The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 1882. A Happy Home.
[lssued at 430 p.m.j
Charles Dickens is frequently charged with exaggeration. People are wont to say that such a picture as he has given us in “ Nicholas Nickleby” of “ Dotheboys Hall, near the delightful village of Greta in Yorkshire,” where youth were clothed, fed, provided with pocket money, and had their morals and washing looked after for £2O per annum, is altogether overdrawn j and yet several such places as the den kept by Squeers actually existed at the time the famous novel made its appearance. Thanks, however, to the manner in which they have been exposed, and the doings of the miscreants who ruled over them laid bare, these places have long since been swept and England knows them no more—at least that was the general
opinion jap to a few weeks ago, when certain revelations in connection with the St. Paul’s Industrial School, at the East Encii of the city, startled and horrified all London. The sickening stories of the things transpiring at the last-mentioned Home for Neglected and Criminal Juveniles caused a special Board of Inquiry to sit to investigate the charges preferred against the master, Hinchliffe (a ruffian if there ever was one) and his fiendish assistants. That enquiry elicited the fact that for the last five or six years there had been no board or other meeting in connection with the school, and although a certain Mr Thomas Scrutton and the Government inspectors paid thej place occasional visits, the institution was practically left in the hands of the monster Hinchliffe and his myrmidons! One cannot read of the things done at this Reformatory, as it was called, but which would be much more accurately described as a hell upon earth, without feeling indignant and ashamed that such places as the St. Paul’s school should exist at this late day of our boasted civilization, and in the heart of a great city like London. Hdlf starved, dirty, ragged, unkempt and uncared for, mercilessly beaten for the most trivial offences, and in constant terror of the tyrant Hinchliffe and his men, the lives of these poor little fellows must have been sad ones indeed. So ravenously hungry were these boys, that they were forced at times to steal the bread thrown to the house-dog, the punishment for which, when the offence was detected, was whipping and solitary confinement in a dark cell for weary hours at a stretch. It actually came out in the evidence elicited at the enquiry that one poor boy, who was prevented by illness from finishing his allotted task of sackmaking, was cruelly beaten with a birch rod the very day before he died. Another lad stated to the Commissioners that he had had to wear a pair of socks six months at a time, and his feet were in such a state that the doctor has said that the amputation of one of his toes will be necessary. Can we feel surprised that another wretched pupil took poison in order to escape by death from the horror of his daily life and surroundings? At length a Mrs Surr, a member of the London School Board, having had her suspicions aroused, demanded an enquiry, and failing to obtain one, straightway carried her petition to the Home Secretary. Meantime an event occurred which suddenly attracted the eyes' of the public on the school. Some of the boys, goaded on by the brutal treatment to which they were subjected, set fire .to the building, and although the fire was extinguished before any damage was done, Hinchliffe (the rascally superintendent) had the audacity to send eight of the small incendiaries before the Magistrate—ar;d the cat walked out of the bag. The Home Secretary ordered the school to; be closed and the children removed, and now another board of management has been appointed. We trust the humane Mr Hinchliffe may be tried criminally, and may meet with hli deserts. Surely no one ever more ricjhly merited punishment. Things at the school may be better under the new regime , but the appointment of a new Board does not in any way exonerate the old Board, or compensate the poor children for the suffering they have experienced through that Board’s neglect. The fact is these industrial schools, whether at home or abroad, cannot be inspected too often. The masters or superintendents have a great deal of power placed in their hands, and the temptation to exceed that power is no doubt at times very great. Therefore such places cannot, wti repeat, be inspected too often by competent officers, whose duty it should be to : report at head-quarters even the smallest remissness.