Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

temperance themselves, by continual and convenient exclamations of Educate! Educate! I cannot help observing, that although since 1822, Mechanics’ Institutes have increased and multiplied, so far from the result being that they have banished intemperance, the consumption of ardent spirits has since then increased three-fold. I am happy however to be able to record the following evidence of the beginning of clearer principles held by the operative classes on this subject. The committee of a mechanics' library lately received a present of books from a few ship-builder lads, having been purchased with their share of launching-bowl money. A few weeks afterwards the same committee received another present in somewhat the following unexpected manner. It must be premised, that there is a certain drinking-usage among artisans denominated “ raising of the wind." It takes place when a violent craving for a social debauch arises, and there is no immediate prospect of its being gratified through the regular medium of an apprentice or journeyman's entry, or other established

usage. In this case, the owner of an old hat or snuff-box is persuaded to set it up to sale, the men bid against each other, it is disposed of to the highest bidder, and the price forms the basis of a small fund : this is added to by the other men according to a rate agreed upon, and the amount, and generally a great deal more, is spent at night in the public-house. Upon the occasion in question, an old hat was put up, and after an animated auction, was knocked down to a certain individual, and a sum raised in the usual way. It appears, however, that the owner of the hat, from caprice or some other motive, demurred to parting with it till he knew fully what was to be done with the price, under a pretended ignorance on this point: “What’s to be done with the cash ?” quoth he: "you must tell me before I part with my beaver.” A shout of indignation from the more thirsty members at his effrontery and simulation succeeded: but the party persisted in raising objections, and finally brought in the aid of science and literature. “Ye're aye bleezing about that library of yours," said he; and he then proposed to subscribe the money to that institution, instead of " discippling the gills._"Done! done !” cried a number of young fellows; "a debate! a debate !" And as free discussion was the order of the day, some time (after work) was devoted to the purpose; and wonderful to relate, on a vote being called, it was found that a considerable majority were favourable to buying books for the library; which was forth with done accordingly.

ness.

We have adverted to the accumulation of evil that accrues on the smallest sum being voted for drink, as being only a nucleus for extensive intoxication: we now refer to the system of reciprocation, as being attended with baneful effects, but have not time to pursue it. Spirituous liquor is a chief medium of courtesy between the higher and lower classes ; but it is occasionally one of extreme danger to the inebriate and his family, as making a beginning, and setting him on the tipple, as it is called, even though he should have resolved against it. A lady, in settling with a farmer for his butter and cheese, brings out the bottle and glass with her own hands, and presses it on his acceptance. How can he refuse a lady, soliciting him to do that to which he is, perhaps, unfortunately already more than half inclined? Porters, hackney-coachmen, and even female servants, are literally killed with this kind

Washer-women have the glaring mistake instilled into them, that spirits are necessary for their hard work. Seamen are generally put on board drunk by their friends, and immense losses happen from their inebriation, of which the owners little guess. Several versions of the following tragic tale have been given me from authentic sources; it seems to have been much as follows:

A lady, some time ago, in her daily pursuit of objects on whom to bestow comforts and blessings derived from the resources of a large fortune and benevolent heart, found on a miserable pallet, in a miserable dwelling, a wretched female, in great bodily agony, and, as it turned out, a few hours only from dissolution. She learned with grief that this poor woman was a victim of intemperance, and that a course of drunken habits was dragging her into a premature grave. After a few selemn words to the dying creature, the lady was surprised that she turned round and feebly said, “Madam, do you not know me?” So altered, however, were the sunk and emaciated features, that it was some time before she recognised the changed countenance of one who had formerly been her laundry servant. Much moved at the sight, the lady exclaimed, “Ah! is it you,—in such a place, in such distress, and oh! in such perilous circumstances as regards your immortal soul ?” _“It is,” replied the dying woman with firmness and composure; “ here I am, and it is you who have brought me to this.” If a beam out of the wall had spoken the sentence, Mrs. could not have been more confounded. Madam," continued the departing sinner, "dinna you mind how often I refused, how unwilling I was to taste ?-I mean

[ocr errors]

the whisky at the washing-oh! and how you pressed me till’t, and gart me do't. Oh! dinna ye min that? and how sair I pled wi' you, that you wud na gar me do't?”

Neglects from inconsiderateness, want of attention, not looking about us to see what we have to do, are often attended with consequences altogether as dreadful as any active misbehaviour, from the most extravagant passions.*

CHAPTER IV.

SCOTTISH USAGEScontinued.

Attempts at Reformation made abortive by the Usages-Idle-Monday-Launch

Bowl, description of—Abrogation of, in some cases-Customs among Women -Domestic Servants--Drunkenness of Women-Presbyterial Drink Usages -Usages during Sitting of General Assembly-Clergyman's Servant-Kirk Officers-Ministers-Gown Sealing-Usages of Masons-Foundation and

Roofing Pints--Joist-money. There is, at times, no man who is more alive to the evils of his situation and future prospects, than the inebriate himself : often has he been heard with tears, and with a qualm at his heart, to wish accursed whisky were banished from Scotland; and he would be still farther sighted did he wish the execrable drinking usages expatriated too. In the moment of sobriety and reason, no eye can survey with an emotion like his, the bare walls of his black and gloomy hovel; the limping table only left; the bedstead—a hard board, eked by the lair of wood-shavings in the dirty wet corner; the fire extinguished and the cold chink admitting mournful light from beyond; the children idle, vagrant, guilty-long since taken from school-wandering on the borders of juvenile delinquency and crime; the wife sullen and steeled, or broken-hearted, and herself on the brink of the irretrievable gulf. Such a one has been known to form the most desperate resolves against intoxication; but alas! his own countrymen and countrywomen, his neighbours, relatives and friends, have combined, as if with the powers of darkness, to prevent any good result from such indefinite, general intentions; too general, and too indefinite, for producing consequences, as we have elsewhere shown.t Total abstinence is his only hope,—distance, continuous sepa

* Butler. + Extent and Remedy of National Intemperance, pp. 30, 31,

ration throughout life from the sight, smell, yea, if possible, from the mental conception of the destructive bottle. But some usage intervenes, which is considered imperative; if he refuse, it is to offend, as it were, all mankind-at least all his own circle; he would thereby be convicted of unsociableness, want of coinmon manners, wish to break rules, to follow divisive courses; he would be found guilty of meanness, if he did not, on proper occasion, give his glass. The point of honour is unredressed by all the remonstrances of all the Teetotal Societies, on their present foundation. He goes forth, it may be, some morning, sober and resolved; perhaps he madly swears upon the Evangelists, in his own feeble strength, against general inebriation; his wife's settled and faded features relax into something like a smile; the children once more come round their father and mother; he pledges himself by a strong rude

grasp of the hand, and is indubitably, for the moment, determined and conscientious; when lo! before nightfall some benevolent patron, it may be, some well-meaning customer, some bosom friend, lets out the stream of death afresh, in something like a paroxysm of courtesy, good-will, etiquette, and kindness; and he comes back, not to gladden his family with the day's wages unspent, and to bless them with returning plenty and peace, but trailed on the shoulders of men to his calamitous home, he is fitted by despair, in the ruin of his first attempt at reform, to descend into yet lower depths. Such are the specific, experienced, and ascertained effects of those perilous usages, which it seems the perverse and peculiar delight of our peasantry, of our gentlemen, of our ladies, of our ministers of religion, to river and perpetuate upon the land.

Colliers, shoemakers, hatters, and others, sometimes do not work at all on Mondays, and great damage is done to the cause of morality among individuals of those professions on these leisure days.

The launching bowl is a bonus of drink, varying from two to ten pounds, according to the size of the ship, bestowed by the owners on the apprentices of a ship-building yard, at the launch of a vessel. The graving bowl is given to the journeymen after a vessel is paid with tar. Sums are also given for the purpose of drinking at taking in and out of the dry dock. The operatives of the sugar-refining business expect a yearly gratuity in the same beverage, from all tradesmen and others by whom

sugar-house is supplied with necessaries and repair. The Luggage Steam-boat Companies are assailed about

annum.

New-year's-day with demands, not from their own workmen, but from those of their customers. One of these establishments paid lately from thirty to forty pounds for this item per

The launch bowl, not being a weekly or daily usage, is comparatively innocent; yet its universal abrogation, as far as drinking is concerned, would be a happy event for the apprentices in the ship-building yards; reserving the gift of money bestowed by the owners upon occasions of a launch, to be disposed of in a more expedient manner. The effects of this usage may be thus described :-After a dance, and severe debauch all night, forty or fifty strong young men may be seen roaming about the country next day, in a formidable band, provided with two large stone-ware bottles of ardent spirits. They seem scarcely actuated by any particular motive in their line of march. Sometimes they sit down among the rocks on the sea shore, and out of their vessels add fuel to the flame: they are eyed all this time with jealousy and fear by passengers. Sometimes they start up, and move away quickly, and are next found occupying the walls of the highway for a considerable space in the manner of crows, using force in their mad folly to those inadvertent travellers whom they can lay hands upon, obliging them to drink whisky; and sometimes employing the most ferocious and obscene language to females of every rank and station that pass; sometimes they are seen running at the top of their speed in one group, yelling and blaspheming. Mothers call in their children all around, and bar the doors of the house; farmers and others pass, if possible, another way; the country seems as if in the hands of a foreign enemy; they perhaps suddenly stop, quarrel among themselves, and vociferate what nobody can understand ; in a few seconds a number of strong men strip themselves, fight, bleed, and welter among the mud of the road. This may continue for hours, for there is no principle of order among them; discord rules triumphant. Individual acts of aggression cannot be discovered among so many, to form any subject of public prosecution; and if their friends are complained to, the answer may be ready—“Hoot! puir chiels, it was only the launch bowl; they would na' hurt a flee if they had na' got a glass ;” and yet the very parents who return this hypocritical answer, may have been trembling for weeks at what might eventually be the results of this particular frolic. The whisky vessels, rer, run dry; the drunken excitement flags; depression and collapse commence; the party stop their hostility,

« ForrigeFortsæt »