ALLEGED CASES OF NEGLECT BY PARISH OFFICERS, BROUGHT BEFORE THE ROYAL COMMISSION BY Mr J. MURDOCH. Parochial Board of ARDFENAIG, BUNESSAN, N.B.
December 15, 1883.
I enclose herewith copy Report by the Medical Officer and Inspector of this parish, on the cases mentioned by Mr John Murdoch in his evidence at Glasgow.
I may mention that the Report was submitted to a meeting of Committee of the Parochial Board on the 10th instant and approved.
HECTOR A. CAMPBELL, Chairman
Kilfinichan Parochial Board
In terms of instructions from the Parochial Board of Kilnnichan, we, Dr M'Kechnie, medical officer, and Alexander M'Gregor, inspector of poor, have the honour to report on a statement read at Glasgow before the Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands) by Mr John Murdoch, an extract of which has been received by the chairman of the parochial board of this parish and submitted to a meeting of the board on the 5th December 1883.
Alexander M'Gillvray was first put upon the out-door roll as a pauper in April 1879. In July 1880 he was offered in-door relief in Tobermory Poorhouse, to which he refused to go, and he was again readmitted on the outdoor roll in September of the same year. Again, in July 1882 he was once more offered in-door relief, but declined to accept; and in September was again readmitted as an out-door pauper. He is also referred to in the General Superintendent's Report for this year, under No. 190, as a proper case for in-door relief; and the parochial board, at a meeting held on the 7th ultimo, decided, purely on charitable grounds, to have him sent to the poorhouse. This offer he has again refused, saying, ' he will rather starve than go there.' About a year ago, he was in rather delicate health for a short time, and a sister of his was paid for attending him, to whom the inspector supplied clothing for her brother. His body clothes have always been fair ; but his slovenly habits are such that he does not put them on in a tidy manner, and prefers sleeping with them on. He has been supplied on more than one occasion
Widow Ann Currie. With reference to this woman, a neighbour, Hector M'Lean certifies that he was paid for taking home peats to her ; and that the Alexander Campbell referred to in Mr Murdoch's statement, did not go to the inspector to intimate her death or to ask light. The present inspector, Mr Alexander M'Gregor, had newly entered on his duties, and was at Lochgilphead Asylum with a lunatic at the time.
Peggy M'Lean was never a pauper on the roll of this parish. She applied for relief at one time and received interim aid until a meeting of the parochial board, when she was offered the poorhouse and refused to accept. She was then self-supporting until her death, which did not take place until about two years after.
Neil Black. Owing to a long confinement to bed, prior to death, bed sores formed in the region of the hip-joints. The medical officer attended him regularly, cleaned and dressed the wounds, and certifies that everything was done for his comfort that was necessary. He had two sisters living in the house with him, and during his illness both of them were quite able to attend to his wants. He had two or three pairs of new blankets in a chest, but neither he nor his sisters would take the use of them.
Widow M'Donald. A woman was regularly employed to attend to this pauper for more than two years before her death. She was during all that time kept clean and tidy, as is certified by the medical officer and the inspector.
Donald Black. This man was never a pauper on the roll of this parish. When he was laid up with the illness winch terminated in death, the inspector sent a woman to attend him, his wife not being strong at the time. His widow, whose death occurred shortly after that of her husband, denied having any means of her own; but sometime after her death, a neighbour gave the inspector £1 17s. which he had in his possession belonging to the said Widow Black. During the latter's illness a nurse was engaged to attend her and keep her clean ; and the medical officer and inspector, who visited her regularly, saw that their instructions were carefully attended to.
(Signed) Alex McKechnie, Medical Officer
(Signed) Alex McGregor, Inspector.
Extract minute of meeting of the parochial board of the parish of Kilfinichan, held at Bunessan, on Saturday, 29th December 1883. Inter alia—Case of Ann Currie or M'Donald, whose corpse was alleged to have been gnawed by rats.
The board have examined Alexander Campbell, who is given by Mr Murdoch as authority for the statement. Campbell adheres to his statement, but the board find several decrepancies in Ins evidence, and some of his statements regarding the case have been proved by the books of the board and other satisfactory evidence to be incorrect. The board desire to bring before the Commission the circumstance, that in their opinion his evidence may properly be regarded with suspicion.
The persons who were present at the counting of Ann Currie or M'Donald were Alexander Campbell, Allan Cameron, Roderick Beaton, Widow Archibald Cameron, and Mrs Allan Cameron.
No statement that the corpse was gnawed by rats was made by any of the above-named, except by Alexander Campbell.
Hector M'Lean, a neighbour, and husband of the woman who was paid for attending the deceased, states that two weeks prior to her death, she stated in his presence and that of Malcolm Beaton, another neighbour, that she had placed in the custody of Widow Archibald Cameron, a relative, the sum of £5, to defray her deathbed and funeral expenses. Mrs Archibald Cameron admitted to witness that she had received £2 of the above sum, and in consideration thereof, she took charge of the corpse and funeral arrangements, and paid £1 of it for a cart to convey the body to the place of interment, a distance of twenty miles (this distant place of interment being selected by the deceased prior to her death). This witness saw the body before coffining, and there was then no appearance of its having been touched by rats.
This evidence was fully corroborated by Mrs Hector M'Lean, the wife of the previous witness.
Roderick Beaton, a neighbour, who assisted at the coffining, corroborates what is said by Hector M'Lean as to the body not having been gnawed by rats.
Neil M'Donald, a step-son, states that he did not see the slightest trace of the body having been touched by rats, and only heard recently that Alexander Campbell made such a statement. The medical officer attended deceased regularly, and certified the cause of death to have been ' chronic lung disease.
The board consider the above statement a complete refutation of the scandalous allegation made by Mr John Murdoch.
With reference to the expression ' many powered inspector,' made use of by Mr Murdoch, the board desire to explain that the powers held by their inspector are only such as are competent and legal under the Poor Law Act, and the board are satisfied that he has at all times exercised these powers with discretion and judgment.
The three points stated by Mr Murdoch with regard to the two cottages occupied by paupers at Lower Ardtun are (1) that they are neither wind or water tight; (2) that the damp rises through the floor in them; (3) that the smell in them is the same as of places where fever had broken out.
(1.) The members of the board visited these cottages on the 26th inst., and found that there was a slight leakage in the roof, caused by some of the slates having been blown off by the recent gale, and the defect has since been remedied.
(2.) The board also found that in only one of the four apartments was there any damp rising from the floor, and that only in a very slight degree, and they consider that this has been caused by the incessant rains which have recently prevailed in the district.
(3.) Mr Murdoch's statement as to a smell existing in the cottages is incorrect. The board having questioned the inmates, they all, with one exception, stated that the cottages were much superior in comfort to the houses they previously occupied.
As regards the past condition of these cottages, the board have to state that, since their erection in 1877, they have been in much the same state as at present, with the exception of the damp in the floor of one room, and the slight leakage in the roof above referred to, both of which have only recently existed. These houses have always been repaired as occasion required. The board may also state for the information of the Royal Commission, that these cottages were erected by the Duke of Argyll, at considerable expense, with a view to ameliorate the condition of paupers who had hitherto been housed in thatched buildings.