Charitable Endeavours

The Cathedral was always aware of those who were less well-off and through various societies did its best to help.  One of these, the Dorcas Society, provided second-hand clothing at affordable prices.  They took in clothing and other items which were no longer required, repaired them where necessary and sold them on to those who were deemed worthy to receive them.  Periodically, the Society held sales and, unsurprisingly in true Victorian style, these sales had strict rules as shown in September 1889.

“Edinburgh Cathedral Dorcas Society.


  1. No one can be admitted to the Dorcas Sales, unless provided with a Ticket filled up with Name and Address of Bearer, Signature of District Visitor or Biblewoman, and list of clothing required, written by her.
  2. Purchases must not exceed 8s.
  3. The door will be opened exactly at the hour named. All then present draw from a bag of tickets on which is a number.  According to these numbers each takes her turn of being served.  Late comers are afterwards served in the order in which they arrive.
  4. Everything must be paid for at the time of purchase; and the money will not be returned for articles brought back. NOTE – Purchasers should bring with them measurements of the articles they require.
  5. Free Orders for cases of destitution can be obtained only from the Chaplains and must be signed by them. NOTE – Applicants for Free Orders must be content with what suitable clothing happens to be in the cupboards when the order is presented, and old clothing will be given in preference to new.
  6. Entire Outfits either for home or emigration cannot be granted. For girls going to a first place, clothing to a value of 10s. may be given, of which the applicant will be required to pay a third.
  7. In cases when any particular is sold out, the Dorcas Society does not hold itself bound to provide each article for a special case (except perhaps flannels, in case of illness) and at no time will money be given as an equivalent.”

It was not only old clothes that were put to good use, there was also an appeal for old curtains in April 1884.

A Use for Old Curtains – Very many of our people live in one-roomed houses.  Our people can easily imagine the difficulty which is found by the parents in training up their children in modesty. They would be glad often to divide their one room by a curtain, only they cannot afford to but one, and we think that many of our richer people, sympathising with their desire for decency, will gladly send good stuff curtains which can be used for this purpose.  They can be sent to Mrs. Anderson, at the Cathedral Mission house, Water of Leith, or to 52 Palmerston Place, or to any of the Clergy or District Visitors.”

There was also the Cathedral Invalid Loan Society and their rules were also printed in the same magazine.

“Cathedral Invalid Loan Society.


  1. The box will be lent for two months and must be returned on the exact day it is due.
  2. Two shillings will be charged for the use of the box for two months, which must be paid before the box is obtained.
  3. In cases of necessity the box may be kept for two weeks beyond the two months with an extra charge of 6d. for each week, or part of a week, will be made.
  4. A card will be given on application to the District Visitor or Biblewoman, which must be filled and sent to the Secretary at least a month before the box is required. A printed envelope will also be given, in which the money must be put, and left when the box is taken.
  5. All the clothes must be returned clean and in good order. NOTE – Anything accidentally damaged must be returned and if properly accounted for will be replaced.
  6. Anyone returning a box, the contents of which are damaged beyond the ordinary “wear and tear,” or keeping it beyond the prescribed time, will be debarred from the use of a box at a future time.
  7. If desired, the use of “Christening Clothes” can be obtained, price 1s. for each article (prepaid). They may be had the day before, and must be returned the day after the baptism.”

Although members of the congregation supported the “great many deserving poor in our congregation” it was made clear that this could not be done in a way that reduced the amount collected to cover the expenses of the Cathedral.  Those wishing to help were asked to put their contributions “in the division of the box which stands in the centre passage, marked, ‘For the Poor.’”

There were also periodic appeals for help for individuals or group of individuals.  Here are three examples from the March and October 1881 and June 1882 Monthly Papers:

“X. Y. Z. – One of our District Visitors wants an old dressing gown for one of the people in her district.  If any one can spare this article, will they kindly send it to Old Coates House, addressed to X. Y. Z.”

“Old clothes of any description – great coats, outer clothing, under-clothing, or old boots – are gratefully accepted, and may be sent to Miss Johnston, 17 Chester Street, for distribution amongst the poor and needy members of our congregation during the winter months.”

“Our readers will remember that a notice was inserted in this paper some time age about Mrs. Woodcock’s shop of greengrocery in William Street, requesting a little regular custom, as helping her to make an honest livelihood.

We have been requested to state that Mr. G. A. Craig, 33 Manor Place, has been making a collection on her behalf, and will be glad to receive subscriptions from any who may feel an interest in this case.”

Similarly those who were ill were also cared for and periodic appeals were made for useful articles; this list was printed in May 1883. “Leg Rests, Air Cushions, Hot Water Bottles, Air Beds, Eye Shades, Hand Bells, Footstools, Feeding Cups, Fire Guards, Easy Chairs, Hot Water Plates, Knee Caps, Tin Baths, Bed Rests, Crutches, Fans, Gauze, Night Lamps, Bed Pans, Lamps for heating food, bits of Carpet, Slippers.”

There was a Poor and Sick Fund, the main source of income being the collection from the New Year’s Day services.  It was reported in the October 1887 magazine that £10 or £12 was usually raised – about £1,400 today.  The October article appealed for more money for this fund.  “Many may imagine that ample funds are provided from the Walker Trust for this purpose, but it is not so.  The money from the fund is given chiefly to aged sick, and infirm people of respectable character in the congregation, in sums varying from £3 to £8 per annum.

When these sums are paid, there is but little left for charitable purposes; and when it is known that there are some thirty district visitors who constantly appeal to the clergy for help in deserving cases, it may be seen how miserably inadequate the funds are to meet the (almost) daily demand for help.  It is not a pleasing duty to beg and plead for help, but if any charitable work is to be carried on this winter, we must appeal; to the generosity of those whom God has prospered.”

From June 1891 the Cathedral partly funded the cost of a Cathedral Nurse who attended sick members of the congregation.  The Cathedral’s contribution of £25 per annum was collected by subscription from members of the congregation.  The nurse was supplied by the Victoria Nurses Institute in Castle Terrace, which later changed its name to the Jubilee Institute for Nurses.  However, in 1898 only £16 11s. had been collected, due according to the May 1899 Monthly Paper, to “deaths of subscribers, and the removal of others from Edinburgh”.

Although the Royal Hospital for Sick Children was opened long before the Cathedral in 1860, in July 1881 the clergy were urging the congregation to make use of it as “there has been a good deal of sickness amongst the children of our congregation”.  More advice on medical matters was printed In the March 1887 magazine.

“Facts to be Remembered.

When you call in a medical man, give him your entire confidence.  Tell him simply the truth, to aid him in his endeavours to effect a cure.

Obey his orders strictly, in diet, medicine, everything.

Induce children always to look on the doctor as their friend.  Never frighten them with threats that the doctor will give nasty medicine, etc.

Always, when it is practicable, send for the doctor early in the morning.  The nature of many complaints is best ascertained in the daylight.  As with fire, so it is with disease.  Call in your doctor, therefore, early; it saves him much trouble, and may save your life.

Everything in the sick-room should be kept scrupulously clean and whispering strictly forbidden.

All food should be freshly prepared, and no more taken to the room than can be eaten at once.  If any remain over, take it to a cool place away from the sick-room.

Avoid, except in cases of urgency, sending for a doctor on Sunday.  He works hard during the week, and often night and day; and his patients ought to endeavour to make the Sunday, as much as possible, a day of rest.”

Next: Employment and Temperance.