Waugh, Benjamin (DNB12)

WAUGH, BENJAMIN (1839–1908), philanthropist, born at Settle, Yorkshire, on 20 Feb. 1839, was the eldest son of James Waugh, by his wife Mary, daughter of John Harrison of Skipton. After education at a private school he went to business at fourteen. But in 1862 he entered Airedale College, Bradford, to be trained for the congregational ministry. He was congregational minister at Newbury from 1865 to 1866, at Greenwich from 1866 till 1885, and at New Southgate from 1885 till 1887, when he retired, to devote himself exclusively to philanthropic labours.

At Greenwich Waugh began to work in behalf of neglected and ill-treated children. In conjunction with John Macgregor (‘Rob Roy’) he founded a day institution for the care of vagrant boys, which they called the Wastepaper and Blacking Brigade; they arranged with two smack owners to employ the boys in deep-sea fisheries. The local magistrates acknowledged the usefulness of their plan and handed over to them first offenders instead of sending them to prison. Public appreciation of Waugh's work was shown by his election in 1870 for Greenwich to the London school board; he was re-elected in 1873, retiring on account of bad health in 1876, when he received a letter of regret from the education department and an illuminated address and a purse of 500 guineas from his fellow-members. He did good work on the board as first chairman of the books committee and as a champion of the cause of neglected children.

From 1874 to 1896 Waugh was editor of the ‘Sunday Magazine,’ having succeeded Dr. Thomas Guthrie [q. v.]. In 1873 he published a plea for the abolition of juvenile imprisonment, ‘The Gaol-Cradle: who rocks it?’

After recovering his health in 1880 Waugh resumed his beneficent work, and in 1884 he assisted Miss Sarah Smith (‘Hesba Stretton’) [q. v. Suppl. II] in the establishment of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In 1885 he collaborated with Cardinal Manning in an article in the ‘Contemporary Review’ entitled ‘The Child of the English Savage,’ describing the evils to be combated by his society. The society gradually gained support, and in 1888 was established by Waugh's efforts upon a national non-sectarian basis, with a constitution approved by Manning, the Bishop of Bedford, and the chief rabbi. It was incorporated by royal charter in 1895 as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Up to this date Waugh received no remuneration save a small salary for editing the society's organ, the ‘Child's Guardian,’ but from 1895 till 1905 he acted as paid director. His organising capacity, courage, and energy triumphed over obstacles. He was an admirable platform advocate, and his enthusiasm was tempered by candour and fairness. On legislation affecting children Waugh exerted much influence, chiefly with the aid of Samuel Smith, M.P. [q. v. Suppl. II]. He supported the agitation of William Thomas Stead in 1885, and caused to be inserted in the Criminal Law Amendment Act of that year a provision enabling young children's evidence to be taken in courts of law although they were too young to be sworn. To his effort was almost entirely due the important Act of 1889 for the prevention of cruelty to and better protection of children, which allowed a child to be taken from parents who grossly abused their power and to be entrusted to other relatives or friends or to an institution, whilst the parents were obliged to contribute to its maintenance. The Act recognised a civil right on the part of children to be fed, clothed, and properly treated. In accordance with Waugh's views, more stringent Acts followed in 1894, in 1904, and 1908, and all greatly improved the legal position of uncared-for and misused children.

Waugh's society worked in co-operation with the police by a system of local aid committees directed from the headquarters. Offending parents received warning before prosecution. Waugh was careful not to interfere unnecessarily with parental authority. Until 1891 his operations were hampered by want of funds, but subsequently the finances of the society prospered. In 1897 its administration was attacked in the press, but Waugh was amply vindicated by a commission of inquiry, consisting of Lord Herschell, Mr. Francis Buxton, and Mr. Victor Williamson. His disinterestedness was proved, and thenceforth the society's progress was unimpeded. Waugh resigned the active direction of the society in 1905, owing to failing health. He died at Westcliff-on-sea on 11 March 1908, and was buried in the Southend borough cemetery. He married in 1865 Lilian, daughter of Samuel Boothroyd of Southport. She survived him with three sons and five daughters. His widow was granted a civil service pension of 70l. in 1909.

Besides the work mentioned, Waugh published: 1. ‘The Children's Sunday Hour,’ 1884; new edit. 1887. 2. ‘W. T. Stead: a Life for the People,’ 1885. 3. ‘Hymns for Children,’ 1892. 4. ‘The Child of Nazareth,’ 1906. He was a leading member of a well-known literary dining club, the Eclectic, which met monthly in the Cathedral Hotel, St. Paul's Churchyard.

A memorial of Waugh with medallion portrait is affixed to the wall of the offices of the N.S.P.C.C. in Leicester Square.

[The Life of Benjamin Waugh, by Rosa Waugh and Ernest Betham, 1912; information from Mr. E. Betham. See also Review of Reviews, Nov. 1891 (with portrait); The Times, 13, 14, 17 March 1908; Who's Who, 1908; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Encycl. Brit., 10th ed.; Sunday Mag., vol. 34, pp. 661–5, art. ‘The Champion of the Child,’ by Hinchcliffe Higgins (with portrait); Benjamin Waugh: an Appreciation, by Robert J. Parr (Waugh's successor as director to the R.S.P.C.C.), 1909 (portrait), who has kindly revised this article.]

G. Le G. N.