses, and find them more than sufficient clothing.
I must tell you about the cleaning. Before breakfast we take
out the boards from the underneath beds, and scrub the boards with
dry sand and a heavy stone, then sweep the floor. After
breakfast, we wash up, scrub forms, tables, cupboards, and painted
walls with soap and water; then take a kind of hoe and scrape the
floor, sandstone, and sweep, during which time you require to take a
towel half a dozen times to dry yourself! We have
had a little rain during the last week; very heavy showers—so
refreshing. The phosphorus at night is very pretty, and the fish in
a calm look like emeralds. Such quaint groups of people as we see
around us it would take volumes to describe. We both look at all
your photographs every night, and――"
Here the letter broke off abruptly, and in a rapid, large hand was
"Ship is just starting!"
There seemed to have been no time for any last message, or for even
a signature. Some sudden opportunity had evidently been suddenly
seized. When the letter reached the Aubreys it looked
travel-stained, bore no postage stamp, but was charged only regular
postal rates, being marked "ship's letter."
AFTER the arrival
of that most welcome but half mysterious "ship's letter," the
Aubreys had to wait a long while before one came with the pretty
Queensland postage stamp and the Brisbane postmark upon it; but it
came at last, and was opened and read with eager, trembling
"All my darlings at home," Bell began. "We are here, safe and well,
at last, and as there is scarcely anything to add to our budget
about the voyage—for one day is very like another at sea―I will tell
you about that budget, which I do hope reached you in safety. I
suppose you guess we sent you that letter a passing ship. We got only
three minutes' notice that there would be a chance of sending home
letters. None of the other passengers had time to prepare anything,
only, you see, we had obeyed your 'wishes, and written ours by
degrees. We had not even time to sign it, only to find an envelope
and direct it; there was not even time to seal it, the captain
kindly threw it to the little boat as they pushed off to the other
slip. The letter fell into the water, but they fished it out again, and the
captain shouted to them to seal it up for us, and further than that
I cannot tell its fate, but we hope it reached you.
"And now I will go on to our landing. As we sailed up Moreton Bay
towards Brisbane, we found nothing very striking in the scenery,
only it was a treat to our sea-eyes to see any scenery at all! It
was quite plain we were going to no out-of-the-world corner, but to
a very busy place. Steamers and craft of every kind were passing in
and out, and when we got into the Brisbane river the shores were
covered with wharves and warehouses and works of every kind, while
on the wooded heights behind we caught glimpses of stately villas
and pretty cottages. A steamer came down the river to take us off
the ship, and on that steamer was the lady (Mrs. F—) who had
undertaken to meet 'our party' on behalf of the Women's Emigration
Society. We were all allowed to stand with her on the bridge of the
boat. When we reached the pier, we watched for our boxes to be
passed out, and then drove straight away from the depôt. Of course,
had there been any mistake about the time of our arrival, or any
other misadventure which had prevented our being met, the depôt
would have been a safe though perhaps not a very pleasant refuge. Mrs. F—, in her kindness, would fain have acted hostess to us all,
but as in her own house she could only comfortably accommodate one,
we decided that that one should be the sub-matron from our party;
for, of course, she had had a great deal of responsibility during
the voyage, and deserved the most consideration. Mrs. F— knew of
respectable temporary lodgings for all of us. Annie and I and Miss
Gann went to a nice little house belonging to a person whose
daughters keep a school."
Then came a parenthetic paragraph.
"After writing thus far, it occurs to me that I will keep back my
letter for a few days, in hopes that I may have some definite news
to give you."
Then followed a later date, and the narrative went on.
"Hurrah! Annie Steele has got a situation as daily governess. She
did not get it through the society, but by answering an
advertisement. We have left our temporary lodgings and gone to
board with some friends of Miss Wylde's. Annie and I share one room;
she will have have to pay £40 a year, but I am to get my board free,
in return for my household help while I am waiting to hear of
something better. The teaching Annie has got already will exactly pay for
her board, and no more, but then she only goes to it three days out
of the six, and the family are very kind to her, and she hopes to
fill up the other three days soon, and so earn twice as much. I
think this bright climate is doing Annie good. She seems always
bright and happy and in high spirits, and you may guess her energy
when I tell you that she has already sent a pretty painted panel to
the Brisbane Art Exhibition! I don't think Annie feels half so
lonely here as she did in England. There are so many people in this
place who are lonely too, and I fancy a number of lonely people make
up something like a large family.
"And now that I have told you where we are and what we are doing, I
suppose you will like to hear something of the place, and of our
impressions of things in general. Everybody here seems comfortably
off; nobody is very rich, and there are no destitute classes. Brisbane itself looks like an incomplete place. Splendid buildings
stand side by side with rickety sheds. I have heard it said that
'Queensland is a fine poor man's country,' and I think it is true:
the necessaries of life are cheap, but anything in the way of luxury
is dear, and so is much that we call 'comfort,' and the people seem
very careful of their money. In the house where Annie and I are
staying there is no servant kept; nobody keeps a servant here who
can possibly do without one. Many of the ladies who receive
you in pretty caps and laces in the afternoon, in their own drawing
rooms, have spent their mornings in the kitchen and done all their
own work. This is a most hard-working country. All the houses have
verandas: in many the rooms are all on one floor. The houses
themselves are mostly of wood, the boards of which are beaded and
fit into one another, so that there can be no cracks. The rooms
generally are very small. Annie and I share one; we have hung
all the crewel work we brought out with us, and what with our little
ornaments and photographs, and some home-made brackets, Annie says
that, despite its rough boards and rafters, it is the most unphilistine-like apartment she has seen here as yet.
"The climate is simply delicious; but it is winter here now, and
everyone talks of being roasted in summer. The flowers and fruit
remind me of what our friends from Ceylon used to tell us, and
Chinamen come round with fruits and vegetables in baskets as they
said the Singhalese people did. The children here are fearfully bold
and 'terrible.' The street boys are a terror to wayfarers at night. These boys are called 'Larrikins.' We hear sad stories of the state
of morality in the town. Wines and spirits are mixed with sleeping
draughts, when made to be drunk on the premises of licensed houses,
and the consumer is robbed, and when he comes to his senses is told
that he has drunk the value of his money. It is on sheep-shearers
coming into town from the country that this trick is most frequently
practised. It is awful to know that some of the girls who came out
with us went straight to ruin the second day after the arrival, in
much the same way as the shearers, only, of course, more to their
utter ruin, and some of them were those who had seemed nice steady
girls on board.
"I cannot advise a flood of female emigration to this place under
present circumstances. It may certainly be a good opening for
sensible young women fit for hard work and willing to do it, or for
women who have friends or connections here, or a little capital. Annie and I have been exceptionally fortunate, but, you see, we are
only just paying our way, with not a penny over towards those extra
expenses which must come, even to the most economical. Others of our
party have got nothing whatever to do yet! Miss Wylde came out
believing herself to be engaged as governess in some state
official's family, but when she arrived she found they had secured
somebody else: though they would have got her a situation of some
sort. Fortunately, she had friends here to go to—the Roys, the
family with whom we board and with whom she also is living. I do not
think governesses are much wanted here. The grammar school in the
town ruins them and the private schools, and chances of teaching
up-country are few and far between. A man calling himself a
'reverend' wrote up for half -a-dozen governesses, but Mrs. F— says
he is a scamp, and would not let any of us communicate with him. The
people most in demand are lady-helps, but the work required is rough
and the pay small—I have not yet heard more than £20 offered. Under
all these circumstances, could one recommend girls to come out here
on a loan, either from friends or from the Society, for how could
they ever pay it off? Mrs. F— says that the first batch of
lady-emigrants whom the Society sent out all got comfortable homes,
free off expense, till they got good situations. But they tired their
entertainers and went off to their work so reluctantly, that the
colonists have left the late-comers to pay their own expenses and
shift for themselves. Even in my short experience of life I have
been often struck by the reckless way in which people spoil
blessings; they don't take them as 'talents,' to be increased in
value as they pass them on, but they wear them out, and make them
In due course, other letters followed. Annie Steele presently got a
double set of pupils, so that she was comfortably provided for, with
a modest margin for saving. And when Bell Aubrey had an offer of a
lady-help's situation in a farmhouse, the Roys found they could not
bear to part from her, and entreated her to stay on with them, at
the same salary which the farmer was willing to give, namely
£25―and Bell, delighted at remaining with Annie, and among faces
already grown familiar, gladly accepted the offer.
She wrote, by-and-by—
"Through Mrs. F—'s goodness, and the kindness of Annie's employers
and the cordiality of the Roys, we have got into quite a pleasant
society. When there is a good public entertainment in the town,
Annie generally goes with her pupils and their parents, and we are
constantly asked out to homely little evening parties in South
Brisbane, and even to the 'musical evenings,' charades, &c.. of the
most fashionable quarter. Annie actually went with her pupils to the
entertainment given by the Mayor to the two young Princes when they
were here. We are certainly very happy—only the length of time it
takes to receive an answer to a letter makes us realise the immense
distance which stretches between us and all whom we love. But though
I can say this, and say it truly, yet I could not advise any girls
to come out here to fight their own battle, except those who know the world
thoroughly and are able and willing to turn their hands to almost
anything. It is not fancy-work lady-helps who are wanted, but women
who can really take a servant's place, scrub, wash, and cook. Women
like these could easily get a living in the old county without
exile, with gentler surroundings and with, I think, much better pay,
especially considering the relative prices of clothing, &c. Of course, you can
see from what I have told you that social conditions are somewhat
different here, but I feel sure, even among the prejudices of
English life, that whatever work ladies did would soon become
lady-like! And many women who might not have the physical strength
to bear the hardships of the voyage and the hard life out here,
might have the moral courage to contend with the remnants of caste
at home—especially as those remnants are already getting out of
fashion and descending to the vulgar and pretentious classes.
"If English girls of a better classes are to be found willing to leave
home and friends and to face all sorts of hardships, and to counter
great risks and difficulties to earn £20 per annum by doing real
servants' work simply because the public opinion of the strange
country does not ostracise them for so doing, then I cannot help
saying that English men and women, heads of households at home, and
English girls of the better class seeking employment, have in their
own hands the solution of the great 'domestic servant difficulty,'
which, as mamma used to say, makes so much English female life one
perpetual struggle and defeat.
"But because I think that many women—and men too, for that
matter—might do as well at home as in the colonies if they were
prepared to encounter the same hardships and labours, do not imagine
that therefore I think women ought not to emigrate. Where the men of
a nation go the women should go also. When I see some of the evils
and miseries of society out here, and remember the evils and
miseries of society in England, I feel that the one-sided way in
which emigration has been too often carried on has much to answer
for. Society in the colonies is apt to be bare and coarse for lack
of the gentler elements of life, and the society at home to grow
vapid and indolent through the elimination of its stronger ones. When sons and brothers and friends and neighbours go abroad, I think
it would be well if their womenkind and their dependents went with
them, instead of getting assistance or support sent to them from
abroad. I know that this would involve a great deal of
self-sacrifice and courage on the part of such womankind and
dependents, but, then, everything that is worth doing involves
self-sacrifice and courage. The Bible says that woman was made to be
the helpmeet for man, which means, I should think, that she shares
and dares with him while he wants help, not that she comes in like
a base camp-follower after the victory to divide the spoil! I am
glad I came out here. It is the right thing for some women to do,
only they should do it knowing exactly what will be expected from
what they must expect."
Mrs. Aubrey sat thoughtful with a half smile on her face after she
read that letter. At last she said:
"I expect Bell will have some important news for us soon."
Her motherly instinct was right. The name of a Mr. Edward Wylde, a
brother of Miss Wylde's, had appeared more than once in the girl's
home letters. And at last there came one about nothing else but him,
because Bell had promised to marry him as soon as he could build a
little cottage on the pretty "lot" he had bought by the river.
Annie Steele wrote about him too, "Because," she said, "I know you
will like an impartial judgment concerning him, which dear Bell's
cannot be. Through our association with his sister and the Roys, we
have seen him almost daily since we first arrived. I feel it like an
insult to him to say how steady and good he is. I have scarcely ever
seen him without a smile on his face and a pleasant word on his
lips. He is one of those people who are always ready to help
everybody and who hinders nobody. Yet he has a firm will of his own,
and a strong sense of right and wrong, and recognises no
in-betweens. He has been taking such pride and pleasure in getting
ready his married home. It is the sweetest little house, with one
pleasant living room, a tiny kitchen, one large bedroom and two
small bedrooms, and a lovely garden stretching down to the river's
edge. They have planted two young palms beside the door; and they
are to be called 'the Doctor' and 'Mamma.' All the
domestic-plans are settling down most happily. Miss Wylde, his
sister, who has had two or three uncomfortable situations, is to
take Bell's place at the Roys. Bell will do all her own domestic work,
at least at present and as Edward Wylde often has to be away from
home for a day or two on business, I am to take up my abode with the
young couple, continuing my daily teaching and paying for my board
have done at the Roys, but giving Bell the inestimable boon of my
cheerful society, during the early mornings and the evenings of
her husband's enforced absences. We mean the wedding to be very
quiet and pretty. Heigho! I always told Bell that people would say
we came out here to get husbands. And she said we had to do right
and not care what people said! And if any girl says that she
shrinks from starting for the colonies for fear she would not be able
to contrive to keep single, tell her I have been here two years
already and have not had a solitary offer!
"Bell says it is so nice to reflect that if, as years pass on, you
think some of her younger brothers should try colonial life, there
will be a home for them to come to, and experienced friends to meet
and advise them. Whether Bell has children of her own or not, I think
she will be one of those whom the Hebrew historians called 'a mother
in Israel.' And these are the sort of women who are wanted in new
THE STORY OF ABERDEEN.
BY ISABELLA FYVIE MAYO.
from Tollo Hill.
ABERDEEN is among
the early names which emerge from the mists about the cradle of
Scottish history. Yet to many "Southrons," it is known chiefly
as the point from which tourists diverge to visit the Queen's
Highlands. It is said that "in a Gazetteer published in this
century, Aberdeen was described as a small fishing village on the
east coast of Scotland, the inhabitants of which live chiefly on
fish and seaweed." Within the last twenty years the
metropolitan illustrated papers have set forth the citizens as
arrayed in kilts—a picturesque garment, alas! never seen on Aberdeen
streets, save when worn by a Highland soldier or a dramatic English
It is hard to realise how Aberdeen must have looked before
Union Bridge spanned the valley which cuts through it and made
possible its noble Union Street, with the lofty tower of the fine
County Buildings at its east end, and the massive block of the Free
Church College to the west. Only a century ago Aberdeen had
but ten streets and about twenty thousand inhabitants. Now its
buildings cover a considerable mileage; it has more than sixty
places of worship, mostly well supported and fully equipped with
schools, classes, guilds, and kindred agencies. Its population
numbers about 126,000. It has a large infirmary, well
appointed within, though the external aspect though of its newer
sections certainly adds much to the dreariness of the dwellers in
the huge tenement houses whose windows look upon them. It has
a splendid market, both for vegetable produce and fish. It was
opened in 1842, and though it has since been destroyed by fire, yet
the original plan has been closely adhered to. Friday is
market-day, and then the market presents a pretty and lively scene.
White mutches and short blue skirts are still visible among the
fisher-folk and a few of the country-women; but, alas! recent years
have watched the gradual disappearance of the older generation of
fish-wives, with their high Norman caps, trimmed with real lace, and
their long earrings of gold or silver. Aberdeen butter has
been always famous. Does not Sir Walter Scott tell us that the
laird of Culrossie fought a duel to defend its honour? Even
when worsted he still remarked, "I'll say yet, that better than
Aberdeen butter ne'er gaed down a Southern thrapple."
The fishing industry—now supplemented by trawling—has always
been active and profitable in Aberdeen. There are also large
paper and linen manufactories. The city has the largest comb
works in the kingdom—the industry doubtless originating in the
nearness of a great cattle-breeding country, has now grown to such
extent that cargoes of horns are shipped from the continent for its
uses. Granite from the neighbouring quarries—the very rock, as
it were, from which Aberdeen is herself hewn—has given her a share
not only in many of the world's public buildings, but in almost all
of earth's remotest "God's acres." Aberdeen granite may be
taken as a type of the best side of Aberdeen life, solid,
unpretentious, enduring, and capable of receiving a high polish.
Aberdeen stands between the Don and the Dee, and is in two
portions, Old Aberdeen and Aberdeen, once quite separate; even yet,
though almost merged in each other (and absolutely united for
municipal purposes), they retain many of their distinctive features.
Old Aberdeen is said to be simply a corruption of "Aulton," an
appellation often bestowed on places of similar position. The city
of Aberdeen makes its first clear appearance in Scottish history in
a still extant charter of William the Lion (1178), but that charter
confirms rights already granted by his grandfather David I. "Old
Aberdeen" has vague traditions of greater antiquity, but little can
be verified until the same David I. settled the seat of the diocese
From remote antiquity a Christian place of worship is believed to
have occupied the same site as the present cathedral. That was begun
about 1357, and progressed slowly through succeeding centuries until
it was completed in 1518. It is dedicated to St. Machar, probably
the Scottish form of the name of Macarius, of Alexandria, who,
when a youth, left his fruit-stall in that city to join the famed
St. Antony. Macarius' special virtues were self-subjugation and
self-denial. He used to give himself the hardest and coarsest
necessary labours, pleading, "whenever I am slothful and idle, I am
pestered by desires for distant travel." Though he stayed thus at
home, his name travelled far, and this sturdy old edifice, amid its
fine trees and worn gravestones, has weathered the fury of civil war
and fanaticism, seems no bad emblem of the rugged and austere
St. Machar's Cathedral was greatly increased and beautified by
Bishop Chiene. In those days its demesne was of considerable extent,
sloping down to the banks of the Don, and the houses of its
ecclesiastics filled the quarter known as "the Chanonry," in which
some quaint bits of antiquity may still be seen. Before the erection
of these "canons' houses," the bishops of Aberdeen had lived at what
is still called "The Bishops' Loch," a picturesque piece of water in
the midst of the wild moor of Scotston which skirts the sea coast,
to the north of the city.
During the long struggle of Wallace and Bruce to maintain the
independence of Scotland against the encroachments of Edward I. of
England, Aberdeen had its full share of disaster. It was more or
less "divided against itself." Bishop Chiene, with probably a
considerable following, supported the invaders against the natives,
and when fortune turned against him, fled to England.
"Bon Accord," the motto on the city arms, is said to have been the
Scots battle-cry on the occasion when Bruce defeated the English at Inverurie, while another part of his army drove the invaders out of
the citadel of Aberdeen. It is said that a little later Wallace
burned the English ships in Aberdeen harbour, and that it was to
"avenge" this that when the Scottish patriot was betrayed by his
own countrymen into the hands of the enemy and executed, one of his
dismembered limbs was sent to Aberdeen to be exposed there. But was
this so? The best authorities give Newcastle, Stirling, Berwick, and
St. Johnston, as the places which received the hero's mortal
remains. Yet certain chroniclers specify Aberdeen and Dumfries
instead of two of the towns. An old inhabitant of Aberdeen has been
heard to say that in his boyhood a stone bearing a curious mark used
to be pointed out in the wall of St. Machar's graveyard, as showing
the last resting-place of some of Wallace's remains. But considering
the devastation which befell Old Aberdeen more than two centuries
later on, it is hard to credit this. Indeed, the whole story of
Bruce and Wallace in Aberdeen is of so legendary a nature, so
contradictory in its details, and so wholly dependent on the
accounts of one Hector Boece (of whom we shall hear again), that it
is absolutely set aside by some of the best authorities.
The old "Brig o' Balgownie," whose single arch spans the Don where
its waters lie sparkling beneath wooded shelving banks, was erected
in this period. Yet its story, too, is somewhat uncertain. Rather,
it has two stories, not wholly incompatible. One is that it was
founded by Robert the Bruce as a favour to a district which had
been, in the main, loyal to him. The other avers that after the
Scots king was established on his throne, he recalled the runaway
Bishop Chiene and reinstated him, and that the Bishop in his
penitence devoted to the erection of this bridge the revenues which
had accumulated during his absence. It can be readily seen, as the
antiquarian Munro remarks, that "the truth probably lies in a
combination of both stories."
Popular interest in the old "Brig," is generally confined to the
antique rhyming "prophesy" which thus invokes the structure:
"Brig o' Balgownie, Wight (strong) is thy wa':
Wi' ae wife's ae son an' ae mear's ae foal,
Down thou sall fa'."
Byron has spread the knowledge of this local "freit" far and wide,
by telling how the superstition terrorised his boyhood, because he
and his pony fulfilled the fated conditions. But the real history of
the "Brig" has its own suggestion towards a solution of the
problem of the "unearned increment." Nearly three hundred years ago
Sir Andrew Hay devoted to its future upkeep land of the annual worth
of £2. 5s. 8d. He evidently thought the two pounds odd a very modest
sum, for the terms of his bequest were that they were to repair and
uphold the Brig "as far as they will go." Little repair was needed
for a long while after the rebuilding. The fund accumulated, and the
town (its trustees) took some of it for a further purchase of land
which presently proved so valuable that the "Brig," retaining its
interest in its share of the purchase, possessed, in 1824, a sum of
£20,000. Out of this was erected the New Bridge of Don, in a place
required by the exigencies of present-day traffic. Since then the "Auld Brig" has drawn its purse-strings to help almost all
bridge-building which has gone on in Aberdeenshire, and still
retains a capital of £25,000, the revenue of which is at present
devoted to clear off the debt on the recently erected Victoria
Bridge leading across the Dee to the southern district of Torry, now
grown populous and important.
The Brig o' Balgownie is not the only Aberdeen bridge with distinct
episcopal associations. The beautiful Old Bridge of Dee—which spans
the river just where, looking westward, one catches a first
suggestion of characteristically Deeside scenery, was the work of
Bishop Elphinstone. He provided the idea and the wherewithal, and
the work was completed by his successors in 1527. This Bishop
Elphinstone, that "cheerful man" who loved "humour, some
discourse," and "sweet music," was indeed one of Aberdeen's greatest
benefactors. With him originated King's College in Old Aberdeen, a
place of learning, which in its conception and carrying out follows
(as is the case with all the Scottish colleges) the customs of the
universities of France rather than those of England, the learning
and culture of their founders having been derived from the
Continent. The social connection between France and Scotland
continued down to the time of the Pretenders. Elphinstone had
intended the college to be dedicated to Mary the mother of Jesus,
but King James IV. interested himself so warmly in the scheme, and
gave it such magnificent furtherance that, in deference to him, it
became "King's College." It got its charter from the infamous Pope
Alexander VI. Its first principal was that Hector Boece, whom the
antiquarian Robertson accuses of having accepted and woven together
all sorts of old wives' tales, narrating them in his turn as genuine
history, to the great confusion of Aberdeen annals. Many of Boece's
narrations are not even alluded to by the poet Barbour, who lived
not long before Boece, and who in his epic "the Bruce," wrote a
most minute history of events which had occurred within half a
century of his own time.
Barbour, who was Archdeacon of Aberdeen, may be regarded as the
Chaucer of Scotland. He is best known by his noble apostrophe to
Freedom, which is an amplification of that Latin formula which
Wallace's uncle impressed on his nephew's boyhood, and which has
been familiarly translated:
"My son, I tell thee soothfastlie,
No gift is like to libertie:
Then never live in slaverie."
One of Barbour's lines is very noble.
"He lives at ease that freely lives."
While we feel such a saying quickens the blood, let us never be
tempted to forget that nobody can love freedom for himself without
desiring it equally for all others, since where a chain exists―be
it on mind or body―it has a slave at both ends!
Meanwhile, Aberdeen proper had had some stormy times. It had also
got for its own a great church, that of St. Nicholas (on the site of
the east and west churches of to-day), to say nothing of a prison
and a market-place, for a charter granted by Robert III. permitted
the former to be built anywhere but in the middle of the latter. Above all, in 1411, its provost and its citizens had marched out to
intercept a great body of Highlanders which was sweeping down on
Aberdeen. The provost and many citizens were slain at this battle of Harlaw; the conflict was a deadly one, but the victory was
sufficiently on the Lowland side to secure the retreat of the
Aberdeen, or its neighbourhood, also had a visit from the plague
somewhere about 1565, at which date a cruel town-council order is
issued to the effect that anybody who gives meal or drink to "any
infeckit person" then the offender "if a man is to be hanged, or the
woman drownit." But this fierce mandate could not check natural
humanity, for two women, "tailors' wives," committed the "offence"
and actually received sentence of death. But their husbands had
"influence," and the penalty was commuted to banishment from the
city "during pleasure of the Council."
The Reformation came upon the ecclesiastic edifices of the city,
just when they had reached the summit of their glory. It was
attended by those evils which belong to sudden and revolutionary
change. As in England, so in Scotland, much property which had
hitherto been held, more or less, honestly, for the benefit of the
poor, or the instruction of the ignorant, was not, as it should have
been, simply re-arranged with better methods in the same interests,
but was often seized by private greed and duplicity. We know that
John Knox was not slow to recognise and denounce the evil spirit
among many who had seemed his coadjutors. He wrote:
"Some were licentious: some had greedily gripped to the possessions
of the Kirk: and others thought that they would not lack their part
of Christ's coat. . . .Assuredly some of us have wondered how men
that profess Godliness could of so long continuance, hear the
threatening of God against thieves and against their houses, and
knowing themselves guilty in such things as were openly rebuked, and
that they never had remorse of conscience, neither yet intended to
restore any things of that which long they had stolen and reft."
Prominent among these robbers of church land and wealth was George
Keith, the Earl Marischal, but in 1593 he made some signs of
restitution by founding Marischal College on the site of a
Franciscan monastery. Inscribed within the principal entrance is his
defiant motto. "They say—what say they?―let them say," which
seems as if hurled at those who had frankly criticised his methods.
From the Reformation until after 1745, Aberdeen underwent a series
of dark and disastrous days. James VI. of Scotland and first of
England, visited the city, and the publication of his "Demonologie"
in 1597 gave an immense zest to Aberdeen trials, tortures, and
burnings for witchcraft. As many as twenty-two people were thus
condemned together on one occasion. Many of the poor wretches, in
their agony, confessed to diabolic meetings and dancings by the City
Cross in the Castle Market! To produce the greater effect on the
public mind, they were not all executed at one time, but were taken
out to Heading Hill (now part of Castle Hill), overlooking the sea,
and burnt by twos and threes. Similar scenes were enacted here as
late as 1632.
The local nobles often engaged in "battles" which embroiled the city
streets—such as they then were. The author of "Aberdeen, fifty
years ago," says that in the early decades of the seventeenth
century, aristocratic harryings and pressures proved unbearable, the
burgesses used to simply request "a competent time" to remove
themselves, wives, bairns, bag and baggage from the town—a form of
"boycott" which generally brought the oppressors to their senses. He
says that the peculiarly wild and lawless character of the leading
families of the shire was not without its corrupting influence on
the whole community―an influence extending far into this century,
and possibly even responsible for certain sad features in Aberdeen
statistics at the present day.
from the North-East.
The Covenanters and the Cavaliers had many fierce encounters―"the
great Montrose" fighting first on the side of the former and then on
that of the latter. When Montrose was leading the Covenanters he was
advised by some of his colleagues to burn the town. Policy rather
than mercy prevented this, for Montrose remarked that Aberdeen was
the London of the North, and the want of it might prejudice
themselves. The citizens knew full well that they had to dread the
worst. "The Royalists," says Spalding, had "for plain fear fled the
town with their wives and children in their arms or carried on their
backs, weeping and mourning most pitifully, straying here and there,
and not knowing where to go." The city was on that occasion saved
from pillage by payment of a heavy fine, and forty-eight of the
leading royalists were bound with ropes and thrown into prison.
Despite this truce, in less than a year's time, the Covenanting
armies under the Earl Marischal, took possession of the city,
levying heavy "contributions" on the citizens, who also suffered
severely from the dissolute manners of the regiments—now of one side
and now of the other—which took possession of the place.
A piteous picture of the city is given in the account of Montrose's
pursuit of the Covenanting army after its defeat at Justice Mills,
not far from Bishop Elphinstone's bridge over the Dee. Many of
Montrose's followers were fierce Celts, but, alas! war is always the
outlet of the worst passions in any race of men.
Says old Spalding,
"Nothing was heard but pitiful howling, crying, weeping, mourning,
through all the streets. The men that they killed they would not
suffer to be buried, but took their clothes off them, then left
their naked bodies lying above the ground. The wife durst not cry
nor weeps at her husband's slaughter before her eyes, nor daughter
for the father, which, if they were heard, then were they presently
The army stayed in the city two days. The second day was the
Sabbath, but the voice of prayer was not heard in any church, and
the work of bloodshed and robbery went on throughout the city,
strewed with the unburied dead, many of whom finally, says
Robertson, were "committed to the earth by bands of mourners, among
whom not one man was to be seen." Yet in all, only one hundred and
sixty men seem to have been killed. Most of these, though appearing
on the Covenanting side, had been dragged to fight against their
will. The city magnanimously records that it buried the dead without
burial dues, and that the use of "mortclothes" was not charged to
Such is war, even on a small scale, when we see it closely, and not
from the mere soldier's point of view.
At this point we must allude to Samuel Rutherford's exile in
Aberdeen, where he was sent, far from his "sweet parish of Anworth,"
as a punishment for his expression of anti-prelatic opinion. He
arrived in Aberdeen in 1636, and remained there till 1638. He was
not a prisoner in one sense, for he was at large in the city, having
his lodgings "in Mar Castle, a grim old pile in the Gallowgate, the
last vestiges of which have scarcely disappeared. But he might no longer preach the Gospel, and it was very bitter to him to be thus
silenced. Though he meekly said, "Christ and I will bear it." Yet
letter after letter, written to members of his former flock, reveal
his suffering. We must quote a few expressions of its intensity,
since it is a form of pain, which, in one way or another, befalls
many, and what in the end it really meant for Rutherford, it may
mean equally for any of us.
"My closed mouth, my dumb Sabbaths, the memory of my communion with
Christ in many fair days in Anworth, whereas now my Master getteth
no service of my tongue as then, hath almost broken my faith in two
halves. . . . Oh, if I might but speak to three or four herd-boys of
my Master, I would be satisfied to be the meanest and most obscure
of all the pastors in this land."
"I pray God that ye never have the painful experience of a closed
". . . Pray that I may get one day of Christ in public —such as I
have had long since—before my eyes be closed. . . . My borrowed
house and another man's bed and fireside and other losses have no
room in my sorrow."
Yet what is the revelation of time concerning the ordeal of the "silenced" minister of sunny Anworth? He is now best known by his
famous "Letters," through which the treasures of his spiritual
experience have been scattered broadcast to thousands and most of
those letters were written from Aberdeen—and could never have been
written but for his exile there. When his Master seemed to have shut
him up into the hand of the enemy, He had verily set His servant's
feet in a large place. God puts us where we can do our best
work—provided we do what comes to our hand. But if Rutherford,
because he could no longer address many scores of hearers, had
grudged writing to a private friend here and there, then his own
life and the world at large would have been impoverished. Yet the
defect would have been wholly his. He who is content to do his best
is sure to fulfil the goodwill of his Father.
As Dr. Andrew Thomson says, "There are single lines and sentences
of Rutherford which are golden," and a few of these show the
quality of the mine whence they are taken. Look at these.
"Our Rock doth not ebb and flow, though our sea
"Our pride must have winter weather to rot it.
"There is not such a glassy, icy, and slippery piece of
way between you and heaven as
"As for friends, I shall not think the world to be the
world, if that well run not
"Temptations will come, but if they are not made
welcome by you, you have the
best of it."
During the Commonwealth that Stuart prince who afterwards reigned as
Charles II. made an abortive attempt to recover the crown of his
forefathers. This led to the last siege of Aberdeen by a Cromwellian
army in 1651. But it was an "occupation" rather than warfare. The
celebrated Bishop Burnett, who was a student of Marischal College at
the time, thus reports concerning the entrance of the regiments.
"There was an order and discipline, and a face of gravity and piety
among them that amazed all people. . . . They never disturbed the
public assemblies in the churches but once. They came and reproached
the preachers with laying things to their charge that was false. I
was then present: the debate grew very fierce: at last they drew
their swords, but there was no hurt done: yet Cromwell displaced the
Governor for not punishing this."
Was this the memorable day when the Rev. Andrew Cant—that stern
reformer, who had been a soldier, and was at once a Royalist and a
Covenanter―withstood the angry soldiers crowding round his pulpit,
baring his breast and inviting there smite if they would? He
certainly always had the courage of his opinions, though he was not
a lovable character, and cast a gloomy shadow on the form of
religion which he championed, so that he had eventually to leave the
city in consequence of culminating too many anathemas against his
flock. If he were on the scene when Cromwell's soldiers lapsed into
their solitary instance of disorder, doubtless they had
aggravations! Andrew Cant forgot that the sweetest sermon is that
preached by a life which has accepted the apostle's counsel and
taken into consideration, not only whatsoever things are true and
honourable and just, but also whatsoever things are pure and lovely,
and of good report. Yet his times, his training and his temperament
may have given him temptations which we can scarcely measure. "To
his own Master he standeth or falleth."
The English troops remained in the town for many years, building a
barrack for themselves on the Castle Hill, where the ancient records
speak of a "castle" in the time of Alexander III. It is said that to
further this work the Cromwellians did not scruple to take hewn
stones from the wreckage lying about the despoiled cathedral in Old
Aberdeen. But they can not be much blamed for this, since many of
the neighbouring proprietors had openly set them the bad example.
An old writer says that during the civil wars (of the Stuarts)
"There was no city in Scotland which did suffer more hurt than
Aberdeen did, nor oftener." Aberdeen indeed endured a long
persecution, but it did not learn mercy, which persecution never
teaches, save to natures of noblest calibre. On the whole, in those
days, Aberdeen was Royalist and Prelatic, though its Presbyterianism
was of the stiffest sort. Aberdeen showed no toleration for anything
that was not after one of its few set patterns in ritual and
politics. It was wholly unable to understand the "Quakers" when
their preaching began in 1662. It straightway proceeded to prevent
such people from "harbouring" within it, by issuing a municipal
mandate, withholding all "lodging and furtherance" from "Jesuits,
priests, Quakers, and other trafficking strangers." Yet from all we
can gather, the Society of Friends were particularly well
represented in Aberdeen, showing but few of those extravagances and
vagaries which in some places had tended to bring them into
discredit, and to bewilder outsiders. Though Barclay of Ury—a scion
of a great county family—startled Aberdeen by walking through it in
sackcloth and ashes, he was a man of proved learning and ability,
who had allied himself to the newest sect, because in Calvinists and
Catholics alike he had found "an absence of the principle of love,
a straitness of doctrine and a practice of persecution" which
offended his idea of Christianity. Barclay was frequently imprisoned
and publicly insulted. On one such occasion he remarked to a
"I find more satisfaction, as well as honour, in being thus insulted
for my religious principles, than when, a few years ago, it was
usual for the magistrates, as I passed the city of Aberdeen, to meet
me on the road and conduct me to public entertainment in their hall,
and then escort me out again, to gain my favour."
This incident gave the American "Friend," J. G. Whittier, the basis
of his poem, 'Barclay of Ury.'
Another prominent Aberdeen man who joined the Quakers was Alexander
Jaffray, the husband of Andrew Cant's daughter. He had been a
Presbyterian, an Independent, and a Fifth-Monarchy man, and had more
than once been Member of Parliament and provost of his native city. As a member of the new "Society," however, he and his colleague Skene quickly found the way to prison. It is well to remember that
the prisons of those days, though sadly deficient in sanitation and
decency, had some compensations in the way of free ingress and
egress. Not till 1697 was an order made that prisoners "should not
be allowed to go out of prison under silence of night, without
finding sufficient caution to the magistrates for their speedy
return." Skene's wife, Lillian Gillespie, has summed up her life's
experience in some verses worthy of preservation:―
"The bitterest trials I have passed
Or in my day have known,
The sweetest mercies have at last
To me, through them, been shown.
"Again, things I desired most
In all the whole creation,
Through these I was most hurt and crost
By burdens and temptation.
"Both when obtained and when denied,
They have afflictions been;
This by experience I have tried
And very clearly seen.
"Wherefore, my chastened soul, retire
Unto thy place of rest,
Let no temptation come so near
Thy quiet to molest.
"Abstract from all: cease from desires,
Forbear to have a will;
Wait till thou know what God requires,
Which cheerfully fulfil.
"Whose power is only prized by
That soul whom He hath weaned
And disciplined till it deny
The breasts to which it leaned."
It is sad to find that as soon as the persecutions of the Aberdeen
"Quakers" ceased, disunion crept among them, and diminished their
forces almost to vanishing point.
ROBERTSON says that it
was not till the year 1694 that Presbyterian ministers were fairly
installed in the pulpits of Aberdeen. The fate of the
Episcopal clergy was less severe there than in any other part of
Scotland. In the shire, Episcopal ministers lingered long in
certain parish manses—the parishioners of Old Deer, in 1711,
resisting, even to bloodshed, the "intrusion" of a Presbyterian
divine. The sympathy of Episcopacy with the rebellions in the
interests of the two Pretenders (1715 and 1745), brought about
another state of things, and all public Episcopal worship was
"suppressed" in Scotland generally. Even then the Episcopal
communion maintained more vitality in Aberdeen than elsewhere.
One man of beautiful Christian character whose whole life was
passed under this ban was John Skinner, minister of Longside, who
was educated at Marischal College, and died, as late as 1807, in the
Aberdeen house of his son, that Bishop of Aberdeen who gathered his
stricken flock together in a private house in Long Acre, and who, in
1784, in an upper chamber there, consecrated Bishop Seabury, the
first bishop of the American Episcopal Church.
John Skinner was not a Jacobite, and complied, so far as he could,
with all conditions laid down by the Hanoverian Government. Yet his
house was pillaged, and his chapel burned by the Hanoverian
soldiery, and he himself was imprisoned for six months. Nothing of
this could sour him. Dean Ramsay tells of him that when passing the
door of a small anti-burgher chapel (the least popular of all forms
of Presbyterianism) and hearing the congregation singing, he took
off his hat. "What!" said his companion, "do you feel so much
sympathy with anti-burghers!" "No," answered Mr. Skinner, "but I
respect and love any of my fellow Christians who are engaged in
singing to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ." His last request
was, "Lay me down beside Mr. Brown (the Presbyterian minister), he
and I got on very well together during life."
The disabilities of the Scottish Episcopal clergy were not even
lightened till 1792. The writer of this paper remembers, when a tiny
child seated on her father's knee, hearing him recount that his own
earliest recollection was of a day when a sudden silence fell about
the Aberdeenshire farm which was his birthplace. Work seemed
suspended. The child wandering about, noticed the cat lapping
unmolested at a pan of milk left in the deserted dairy, and ran into
the house crying, "The cat's at the cream," only to find himself in
the midst of the assembled household clustered about the proscribed
minister who was privately administering baptism to the family's
youngest born, himself destined to become a dignitary of the same
John Skinner of Longside is most popularly known as the author of
two ballads, "The ewie wi' the crookit horn" (in which some do
see an allegory), and "Tullochgorum," which won highest praise from
Robert Burns, and every line of which breathes the spirit of a
nature that could not be embittered and would not be depressed.
Though the city of Aberdeen in the main attached itself to the House
of Hanover, this new loyalty was by no means unanimous, specially in
the surrounding country. At least three popular Jacobite songs come
from the district: "The day our king comes o'er the water"
(written by Lady Mary Drummond while staying at Inverugie, a
picturesque neighbouring castle, only recently fallen into total
ruin), "The wind comes from the land I love," the song of a
daughter of the attainted Mar family, "Wha wadna fecht for Charlie?"
a "lilt" from the bleak Buchan region. Also in the pathetic song
"Logie o' Buchan," known to have been in existence about 1740 (which,
from its subject, and many of its turns of expression, may well have
given suggestion to Lady Anne Lindsay's more widely known "Auld
Robin Gray"), it seems clear that the "taking awa' of Jamie" was
due to some of these "risings." In those troubled days many a
"lassie's" heart must have responded wearily to the simple wail.
"I sit on my creepie, I spin at my wheel,
An' think on the laddie that lo'ed me sae weel;
He had but ae saxpence, he brake it in twa
An' gied me the hauf o't when he gade awa'."
An interesting association between Aberdeen and song, concerns the
beautiful ballad, "The Boatie rows," attributed to an Aberdeen
jeweller, one John Ewen. For half a century his claim to the
authorship was undisputed. Then a Glasgow writer asserted that the
song had been known for a hundred years before Ewen's time (he lived
in the latest years of last century and in the beginning of this). It was said to have been called "The Fisher's rant of Fittie"—Footdee being Aberdeen's "fisher's town," and to have been merely
"abridged' by Ewen. But no proof of these assertions seems to be
offered. Nor has any other copy of any older version been found. It
seems, however, quite possible that John Ewen may have taken some
coarse, local rhyme, and lifted its subject to a higher level. It is
hard to imagine that the name "Fisher's Rant" could ever have been
given to verses so full of the simple dignity of humble life as
When Sawnie, Jock, and Janetie,
Are up and gotten lear,
They'll help to gar the boatie row
An' lighten a' our care.
The boatie rows, the boatie rows,
The boatie rows fu' weel:
And lightsome be her heart that bears
The murlain and the creel!
"An' when wi' age we are worn down,
And hirpling round the door,
They'll row to keep us hale and warm
As we did them before.
Then weel may the boatie row,
That wins the bairns' bread:
And happy be the lot of a'
That wish the boat to speed."
John Ewen's history is another instance that true imaginative
insight and literary taste, by no means disqualify their owner for
practical life and public duty. He was the first to organise active
resistance to the succession of family cliques which had long ruled
and exploited Aberdeen. Before 1469, its municipal government had
been elected by the voice of all the citizens. It is indeed believed
to be the first known example of popular municipal election in
these islands. But about this time, oddly enough, willing
representatives became few, and in 1474 it was enacted that the old
Town Council should elect the new one, and that the old and the new
should elect the magistrates. In 1591, James VI. issued a mandate
restoring the annual election, but with this most deadening clause,
that seated members were "to continue in office till their decease,
or till found guilty of any fault or crime." The result of this was
that three or four families got hold of the reins of municipal power
and never let them go. Mr. George Walker says, in his interesting
"Entrance into the Town Council was either the easiest or the most
difficult thing possible—all depended on the entrants having friends
already within it. Brains and ability in outsiders were sometimes
desirable—under proper control—but otherwise they simply served as
temporary stop-gaps. The poor man, who, by his wisdom, might be able
to save a city, had very little chance indeed of doing so if he was
not connected with, or dependent on, the ruling family for the
It was really feudalism translated into a borough.
John Ewen and his reforming colleagues had the usual lot of people
who are half a century before their time. They brought in a Bill
seeking to remedy the sad state of things in which self-elected
magistrates were not only allowed to spend public money how they
pleased, but also to contract public debts which the townspeople had
to pay. But it did not become an Act of Parliament for many years
afterwards, being, writes Mr. George Walker, "considered as
revolutionary as the sheep controlling the shepherd." Mr. William
Walker, however, adds that by persistent perseverance, Ewen and his
colleagues did secure the first effective measure which gave better
paving, lighting, and cleansing to the streets of Aberdeen.
It is quite likely that the reforming zeal of the poet and his
friends grew out of indignation stirred by the iniquitous
participation of some of their municipal rulers in that "kidnapping"
for the "American plantations" which terrorised the city of Aberdeen
between 1740 and 1746:—a crime not less terrible because in that
season of famine and dire distress, certain parents were actually
induced to sell their own children for this purpose! More than six
hundred of these miserable conscripts were carried off from Aberdeen
port, and "indentured" for terms of years to masters who might whip
them as they pleased, and who might punish every attempt to escape
by an added year of slavery. There was little secrecy about the
matter, save as to the pecuniary connection between it and the men
in power. The house where these poor victims were detained till they
could be deported, is still pointed out on the "Green," near the
stair leading up to Union Street. The sufferers belonged to the poor
and ignorant class, and felt themselves wholly in the power of those
above them. One writer says, any
"who endeavoured to procure the restoration of their children were
menaced with imprisonment and banishment, and were so terrified at
these impotent threats that they abandoned their attempts. . . .
When a father, who had been robbed of his son, instituted an action
for redress before the Lords of Session, no officer in Aberdeen could
be prevailed on to cite the parties to appear in Court."
We must bear in mind that it does not follow that such forms of evil
have disappeared because they have disappeared from "our ain countrie." There are still places under civilised rule where the
bulk of the population to-day are as ignorant, helpless, and as
practically dumb, as were the humbler Aberdonians of a century and a
half ago. Their interests, therefore, should be entrusted to none
whose own interest may lie in their exploitation. Those who could be
best trusted with such power are always the least willing to possess
it. The aim to be steadily kept in view as to any race—or
individual should be to fit it or him for complete self-government. Nobody can take care of anybody so well as he should be able to take
care of himself.
In 1757, Peter Williamson, one of the kidnapped lads, returned to
this country, a grown man, and anxious to see his old home and
relatives, presently arrived at Aberdeen. Thereupon his exposure of
the kidnapping system incurred the wrath of the magistrates, and by
their tribunal he was convicted of having issued "an infamous
libel on the Corporation of the City of Aberdeen, and whole members
thereof." By the word "infamous" they justly characterised the
plain truth, which they miscalled "libel"! Williamson's book was
burned at the Market Cross by the common hangman, he was imprisoned,
fined, and banished from the city. But a few years later the tables
turned, and, though those who had been most active in the whole
scandal were by that time sheltered from criminal proceedings by an
Act of indemnity, yet in the Civil Courts they were heavily fined,
such fines being specially ordered to be taken from their private
means, and not from the city funds. Thus in the case of one out of
the kidnapped six hundred, a measure of justice was tardily done. But that must not make us forget the remaining five hundred and
ninety-nine. Peter Williamson himself seems to have been a man of
exceptional talents and energy, and some idea of the good service
the world must lose when it ignores the rights of the poor and
helpless, may be gathered from the fact that after he got this small
restitution and settled in Edinburgh, he was the first to print and
publish a street directory of that city, while he also established
there a private "penny post," and carried it on for sixteen years
with so much success that when, in 1792, it was absorbed by the
General Post Office, compensation was awarded to him.
Having admitted this sad story of Aberdeen cupidity and lawlessness
towards the close of last century, we may be allowed to let two
rays of light from the same period
fall across our page. One of them may have arisen out of the very
cloud itself. For it is said that the first to write systematically
against the slave trade was an Aberdeen minister, the Rev. James
Ramsay, a graduate of King's College. He published his pamphlet in
1785. The other gleam is a noble utterance by Principal Campbell,
who in 1779, wrote certain sentences which ring true and timely
"Let Popery," said this worthy man, "be as bad as you will—call it
Beelzebub if you please. It is not by Beelzebub that I am for
casting out Beelzebub, but by the Spirit of God. . . . In the most
unlovely spirit of Popery, and with the unhallowed arms of Popery,
ye would fight against Popery."
It is not for nothing that the Aberdeen song of the "Boatie"
dwells on the future day
"When Sawney, Jock, and Janetie,
Have up and gotten lean."
For from earliest ages, Aberdeen has been pre-eminently educational. It had two "universities" of its own, while two sufficed for all
England. And those universities were so organised that their
advantages were open to the humblest, which remains, more or less,
true to-day, especially of King's College. In 1860 the two
Universities were amalgamated, King's taking the "Arts" side, while
the departments of medicine and science are relegated to Marischal
College. One of the continental customs followed in Aberdeen and
other Scottish universities, is that the students do not live "in
residence," but select their own quarters, and outside the college
bounds are subject to no control save as are other citizens. This
permits the practice of great individual economy. Nearly all the
students of King's College are of Scottish origin, but the medical
school of Marischal College attracts many students not only from
England, but from Britain's farthest colonies. The comparative quiet
of the city and its bracing atmosphere are much in its favour as a
seat of learning. The average number of students is about eight
hundred, the number being divided between the two colleges. Ladies
having been recently admitted as students, are coming forward in
considerable numbers. Among the distinguished professors and alumni
of Aberdeen University in the past, may be mentioned Bishop Burnet,
Sir George Mackenzie, Sir James Mackintosh, Sir James McGrigor, Sir
James Clark, Sir John Forbes, James Clerk Maxwell, and Dr. Hill
Burton. There is not a colony which has not utilised the skill of
Aberdeen medical graduates, and its "arts men" are a prominent
element in matters educational, in journalism, and in the highest
walks of the Civil Service. Besides its ancient Grammar School,
still flourishing in modern buildings, Aberdeen has the great
educational institution of Gordon's Hospital, originally endowed by
a penurious citizen for the benefit of a few necessitous lads, but
now devoted to the larger uses of a public school. It has also a
Girls' High School handsomely lodged in the best quarter of the
city. Its Board Schools, its Art School and its technical classes
are all well-endowed and well equipped. Aberdeen lads and lasses
generally take a high position wherever they compete, and the first
lady to receive the London University Degree of "Doctor" for
Original Research was an Aberdeen woman. In a widely different
direction, Aberdeen also took a lead in a matter educational. The
late Sheriff Watson had opened his industrial school, to ensure the
feeding and clothing as well as the teaching of "ragged" children
even earlier than the same idea was developed in Edinburgh by Dr.
Guthrie. The foundation of other industrial schools followed his.
Aberdeen also possessed, till recently, a large Boys' Reformatory
School. Though, in a local work published in 1893, it was
optimistically stated that "the lads receive a good education at
Old Mill, tempered with refining influences such as music and
singing—and are healthy and happy," yet the institution has since
been proved to be such an utter failure in attaining its purposed
ends that it has been abandoned. The whole question of the best
method of dealing with neglected, depraved or "difficult" children
is still in its infancy.
SHIP ROW, ABERDEEN.
At a first glance, the Aberdeen of to-day looks wholly modern,
partly because the granite of which it is built does not readily
contract a blackened hue in the pure northern air, and partly
because such of the oldest quarters of the city as remain, are
hidden from all but enquiring visitors. Every stranger goes to see
the two colleges, the cathedral, and the old "Brig." But the few
remaining stately old houses of past times are so swamped in the
slums that strangers do not readily find them. The slum area of
Aberdeen is but small, so small that one is inclined to ask why it
does not disappear altogether. Changes are already hanging over much
of it, and must be looked for joyfully, even though they must sweep
away many things antique and interesting. When these have been once
allowed to sink to a certain point of dilapidation and squalor,
there remains nothing to be done but "to bury the dead out of our
sight." In this connection I always recall a saying of Dr.
Guthrie's, as we stood on the steps of his church in Edinburgh, and
he told me of the imminent doom of a picturesque old pile on which
we gazed. I was loud in the sentimental regrets of a dreaming girl. "Well, young lady," answered the doctor, "if you want that house to
be kept, then you should be made to live in it."
Such objections of abject squalor and foulness did not, however,
apply to two notable houses which have gone down in Aberdeen during
recent years. The one was the old house of Rubislaw, dating from
early in 1600, remarkable for showing the humble domestic
requirements of leading families of the past, even though their
rooms had been adorned with paintings in panel, one of which
lingered till the very last. The other was on School Hill, and there
is good evidence that it was the residence of Jameson, the Scottish Vandyck, to whose family belonged the lady who wrought the quaint
tapestries which now hang in the west churches. Both the east and
the west churches, with their intervening aisles and their "fat kirkyard" are full of historical and antiquarian objects.
The most striking and accessible of the old houses still left, is
one up a close in the Guest-row (or Ghost-row, as it seems to have
been called, though no tradition tells us why). It is now used as
the Victoria Lodging House and is kept in substantially good order
and is readily shown to visitors. It was once the home of
well-placed people, and the Duke of Cumberland lodged here when he
was in the North in "the Butcher" of Culloden business. He and his
suite had free quarters here, yet on departing, they packed up
everything on which they could lay hands in the way of plate, linen
and other household-providing. The owners got no payment or other
Another old house, fast tottering to its ruin, may be seen with its
enclosed court about the middle of the narrow "Ship row." It is a
very curious specimen of Scottish domestic architecture.
The ancient market cross has been called the finest in Scotland. It
won the special admiration of the late Emperor Frederick William. It
dates from 1686, and was the work of a mason from an Aberdeenshire
village. Early in this century, the general postal work of Aberdeen
could be accomplished within the tiny circle of its colonnade, then
walled in. The General Post Office now has a large building in
Market Street and is on
the wing to bigger premises farther west.
Marischal College has recently had additions on a large scale, which
are, however, rather out of keeping with the austere simplicity of
the earlier building (which, however, was the original one).
Both Marischal and King's are happy hunting for the lover of old
pictures, prints and similar treasures. The chapel of King's is its
oldest remaining part, and contains some rare oak carving. Its
recent restoration and the filling up of its windows with stained
glass figures of colossal size have somewhat diminished the charms
which its ancient loveliness had even in decay. The beautiful
"Crown" of the college, such a striking feature from the seashore
has stood as it is since 1633 when it replaced an earlier one which
was blown down.
Aberdeen possesses a large and much valued Free Library, with
reference and reading-rooms. It is worth while to pay a visit to the
Trades' Hall on Union Bridge to see the curious antique furniture
treasured there; and then to look in at the Hall of the Trades'
Unions in Belmont Street and study the decorations which it has
lately received as "a labour of love" from a living artist. Though
recent alterations have deprived the city of its old holiday haunts
at its banished Wells of Spa, Firhill, etc., it has added to its
amenities, three parks, the Duthie Park, Victoria Park, house
garden, and the Stewart Park. All are situated near crowded, working
class districts while even the "slum" area of the city is within a
few minutes' walk of the pleasant waving "links" and yellow sands
which skirt the breezy shore of the German Ocean.
The city has two daily newspapers and two evening issues. William
Alexander, author of "Johnny Gibb," and "Life amang our
was for many years editor of the Daily Free Press. His works are
matchless delineations of locale life and dialect—but they are much
more than that, for they prove that the most relentless realism is
compatible both with truth to the larger issues of human nature and
with the tenderest idealism. Professors Bain and Masson may be
mentioned among Aberdeen's many surviving sons, and none among these
is more "leal" than the poet W. C. Smith, author of "Olrig Grange,"
"Raban," etc. George Macdonald, the poet and novelist, was educated
at King's College; and among older literary names more or less
associated with the city, either by birth or residence, we may
mention Beattie, Robert Hall, Campbell, Byron―who lived, as a boy,
at another "doomed" old house, 61, Broad Street—and eccentric
Alexander Cruder, to whom generations of Bible readers owe gratitude
for his wonderful Concordance. Among the many divines who have
served their day and generation in Aberdeen, probably the kindest
memories linger round that Irishman, good Dr. Kidd, who in his old
age would go about the streets patting the children on the head, and
bidding them "Be all good; be all good."
One can scarcely close a paper on Aberdeen without a few remarks on
the characteristics of the Aberdeen people. Both friends and foes
admit that they have characteristics, and are not so wholly
disagreed as to what those characteristics are, as to make it hard
to see the reality which is looked at from the different sides! A
few items taken at random from civic records (as narrated by Mr. Cadenhead), reveal something. In 1749, a boy rifles the poor box of
the old cathedral and is detected by the number of farthings and bad
halfpence which he presently introduced into his sports. Four years
later, a parishioner was fined for disturbing the harmony of the
most important city choir simply that he might do despite to one of
the college professors. Then, when the name of the House of Hanover
was finally introduced into the public prayers, there were old
citizens who put their fingers into their ears, and coughed loudly
to drown the sound of King George's name. Again, when Provost
Cruickshank "illegally" placed his private arms on Ruthrieston
Bridge, and the town ordered the city heraldry to be substituted,
the thrifty mason turned the Provost's stone and cut the new
inscription on its back! Aberdeen humour is dry and caustic, as Dr.
Samuel Johnson found out, when standing in Castle Street, watching a
man "harling" (rough-casting) a house; he said: "But perhaps, my
man, I am in your way," and got the prompt reply: "Na, na, sir, if
ye're hae in your ain wye, ye're nae in mine," straightway splashing
on with his lime, and "sparking" the great doctor. John Wesley said
of the Aberdonians: "They were swift to hear, slow to speak, not
slow to wrath." Professor Masson, himself a "town's bairn," has
described the people of his birthplace as "a population of Saturday
reviewers in a crude state."
On the other hand, though the Aberdonian may be "canny" and "pawky,"
yet southern strangers remark how readily the humbler citizens
render little services without thought of "tipping," nay, often
with blunt resentment against any such suggestion. Then there is a
very characteristic story of the old servant woman who used to help
the son of her master the minister with his notes of his father's
sermons. Suddenly, the divine found something in the notes which he
had not said, "a new idea," as be put it, and "interesting." The lad
was taken aback, and took an early opportunity to speak on the
matter to his adviser. "That's it, is it?" said Nannie, "weel, weel,
all I can say is that if he didna say it, he ought to have said it!" A
present day writer compares the native temperament to "a volcano
under a mountain of snow." Mr. Gladstone considered the people of
the city and county are specially distinguished for force of mind
and character. "They wander all over the world, and no emigrants
attach themselves more loyally to the lands of their choice than do
these genuine settlers," but they never lose a tender recollection
of what has been called "The silver city by the sea," nor fail to
stretch a warm hand of welcome to any who come from it.