Huddersfield Chronicle (29/Jul/1871) - The Convalescent Home: The Holiday
THE CONVALESCENT HOME.
The event which will render next Thursday, the 3rd of August, memorable in our local annals, is entitled to special notice in our columns. And, approaching the task, we are made to feel all the embarrassment that surrounds it. "The absent are always in the wrong," says the French proverb ; but our subject shows that the saying is to be taken with a qualification — that it is only true when "the absent" are made the property of the calumniator or traducer. The peculiarity of our position is that Mr. Charles Brook is at once present and absent to us. Herein lies our difficulty in dealing with him. To praise a man to his face is so proverbially awkward that it is seldom essayed, except when a factitious courage is borrowed from after-dinner influences. On the other hand, to praise a man behind his back is one of the most meritorious, as it is, perhaps, one of the most unusual moral efforts of which human nature is capable. Now in speaking of Mr. Brook, all the awkwardness of the first position is ours, for he will read these lines, in all probability, as soon after they are printed, as any member of the general public ; while none of the merit of giving him his due behind his hack lies to our credit, notwithstanding that we write entirely beyond his cognizance and without his knowledge.
But the delicacy and difficulty of the duty we undertake must not stand in the way of its being done. We should ill-discharge it if the act by which Mr. Brook crowns many, stamped with the same character of munificence, should not be acknowledged. in a fitting manner, on the part of the public. We would say then, that in presenting the Meltham Convalescent Home to the poor of this district, Mr. Brook, besides entitling himself to a lasting place in the grateful memory of its people, fully establishes his claim to be considered one of the philanthropists and public benefactors of the day. It is only the last of a series of good works, all aiming at the same result — the moral and physical well-being of his poorer brethren. The Convalescent Home, as the complement of the Huddersfield Infirmary, makes that establishment, for its resources, one of the most complete in England. Benevolence in search of a purpose on which it might most fitly exercise itself could not have struck on one so practically useful, so beneficently enlightened. It requires no expenditure of words on our part to show this. All that the Home will be to the poor can be realised by following with the mind's eye the pallid, weakly-convalescent from the ward in the Infirmary, to his healthy, airy domicile on that hill slope by the quiet country town. To him it is not merely life, but life with renewed as well as restored power : to his family it is all. It does not return him faint and ailing to be again perhaps sent to the Infirmary ; but to the wife and children it gives back the bread-winner who left them a broken patient — a healthy, vigorous, renewed man. If, in its operation and object, a work that accomplishes this does not realise the amplest scope that human benevolence can attain ; if it does not, most literally, interpret and apply the inculcations of Scripture, that requires of us a charity as free and fall in its dispensation as it is pure in its motive — pray in what form, or how, is the highest capacity of these virtues to be realised ? We hold that, as the Hospital is an exclusively Christian institution, so the Convalescent Home, which is but a more complete embodiment of the same idea, is the noblest monument that our civilisation — the product of our Christianity — has yet furnished. We are proud, therefore, that in our neighbourhood such a testimony has been reared to the enlightened spirit of the day, by one whose name is already a synonym for all that is liberal and public spirited. To Mr. Charles Brook the whole credit connected with this work is due. He conceived it ; he has watched over its progress with what can only be described as a parental interest; to every suggestion having for its object the extension or improvement of the building he was ready to listen and prompt to respond. Perfectly selfish in his munificence he would allow no one to subscribe a penny, but met all the expenses out of his own pocket. The Meltham Convalescent Home is, therefore, a free-will offering from Charles Brook, solely. Alone, he did it ; and to him is all the credit, all the honour, and, let us add, all the gratitude due. To signalise services much humbler than those which Mr. Brook has rendered. Pope sung his "Man of Ross." Recalling some of his lines on the worthy whom he made famous, their direct applicability, for our noble-hearted neighbour, while relieving us from the charge of over-straining for a parallel, will also furnish excuse for inserting them here :
Who hung with woods yon mountain's sultry brow ?
the dry rock who bade the waters flow ?
Not to the skies in useless columns tost,
Nor in proud falls magnificently lost ;
clear and artless pouring through the plain.
Health to the sick, and solace to the swain.
causeway parts the vale with shady rows ?
seats the weary traveller repose ?
taught that heav'n directed spire to rise ?
"The Man of Ross," each lisping babe replies !
It is not an unenviable distinction that Mr. Charles Brook has attained as the "Man of Ross" of his district. May he live long to enjoy all the true happiness and honour that it brings !
A few words on another part of this subject. It is due to the occasion of the opening of the Home — which is another way of saying it is due to Mr. Brook — that the ceremonial on next Thursday should be the most effective that has ever taken place in this part of the country. This is the simplest way of putting it. To this end we must have Thursday declared a holiday in Huddersfield. Let there be no two thoughts upon the subject. A half-and-half holiday — taking the matter on the lowest grounds — is a bad thing for both tradesmen and public : it spoils the comfort of both. The shops lie idle ; those who have not profited by the "out" are discontented and those who do go are disappointed because it has not been half the success expected. On all these grounds, not to close the shops on Thursday would be a great mistake. But taking the higher and proper ground it would be a poor return for Mr. Brook's noble act of generosity to meet it in a half and half sort of way, which we are sure the people of Huddersfield are not inclined to do. Let us, therefore, take the liberty of recommending our neighbours to settle by Monday or Tuesday on a plan of general closing. It is the only, as it is the fittest way in which they can testify the general respect and gratitude which is felt for Mr. Brook. By arranging thus early, the railway authorities will have time to make provision for transporting, we hope, the whole movable population of Huddersfield to the neighbourhood of Meltham. We close with the hope that the weather may prove favourable, and that the event may furnish as enjoyable an occasion for the multitude, as it will be auspicious in other respects.