Miscellaneous, Memorial Services and the End of the Victorian Era
This section covers unconnected matters some of which could arguably have warranted a section of their own. One example of this is the Cathedral bells.
There were several long articles on the bells, bell-ringers and the belfry in the Victorian era Monthly Papers. An article published in February 1880 informs the congregation that following the dedication of the bells in October 1879, the St. Mary’s Cathedral Amateur Bell-Ringers’ Society has now been formed. The hope is “that members of the congregation and friends in the neighbourhood will be willing to assist in defraying the necessary expenses of providing furnishing for the belfry – ropes, lashings, mufflers, etc., etc. – for which about £40 will be required” [About £3,300 today.] It was pointed out that the first full peal of ten bells was rung on New Year’s Day and they “hope that by next Christmas they may have made such progress in Campanology, that we may then hear a peal of Grandsire Triples ring forth from the spire of S. Mary’s.”
However in the May 1880 magazine it was reported that only 13 subscribers had come forward pledging from 1s to £2, well short of the £40 needed. The hope was “that if each family will give but 2s.6d., we shall have enough, though we hope some may give more to make up for those who possibly give nothing.”
It was also reported that alterations had been made to the tower which would deaden the sound of the bells in the ringing chamber, this would allow the ringers to ring by ear rather than by sight alone.
The Cathedral was not afraid to take a position on political issues which had a moral dimension.
In the February 1883 Monthly Paper the congregation was urged to sign a petition against the “Legalisation of Marriage with a Deceased Wife’s Sister”. It was pointed out that anyone over the age of 18, male or female, could sign this petition. Maybe this petition had some effect as the enactment of the Deceased Wife’s Sister Marriage Act was delayed until 1907.
The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 was “An Act to make further provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels and other purposes”. The Bill had been heavily supported by the congregation in 1883 and again in March 1884 when the Earl of Aberdeen and the Edinburgh MP Samuel Waddy presented the Cathedral’s petition of 1,524 signatures to Parliament.
This interesting article appeared in July 1896.
“Little Sisters of the Poor.
This Roman Catholic Society does, we feel quite sure, much good, but we are reluctantly obliged to warn those who have been in the habit of subscribing to its funds that they should exercise due caution with reference to the assurance sometimes given that perfect freedom of religious belief and practice is allowed in the Home for Incurables, Gilmore Place. It is of course implied in this assurance that no attempt is made to bring over any Protestants who may enter it to the Roman Faith.”
In February 1881 a plea was made by the Rev. W. M. Meredith, one of the Cathedral Chaplains, for “any who would undertake as a labour of love, the education of working men, and sometimes of their wives. He has found a few who are very desirous to become thoroughly good scholars, and surely there are many members of the congregation not only able but willing to take up this work. It would have to be done regularly and heartily.”
An article in the October 1894 magazine listed three items required by the Cathedral – a new Mission Hall at Dalry, an Alms-Dish for celebrating Holy Communion (apparently the Cathedral had been borrowing the Theological College’s Alms-Dish) and a magic-lantern. The successful acquisition of an Alms-Dish was not recorded. However, the Chapel of the Dalry Mission Hall was opened by the Bishop on 18th October 1898 with the rest of the building being opened by the end of the year. A magic-lantern was given to the Cathedral – it was mentioned in the February 1895 Monthly Paper when it was used for the Sunday School treat on the 3rd January where pictures of the Dean, views of the Cathedral, scenes from the Matabeleland war, fairy tales and comic pictures were shown. Although in March 1896, £5 was requested to purchase an oxygen cylinder, safety lamp and an oxygen gauge for the lantern.
A request was issued in October 1896 for “Church workers of all kinds”. Particularly needed were Sunday School teachers, District Visitors, somebody to manage the Dalry Band of Hope, helpers for the Boys’ Brigade and a temperance worker for Dalry.
This interesting idea was promulgated in the February 1881 magazine.
The Rev. W. M. Meredith acknowledges with many thanks the receipt of “Family Fines” to be devoted to some Mission purpose. He ventures to suggest that such fines as these – i.e.for untidiness, getting up late, etc., might be collected and given as above. It would materially assist the formation of good habits, and also be of some help to the Mission work of our District.”
I am not sure how successful this idea became as it was never mentioned again.
This rather sad article appeared in the October 1882 magazine.
The children of the Catechising Class will hear with some sorry that Maria Kevit, the little girl for whose board and education a S. Marks Mission, Tombuland, South Africa, they have been subscribing for so long, died on the 17th of July, having gone to visit her parents at their home during the holiday time. The sorrowing father and mother, in a letter to Archdeacon Waters dictated by them, tell of their grief at her loss, and in their broken language, – “Monday, 9 o’clock, when bell rings for school her last bell of her body into the grave rung. We hope you shall have to send our return of thanks to friends who granted pay for her education and boarding in school.”
There is also a letter from the head schoolmistress of S. Mark’s Mission, from which we extract the following: – “I am very sorry to inform you that our little Maria Kevit is no more. She died after a very painful illness of three weeks. She died on the day we opened school. Her last words were, ‘Tell them at S. Mark’s, that I shall never be able to attend school again.’ Her death has cast a gloom in our school, for Maria was a great favourite in the school. She was a dear little girl, so gentle and obedient.”
Maria was confirmed at the last Confirmation held by the Bishop at S. Mark’s. This short account of the good done to this dear child will no doubt encourage the children, who have been subscribers for her education, to interest themselves in some other poor little African child, and there are many from whom to choose.””
During Lent in 1883 it had been arranged for a series of sermons to be preached only to men with a separate series of sermons only for women “in the full hope that, with the blessing of God, something may be done to stay the fearful progress of immorality, and to lead men and women to take higher view of the “sanctification of the flesh” than is, alas! too often the case. Fathers and mothers are specially invited.” However, due to the illness of the intended preacher, these sermons were never preached.
The Cathedral arranged a course of cookery lessons staring in May 1884. There were twelve lessons given twice a week at a cost of 3d per lesson, or 2s for the whole course. The article announcing them stated that “good cooking makes home more comfortable and tempts men to return to eat, instead of going to the public house to drink”.
On 5th September 1889 there was a disastrous fire at the Mauricewood Colliery at Penicuik in which 63 miners died. The Bishop and Dean arranged for a special collection to be made in the Cathedral on the 6th October although it was made clear that this was a separate collection and should not reduce the amount given normally to Cathedral funds. The amount collected was not recorded.
In September 1899 it was reported that the Bishop of Likoma was in urgent need of “a thoroughly competent engineer, and also a shipwright, or ship’s carpenter. The engineer should be able to do fitting, erecting, smithing, turning, all kinds of boiler work, riveting included. A man with experience of work at sea would be very useful.”
Surprising as it may seem the Cathedral was one of the pioneers of the present coffee culture. If matters had turned out differently the name of St Mary’s could now be rivalling that of Costa or Starbucks! The following extracts from the St Mary’s Monthly Paper tell the tale of the Coffee Barrow.
The Rev. W. M. Meredith proposes to make an attempt to start a Coffee Barrow, which will be easily wheeled about, and will be taken from place to place during the day. The great advantage of this plan will be that men who cannot well go into a British Workman Public House, or even stop at a coffee stall (e.g. cabmen), will have food taken to them.
It will be desirable to have promises up to £15 before ordering the Barrow, as this would leave a good balance to cover the necessary first payments to the man in charge. The Barrow itself costs from £8 to £9. Promises have been received (the money is not needed yet) of £1 from one lady, and 10s. from another. Mr Meredith will be thankful for further promises of help.
The movement has the full sanction of the Committee of Edinburgh Diocesan Temperance Society.
The Rev. W. M. Meredith is glad to announce the arrival of the Coffee Barrow which will be soon set to work. He begs to thank most heartily those whose donations have enabled this good work to be commenced.
The Coffee Barrow has been set to work with varying success. It is wheeled along Princes Street, George Street, etc, etc. Any who take an interest in it are invited to inspect it, and hints will be gladly received by the Rev. W. M. Meredith.
It has been suggested that those who are giving large parties (though this will not be the case just at present during Lent) should ask the man to bring the barrow to their house for the comfort of the cabmen waiting to take away the guests.
The Rev. W. M. Meredith will be exceedingly obliged if anyone will recommend him a thoroughly honest, sober, active man, to take charge of the Barrow, as the first man employed has given it up.
Those who most kindly assisted in getting the Coffee barrow started, will be glad to hear that it is paying its way. The man in charge has only required 5s. to start with. He has been able to live upon the earnings and pay his lodging. He has been able to establish a trade with the Cabmen, and regularly, twice a day, he goes round the cab stands at the West End.
Those who kindly assisted in the purchase of the Coffee Barrow will be glad to know that it prospers. Mr Fairbairn, to whose care it was committed, reports that it has been the means of rescuing one man from a dishonest life, and helping him to an honest livelihood, and that it is doing good in many other ways.
That is the last time the Coffee Barrow is mentioned in the Monthly Paper, so Costa and Starbucks are safe!
Memorial Services and the End of the Victorian Era
Several memorial services were held in the Cathedral during the Victorian period including, of course, that of Queen Victoria herself. Two of the most well-known non-royals to be remembered were General Gordon in March 1885 and William Gladstone in May 1898.
On 14th January 1892 the eldest son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, died of pneumonia during an influenza pandemic at the age of 28. The Cathedral held a memorial service on 20th January which according to the report in the February magazine was well attended. “The Memorial Service in our Cathedral, on the day of the Prince’s funeral, was a striking proof of the loyalty of Edinburgh citizens; and the dense crowd which filled every part of the building to excess, showed, by their dress and demeanour, that they could, and did indeed, mourn with the Royal mourners.” Prince Albert had been engaged to Princess Mary of Teck for only 6 weeks before his death. The following year Princess Mary married Prince George, the future King George V.
The most important memorial service of the era was that of Queen Victoria herself. The date and time of the service was announced in the February 1901 Monthly Paper – Saturday, 2nd February, at 3 o’clock. The same day as the funeral service of the Queen in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. As a large crowd was expected over 2,000 tickets were issued, which could be obtained on request. The article warned that ticket holders would only get preferential admission up to 2.45 “at which hour the gates will be thrown open to all.”
The March 1901 magazine thanked all those involved for ensuring “the arrangements were sufficient, and were carried out without the slightest hitch occurring.” As well as the 2,000 ticket holders it was estimated by a police inspector on duty, that over 1,000 non-ticket holders were also admitted. Unfortunately, considerably more had to be refused entry after all the standing room inside the Cathedral had been filled.
Thus ended the Victorian era in St. Mary’s, certainly one of the most interesting periods of the Cathedral’s life and witness.
The Edwardian era did not start well. An elaborate Coronation Service, including choirs and clergy from around the diocese, was planned to take place on the 26th June 1902 in the Cathedral at the same time as the actual coronation service in Westminster Abbey. Much of the music, readings and prayers would mirror those to be sung and said in the Abbey. However, due to the King’s illness the Coronation was postponed until the 9th August but as the Cathedral choir and the choirs from the other churches were then on holiday, “it has been reluctantly decided to abandon the intention of having a special musical service.”
Finally, here are copies of two photographs of the nave taken some time before the organ console was repositioned in 1897.