The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, MAY 21, 1889. THE ROXBURGH WAIFS.
I fair average specimens of savage huma- ! nity. No doubt if this be done the Court will see to it that the burden is ' not thrown wholly upon the State, but that tho father shall contribute towards the maintenance of the children such sum as he may be found able to pay.
Quite a bensation was caused m town yesterday on the appearance m the streets, and subsequently m the Magistrate's Court, of the three little waifs from Roxburgh — the one up Alford Forest way we mean, not the Otago township of that name. Waifs we call them advisedly, became though they have a father, and that father has a dwelling, of a sort, most assuredly they hare no one to care for them as children Bhould be oared for, the parental ownership of these poor little things evidently carrying with it no sense of responsibility. We have seen guttersnipes m the slums of London, dirty, unkempt and m rags, but we never saw children even m the purlieus of St Giles who presented a more deplorable spectacle. Olothes they had none, for the filthy strips of rags which constituted their sole and single gar* ment, and which m color and texture resembled nothing so much as a dirty lamp cloth, failed to cover their naked' ness, while heads and legs and feet were wholly innocent of corering other than an incrustation of dirt. These poor little creatures, aged respectively nine, seven and five years, are, it seems, three of a family of five, the youngest being a child of two years, and the eldest a boy of eleven or twelve, whose mother has been dead since the time of the birth of the youngest, and whose father is the owner of • freehold of 100 acres m the locality above mentioned. On the rißit of the police to his house, or hovel, it was found that the father had left home (!) with the intention of being absent a fortnight, and a lump of hard bread and a bunch of raw carrots were all the food that could be seen (though perhaps not quite all there was, for we hear that the man pleads that there were plenty of eggs about the place), while there was neither bed, blankets, table nor chairs. It tran» spires that the children have been sleeping out under a hedge with one piece of blanket only to cover them, and their breakfast one day certainly consisted ot raw turnips, and their dinner on another of raw carrots. Marvellous to relate, notwithstanding all this, they appear to be strong and healthy, but they have not the slightest sense of decencey or cleanliness, conduoting themselves as to their habits like animals — rather with less regard to cleanliness than most animals. And all this m the nineteenth century, and m the midst of a piyilised community, where but for the interference of the pplice at the instigation of indignant neighbors this unfortunate family were growing up m a lower condition than that of the lowest of savage races. The thing seems almost incredible, but is nevertheless true. And now comes the question as to what is to be done with them. "The Destitute Persons Act 1877" and itp amendments fail to meet the oase. The principal Apt (that of 1877) provides, that when a father or mother deserts his or her children or wilfully fails to provide them with adequate means oi support, such father or mother may be compelled to pay for their main tenance such reasonable sum and to such person as a Magistrate may think fit 7 and the defendant (the defaulting parent) may be sent to gaol for any term not exceeding six oatendar montbp, with or without hard labor. This may perhaps be held to imply that the Court can hand over the custody of the shildfen \q spme person other than the parent, but it dp.es not Ptate so distinctly, and it certainly seems to us that m this -**c it is necessary m the interests of the childreE fa nd of Society) that they should be removeu fro* the custody of the father. "The Industrial Schools Act 1882" may perhaps meet the case, but it is a moot point whether it does, section eiacteea, (empowering any constable to take before a Resident Magistrate (who has power to commit to an Industrial School) "any child found wandering about . , . or sleeping m the open air, and not having any home or settled place of abode, or any visible means of subgistence. The " sleeping m the open air " is apparently provable m this case, but it must, we take it, be shown, also that the children have no home or settled place of abode." If the last five words, which we have italicised are to be taken as interpretative of the word " home " then the section seems to us to fail to meet the case, becauße the father's house may be held to be the settled place of abode of the children, but if they may be interpreted as alternative, then the difficulty disappears, for it surely cannot be contended that a dwelling such as theirs, where there are absolutely no comforts or even necessaries, corned within the intent and meaning of the word " home." Such a case as the present is so extraordinary that it may be that the Legislature has failed to contemplate its possibility, but we hope that it will be found that there is sufficient statutory provision to meet it, and that the entire family will be gent to St Mary's or some other suitable institution where they wity he brought up m a manner calculated to under their useful memb/srs of feociety instead of growing up ift ttriaery anji ignorance, under coa-