On this day in Yorkshire

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Sir Frederick Milner MP and the street Arabs of York

January 15, 1885

Through the liberality of a few gentleman interested in the welfare of York, prompted and directed by the thoughtful kindness of Sir Frederick Milner MP, about 600 of the poorest boys to be found in the city were entertained in the York Corn Exchange last night.

The idea of making happy for a few hours many of the hungriest and worst-clad lads from the most poverty-stricken quarters of the city as could be comfortably gathered into the largest hall available, emanating from Sir Frederick and Miss Milner, quickly found favour among those who responded to the hon baronet’s appeal.

By the cooperation of the clergy and ministers in the parishes where the poor live, tickets to the number of 600 were distributed to as many needy and deserving boys, including vendors of newspapers, lucifers, lads with a turn for light portering, shoe-blacking, or sweeping snow off door stones, and others who, being fatherless and having little definite work to do, have equally little to eat or wear.

None of the invitations were declined, and the remarkable punctuality of the guests must have been a little embarrassing to the hosts during the half-hour which preceded the serving of tea and delicacies. Ragged and wan the six hundred boys who constituted Sir Frederick and Miss Milner’s party were not: but that there had been much furbishing up and mending of tattered apparel for the occasion was fully as evident as the fact that the exceeding cleanliness of the lads’ faces was something uncommon. They were a well-behaved assembly, and appeared thoroughly to appreciate all the kindness that was shown them. When all were settled into their places, tea, plum-cake, and other acceptable edibles were supplied to them without stint.

The boys, having eaten their fill, helped rearrange the seats to make room for several hundreds of their parents or friends who had been furnished with tickets of admission.

The after-programme could not have been more adapted to the tastes of the audience. Dr Draper amused the children by performances with a magic lantern; some of the ladies and gentlemen who had ministered to the children’s appetites added their pleasure by vocal or instrumental entertainment and Sir Frederick Milner and others gave the company a little good advice without wearying them by long speeches.