Continued front page 3917, Part 32

The Heart of the Mission - Enthusiasm of the Members - A Pension Fund - Construction "Work in Canada - Builders of the Empire - Comedy and Drama

It is impossible to express one's admiration for the lady workers of the Christian Excavators' Union. They think nothing of walking great distances through the rain, snow, and bitter weather in winter time, perhaps to meet half a dozen members of the union on a Saturday night, to visit the women and sick in the huts, and the children in the Sunday-school. Then probably they will speak at the evening service, endeavour to help the men in their financial struggles, provide tickets for hospitals or the seaside, and then perhaps walk miles to the next station, and so on.

Enthusiastic Workers

Each secretary has quite a number of stations on her book, and among those who have done very valuable work are the Hon. Gertrude and the Hon. Emily Kinnaird, sisters of Lord Kinnaird, who became Christian Excavators' Union secretaries in 1880, and began work at Bromley and at the Albert Dock. Then there is Miss Hodgson, who began work in 1885, and Miss Cropper, who covers the Lancashire district. Miss S.weatherhead, Miss Holland, and Miss Barber are also names which are revered by the navvies among whom they work.

Very soon, however, the lady workers of the Christian Excavators' Union began to turn their attention to the physical as well as the spiritual needs of the navvies. Their aim was to establish not a mere personal work which would only live with them, but one that should be on a firm basis and remain after they were gone. They therefore decided to appeal for funds. After a considerable effort enough money was raised for getting 4,000 circulars printed, setting forth the needs of founding a mission for navvies.

The Heart Of The Mission

Then came the work of sending them off, and as illustrating the enthusiasm of the pioneers of the Navvy Mission, it might be mentioned that Mrs.garnett herself addressed 1,ooo envelopes, the Rev. Evans, already referred to, 2,000, while other helpers addressed another 1,000. These were duly posted, and the fervent prayer uttered : "Well, Lord, we have done what we think is right. Let it succeed according to Thy will." And the plan met with splendid success, for although the pioneers only expected to raise 30 or 40, the result of the appeal was no less than 480.

With this money the Navvy Mission was established in 1877. The Christian Excavators' Union was the heart of the mission, so to speak ; but its objects were far greater than those of the union, for while aiming at promoting the spiritual welfare of navvies, the mission also set itself to gather information as to the real condition of navvies wherever they are found working in large numbers ; to publish this information in order that the real needs of the navvies may be made generally known, and their" claim urged on the sympathy and help of Christian people ; and to furnish a channel through which all money given to promoting the welfare of navvies may be administered promptly where it is most needed, and in such a manner as will stimulate local efforts. Grants are made towards the stipends of missionaries working among excavators and others employed on public works, under the sanction of "the committee, and for other approved purposes.

The Work Abroad

Altogether the mission employs forty-five missionaries, who not only work in this country but also in Canada and Singapore. Nearly all the chief contractors support it. Indeed, three leading firms bear nearly the entire cost of the present mission in Singapore. And mention of the support of the contractors reminds one that Lady Cow-dray, the wife of Lord Cowdray, president of the great firm of S. Pearson & Son, Ltd., is an enthusiastic worker on behalf of the mission. She neglects no opportunity, particularly at Christmas time, to provide foodstuffs and clothing for the navvies engaged on her husband's works, and their families. Furthermore, it is mainly owing to Lady Cowdray that the Navvy Mission was able to establish the Aged Navvies' Pension Fund, which pays pensions of five shillings a week to some three hundred navvies who are no longer able to work.

"I felt," said Mrs.garnett, when relating the story of this splendid pension fund, " that we must do something for the men no longer able to wield the pick and shovel. So I went to Lady Cowdray one day and asked her if she could help me to found a pension fund. She immediately offered a most generous subscription, and furthermore interested Lord Cowdray in the idea to such an extent that his lordship gave me introductions to other big contractors, who most generously responded. In fact, the subscribers at the present time number fourteen of the biggest contractors in the country. Lady Cowdray is our president, and her husband, as well as Lord Denman, Sir John Jackson, Mr. Middleton, of Scott and Middleton; Mr. Price, of Price and Reeves, are among the members of the committee."

Varying Fortunes

The Navvy Mission has had its ups and downs. "Our original president," says Mrs. Garnett, " Dr. Bickersteth (Bishop of Ripon) died. He was followed home by Canon Edward Jackson, our wise and eloquent leader. Next, working for the cause he loved so well, even to the very" last, the venerable and beloved Dean Fremantle. The original committee is no more. Many and rough waves have beaten over our vessel, but the tiller is in a Mighty Hand, and the boat rides still the troubled waters. Yes; through all, God has blessed it and supplied our needs.

"Practically, every large settlement in England and Wales has its mission and reading room or schools, its temperance societies, and often much-needed ambulance classes - the men pass the ' first-aid ' examinations remarkably well.

Changed Lives

"The old scenes of brutality are very nearly things of the past. But I fear that if the mission were to collapse, the whole class would drop down again ; but still, that navvy spoke truly who said : ' The Navvy Mission has changed all our works. It has raised our class.' How ? ' It has taught people to respect us, and it has taught us to respect ourselves.' "

" I believe that this work," said the Archbishop of Canterbury on one occasion, referring to the Navvy Mission, " has indeed been blessed of God. It was undertaken in the right spirit and is carried on upon right lines, it is so recognised by those who are best able to judge, and with all my heart I wish its work Godspeed."

As an illustration of the scope of the mission, it might be mentioned that four years ago the committee were confronted with the Grand Trunk Railway, 4,000 miles long, upon which 22,000 men were working. The Navvy Mission, therefore, at the beginning of 1909, sent out Mr. J. M. Mccormick, a business man who willingly gave up his prospects to devote himself to the work. Tramping along from company to company with about forty pounds of books on his back, twenty to forty miles a day, he is known as " Mac " all along the " right of way," ready to lend a hand to all.

At the beginning of last year Mr. Mccormick came home for a spell, and gave some interesting reminiscences of his work at a meeting held on March 21, 1911, at Grosvenor House, the Right Hon. Alfred Lyttelton, K.c., M.p., presiding. " Navvies," he said, " are builders of empire. They make our railways, harbours, docks, canals, reservoirs, etc. They are not only public servants but the pioneers of all social improvements.

Builders Of Empire

" In Canada I have found men from the new world, from the old world, and from the whole world all bunched up together, hundreds of miles from any town or city. They say in the construction camps: ' We've got the Englishman with us, and we study him ; we've got the Welshman with us, and we respect him ; we've got the Scotchman with us, and we admire him ; we've got the Irishman with us, and we love him ; and we've got the American with us, and we watch him ! '

" And then there is comedy and there is drama in the construction camps of Western Canada. I have found the prodigal sons of England out there. I have found the very best homes of England represented. I have found young doctors who could not hang around here for dead doctors' shoes, who hide themselves in the West to make a home. I have found young barristers

4l6l Religion who would not wait for the fat briefs and slow fame of middle life. I have found all types of men working and building an iron road for this great nation of ours.

" Many men, too, as missionaries, have hazarded their lives. One splendid University man went out there and died in the camps. Another young fellow went out there with the real practical type of the Christian about him. He got to a camp hospital. The doctor said": ' My assistant is ill, and the nurses are ill; can you come and help me ? ' He took off his coat immediately, and helped all he could ; but he took typhoid fever and lay in hospital nine weeks and nearly died ; and those fellows to-day, along the construction camps, love that man because he lives, as they say, what he preaches ! "

In this country the missionaries employed have in many cases been navvies themselves. Consequently they know the men ; they know their needs ; how to deal with them and influence them for good. And they are able to keep in touch, no matter where they may be, with the mission work and lady secretaries of the union from which the live blood of the mission flows, by means of the quarterly letter which is edited by Mrs. Garnett and Mrs. Valentine Jackson.

The men eagerly welcome it everywhere, both at home and abroad, though it is always very plain in its condemnation of evil. Large amounts are sent by navvies in pence, contributed out of their small wages, as a free gift towards the expenses of printing it.

And their gratitude for the noble-minded efforts which are being made by the ladies conducting the Christian Excavators' Union, and those responsible for the working of the Navvy Mission, may be gathered from the fact that they also subscribe close upon 1,000 for the upkeep of the mission.

" The navvies are," to quote Mrs. Garnett, " a sturdy, sterling body of men, who have done much for the country, but for whom the country has done very little. After these many years of work we cannot claim to have done a great deal - at least, we have not done so much as we should like to have done. But we have done our best."

And how much happier the world would be if we were all actuated by the same desire to do our best for the less fortunate.