Benjamin Waugh of Settle, the Children's Friend

What difference does one life make? Of all the billions who have ever lived, some leave their mark, others don’t. One who did so was born in the nearby town of Settle. Becoming a Congregationalist pastor, he saved the lives of thousands of children, perhaps millions, and his work has very much survived him. The Rev Benjamin Waugh was born in a building that once stood just off the town’s current square. Along with the Earl of Shaftesbury, the focus of this week’s study, he helped to found the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, serving as its first director.  


Much as I admire Waugh’s efforts and feel a certain pride at the thought of him being a fellow Congregationalist from this district, I cannot but conclude there are two tragedies here. The first, that such a society had to be founded in the first place. The second, that there is as much need for it today as ever there was before. The NSPCC’s website ruefully reports that

“A substantial minority of children experience severe maltreatment and abuse at home, in school, in the community, from adults and from peers. 1 in 5 children have experienced severe maltreatment.” (emphasis mine) 

Do you need evidence for man’s depravity and sinfulness? Look no further than the charity’s 2011 report into child abuse and neglect in Britain. Should you need evidence that the God of heaven is grieved by poor treatment of our most vulnerable people, remember that He raised up the son of a Settle saddler to fight it, tooth and nail.


Our every feverish mood is cooled,

And gone is every load,

When we can lose the love of self,

And find the love of God.


’Tis by Thy loveliness we’re won

To home and Thee again,

And as we are Thy children true

We are more truly men.


Lord, it is coming to ourselves

When thus we come to Thee;

The bondage of Thy loveliness

Is perfect liberty.


So now we come to ask again,

What Thou hast often giv’n,

The vision of that loveliness

Which is the life of Heav’n.


Benjamin Waugh, 1839-1908