1843 Poor Law Commission

Extracts from "Poor Law inquiry (Scotland.) Appendix, part III. Containing minutes of evidence taken in the synods of Angus and Mearns, Perth and Stirling, Fife, Glasgow and Ayr, Galloway, Dumfries, Merse and Teviotdale, Lothian and Tweeddale. "


Population in 1841, 15,621
Number of impotent persons entitled to relief in 1841, 272
Sum distributed amongst them, £675

Mr William Marshall, Collector of Poor Rates, Falkirk. 6th February 1844

I am collector of the poor rates, superintendant of the poor, and treasurer of the parish of Falkirk, and I have been so for two years. I was previously one of the committee for managing the poor for five or six years, and I have resided in Falkirk parish the whole of my life. There has been an assessment in Falkirk for upwards of forty years. At first, out of £200 raised, £120 of the assessment was levied on the valued rent, and payable by the heritors and their tenants, and the remaining £80 were apportioned on the town of Falkirk and the villages of the parish; so that Falkirk paid £40, and the other £40 were paid by the villages of Grangemouth, Lauriston, Grahamston, Bainsford, and Camelon, an the dispersed householders. The £80 was levied on the principle of means and substance. This was altered in 1816. The heritors and kirk session then agreed to assess the parish in the sum of £200, one half of which was to be levied from the heritors according to their valued rent, and the other half to be levied upon the tenants and occupiers on the real rent. This mode of levying the assessment was afterwards appealed against in 1827; the mode of levying the assessment on the tenants and occupiers was declared illegal. A plan of assessment was then proposed by a Mr Hardy, who is now dead, and was, after much discussion, adopted. It was as follows:- The mode of assessing the moiety to be levied from tenants and occupiers was adjusted according to the following rule, namely, that the rent of the house occupied by each inhabitant of the parish, not being a farmer, should be taken as a criterion of his or her means and substance; and for farmers, that one-twelfth of the rent of their farms should be assumed as the rent of their houses, so that all farms at or under £36 of rent, were rated as houses at £3; that occupiers of lands, whether proprietors or tenants, possessing a house of greater annual value than the land they occupied, should be assessed on the actual value or rent which the house would let at, and that when the rents of the dwelling houses were thus made up, a rate should be laid on each pound of rent, adequate to produce one half of the assessment imposed on the parish. This mode of assessment continued up to 1840. In 1840 the heritors, on advice of counsel, changed the mode of levying the assessment payable by themselves, from valued to the real rent. The other half continued to be levied according to the arrangements of 1827. The same system has been continued up to the present time, except that a deduction of £2 is now made from the assessable value of each house. The reason of making this deduction was, that we found in the case of operatives and labourers, that their houses were no criterion of their means and substance, in as much as owing to the size of their families, and other causes, they were frequently obliged to take larger houses than other individuals with precisely the same means. Tenants of houses under Sl. rent are not assessed at all. In the year 1841 all the property in the parish was valued by two joiners, and the collector of the parish for the time being. The joiners had been in the habit of valuing house property, but were perhaps not good judges of the value of land. There is an appeal from the decision of the valuators to the general committee of management of the poor, respecting which I will shortly speak. In 1841 there were from 150 to 200 appeals; during the present parochial year there have only been about sixty. These appeals do not cost anything to the appellants. The latter merely give a notice in writing that they think that they are rated too high, and give their reasons for thinking so. Last year the number of individuals excused was, I believe, somewhat under one hundred; during the present year the number excused has not been above thirty. We took out about 170 summonses last year. In one of the villages the majority of the people refuse to pay at all. At first they said that they ought not to pay anything at all, but that the assessment ought to be exclusively on the land. Afterwards, when they saw that the law was clearly against them, some of them said that the assessment ought to be levied simply on the real rent, which was the mode set aside by the court of session, and some were for laying it on means and substance. Moreover, both the canal company and the railway company have refused to pay any poor rates except in towns, which the committee could not for a moment admit. I do not receive a percentage on the rates collected, but I am paid a salary of £60 a year for all my various duties, out of which I pay from £6 to £10 to an individual who assists me. The whole of my time is entirely absorbed. I have sometimes to sit up writing till eleven o’clock at night. The number of ratepayers is about 2000. The assessable value of the proprietors’ half only, is from £60,000 to £62,000, from which a deduction is made of from fifteen to twenty percent. The assessable rate of the other half, after all the deductions are made which I have already specified, is about £9000. The rate in the pound during the parochial year, ended May 1843, was 2d. for the proprietors, and 10d. upon the occupiers. The committee of management is elected in the following manner,- the heritors and kirk-session meet once a year, and name about twelve individuals to act during the ensuing year with the minister and kirk-session. Previous to the secession the kirk session consisted of ten or twelve members. Since the secession the number is only six. The committee thus constituted meets at least once a month, and oftener if requisite. The town is not divided into districts for poor law business. I am expected to a certain extent to become acquainted with the condition of the poor on the roll. However, I myself have no power whatever to give relief to any one. If a person is in need of temporary aid he generally comes to me in the first instance, although it is not necessary, and I inform him where the elder lives, to whom he ought to apply. Previous to being entitled to relief he must produce an order signed by one elder, and one other committee man, and countersigned by the minister. That order is addressed to me as treasurer. The elder, before giving such order, is bound to make inquiry into the case, and he usually does so. Sometimes they request me to make inquiry into the case. I avoid as much as possible undertaking this responsibility. When I say I am superintendant of the poor, I mean that I pay the poor; and if anything goes wrong, such as a person falling sick or becoming insane, I have to inquire into the case and to see that it is properly provided for, or to bring it before the general committee. It is only when an individual is able to move about that I refer him to an elder. Applications for permanent relief are usually made by petition to the committee. The petitions are sent to me, and I lay them before the committee, but it is not my duty to make any report on them. I pay the poor once a month. They all come to my office. They are not bound to come in person. Each of them has a ticket with his name and the amount of his allowance upon it, signed by me, and if this ticket is produced to me, that is sufficient. Sometimes one individual upon the pay day holds several tickets. My warrant for payment of money consists in a minute of the proceedings of the committee, which is signed by the chairman. The accounts are audited once a year, by two members of the committee appointed specially for that purpose. It is not necessary that interim relief given by an elder, and other committee man, and counter-signed by the minister, should be confirmed at the monthly meeting. Our usual allowance to old persons past work, and not bed-ridden, are 4s. or 5s. a calendar month. To a widow with four children under twelve years of age, if she has no relations, but is able to work herself, our allowance is from 10s. to 14s. a month.

For example, there is Widow Brown, aged about thirty-eight. She has four children under twelve. She receives 15s. a mouth. Her rent is about 30s. a year. Her children are sent to a free school in the parish.

Again, there is Widow Chalmers, about thirty-five years of age. She has three children under twelve years of age. Her allowance is 10s. a month.

Again, there is Widow Smart, aged forty-two. She has two children under ten years of age. Her allowance is 7s. 6d. a month. Her rent is £4 a year; but she has two children above twelve years of age living with her, who are able to work.

These are fair specimens of our allowances to widows with young children. The usual employment for women in the parish is agricultural labour. No women are employed in manufactures. Women here very seldom spin. Our allowances to bed-ridden persons are usually, if they have no relations, 6s. or 7s. a month.

There is a Widow Cowbrough, aged eighty-four, receives 5s. a month. She lives with her daughter, who is unmarried, and is able to sew. I do not know the rent of her house; perhaps about £4 a year for two rooms. I do not remember any other bed-ridden case.

There is one blind person on the roll, namely, William Simpson, aged about fifty-six. He is quite able to move about and beg. He is well known in the parish, and gets a good deal in this way. He is a widower, with three or four children above ten years of age. Two of his children are working, I believe. His allowance is 8s. a month. His rent is about 30s. a year.

We have only one deaf and dumb person on the roll. This is a boy of the name of Leitch, aged twelve. The parish has contributed £2 a year towards educating him in the Edinburgh deaf and dumb asylum. He has wealthy relations, who contribute the remainder.

The number of orphans on our roll is very great. We have as many as thirty-seven. They are all boarded out either with relations, or with respectable persons. We usually allow from 6s. to 8s. a month to each, and provide them with clothes. Their education is well looked after. All who are of sufficient age are sent to the free school. We generally reckon that we can get a situation for them at ten years of age. If we cannot do this we keep them till fourteen, trying, however, always in the meantime to get them off our hands. At fourteen we endeavour, as far as possible, to cease relieving them, and, according to strict rules, no orphan ought to be on our roll after that age. Still, however, there is one orphan, who is nearly fifteen years of age, to whom we are still giving something. She gets a couple of shillings as she requires it: once a fortnight, perhaps. We are likewise going to clothe her. She lives with a widow in the town, with whom we used to board orphans; but from whom we have withdrawn them, because she did not seem to us to do justice to them. The orphan girl has gone back to her, because she said she had nowhere else to go to.

Of the eleven fatuous persons on our roll, three are in the lunatic asylum at Glasgow.  The other eight are boarded out, generally with their relations, and the allowances for them vary from 12s. to 16s. a month. None of the latter are dangerous. We have very few mothers of illegitimate children on the roll. We give as little as possible to this class ; and when the putative fathers of the children are alive, we do not give any relief at all, if we can possibly avoid it. We think that granting the mothers relief would countenance immorality, and then sometimes the withhoIding such relief makes the fathers come forward, of their own accord, to support their children; It is quite common for the mothers to sue the fathers in the sheriff court; but the parish has nothing to do with that. Bastardy is not increasing in the town. It is rather decreasing than otherwise; I mean as compared with the period when labourers were engaged in the construction of the railway. Even when we do give relief to mothers of illegitimate children, such relief is trifling, and very rarely exceeds 1s. 6d. a month. I have no reason to believe that there is any peculiar distress among women with illegitimate children. We do not generally give relief to widows with only one child. So, at any rate, a single woman with only one illegitimate child, would be as well off as this last mentioned class of widows.

We do not provide a doctor for the sick poor from the poor funds. The doctors attend the sick poor gratuitously; however, a species of compensation, to a certain extent, is made to them by our remitting to them the payment of the sums which would be otherwise due from them on account of the assessment. There are seven or eight doctors in the town altogether. The sum remitted to all of them collectively would not exceed £5 in the year. The highest amount of assessment that the richest among them would have to pay would not be more than £1 5s. If a poor person is sick, and requires nutritious diet, we do not provide it from the poor funds; but sometimes in such cases we make an extra allowance in money, say 2s. or 3s., and sometimes as high as 5s. We do not pay for midwifery cases. The labourers provide for such cases themselves. We defray the funeral expenses of paupers. The usual sum we allow for this purpose is 1s. 6d. per foot for the coffin. We likewise supply the winding sheet, which costs 1s., and provide a grave gratis. The children in the parish are generally vaccinated. Vaccination is performed gratuitously by the medical men.

There is a good deal of begging among the paupers on the roll. The sums which we give them could not maintain them, unless they had recourse to begging. Begging is not restricted to any particular day in the week; nor do the beggars wear badges, or carry certificates. We have likewise several beggars among the parishioners who are not on the roll. These are individuals not of the best character, to whom, tor this reason, we do not grant any aid; or perhaps they may not have obtained a settlement in our parish. A good many of them are Irish. If a person applies to us for relief who has not obtained a settlement in our parish, we just try to find out his parish, and send him there. If such person is an Irishman, we send him to his own country; but we never get the expenses of the journey repaid to us. We generally give such a person interim relief until we send him away; but such relief is small. The beggars I have mentioned, who have not a settlement in the parish, are individuals who did not wish to be sent back to their own parishes. Children of paupers on the roll occasionally beg. We have a great number of beggars in the town from other parishes. These are of all descriptions, both aged and able-bodied. They do not cost us much. We take care to give them as little as possible. There is no poorhouse in the town, nor anything of the nature of a house of refuge. The shopkeepers of the town complain a good deal of the begging which prevails here. As is very often said, that as there is an assessment, there ought to be no begging; but of course we tell them that all we get from the assessment is altogether inadequate to render begging unnecessary. No proposal has ever been made to raise the allowance to such an amount, as to supersede the necessity of begging. The rate-payers, particularly the small ones, rather appear to wish to keep the assessment as low as possible. We have occasionally been inconvenienced by paupers from other parishes, having been brought to us in a state of health unfit for removal. For example, I remember the case of a man who was sent to us from Larbert parish. He was in a state of fever at the time, owing, I suspect, partly to his having been moved about when he ought to have remained quiet. Next morning, after a night’s rest, and after we had given him some food, we sent him on to the next parish. This pauper had been sent ten miles the previous day, namely, from St Ninians in Stirlingsshire. He was not brought to Falkirk the shortest way. We do not give relief to able-bodied men, destitute from want of employment. The sessional funds are mixed with the assessment; and after deducting the fees for the session, the whole passes through my hands. During last spring I witnessed considerable destitution among some able-bodied men in the parish, namely, the nailmakers in Camelon. A subscription was raised for the relief of the unemployed, respecting which you will obtain information from other sources. I have scarcely anything further to state, except that I think it would be a good thing if the mode of assessment were uniform over all Scotland, and if proper machinery were established for collecting it. From the law being uncertain, I have frequently experienced great difficulty in collecting the money. One ratepayer says, you ought, according to law, to collect the money in this way; another says, you ought to collect it in that way. So, owing to this uncertainty, there are disputes and grumblings among the rate-payers. I would recommend a union of Falkirk with the eastern district of Stirlingshire, for the purpose of rating and settlement. I think that Falkirk has an undue proportion of poor. Some of the neighbouring parishes have comparatively few paupers in them. I would then recommend erecting a workhouse for the united parishes. I have not had an opportunity of seeing a workhouse. I merely speak therefore from what I have read on the subject, But l think that many of the old persons on the roll are not properly taken care of. I think they would be properly provided for if received into a workhouse or poorhouse. I am likewise convinced that it would be desirable to have a workhouse or poorhouse for orphans. Whatever pains we may take in endeavouring to find out proper persons with whom to board our orphans, we find it impossible to arrange the matter in the way that is desirable; and we often shift the orphans from one house to another, in the hope, which sometimes turns out not to be well founded, of having them better looked after. I would add, that the enabling an individual to gain a settlement in a parish, by a residence of three years, is inconvenient. Individuals from rural parishes, when the allowances are very small, come at an advanced age to Falkirk. They manage to subsist during three years by hawking articles, and then they come upon our poor roll. I cannot specify from my own knowledge any such cases. None such have occurred, that I am aware of, during the two years I have been superintendent; but I heard complaints made on the subject previously, notwithstanding our small allowances to paupers in Falkirk. We give more than in the neighbouring parishes. I have been myself in the neighbouring parishes. I have not visited the poor on the roll there. I suppose in some of the parishes they have no roll. All my statements as to the allowances are from hearsay. I have experienced no other inconvenience, as far as I recollect, in the administration of the poor laws.

Rev. William Welsh, Minister of the Relief Congregation, Falkirk. 6th February 1844

I have been minister of the relief congregation for twenty-two years. Some of the members of my congregation are paupers receiving relief from the parochial funds. We have a roll of our own, and our funds are derived from collections made periodically by the congregation. There may be about thirty persons on our roll, but they are not all upon the parochial roll. They would, however, all require it; that is, they are fit objects for relief.

One old woman about eighty is not upon the parish roll; her name is Widow Struthers. She has a daughter grown up who is deaf, and unfit for field labour or service, and may make 2.5d. or 3d. a day by tambouring. The reason why Widow Struthers is not admitted on the parish roll is, because she is proprietrix or liferenter of a small house in which she lives. She does not receive above 5s. a quarter from the funds of my session.

If the committee of management are aware of allowances made to the poor from other sources, the parochial allowance is so much the less; indeed, this mode of acting on the part of the parish authorities has the effect of checking private benevolence, and rendering it nugatory when it is given. As an instance of this, I would mention that there is in this town a ladies’ society for relieving indigent females of good character. The committee of this society find it expedient to give relief in food and clothing rather than in money, that their dependents may not be deprived of parochial aid in proportion to the amount of their benefactions.

In the same way there is a Widow Jack, eighty years of age, who receives no parochial aid. I have heard that she has 1s. a week from Mr Forbes of Callander, and I have no doubt that this is the reason why she is not on the roll.

I consider that the parochial allowances are a perfect mockery, and far from being adequate to the relief of the paupers. I will give an instance. James Smith, a man about sixty, and unfit for labour, has an infirm wife and an infant child, and receives 4s. a calendar month. He was a quarrier, and is unable to work from bad health.

There is also Widow White about seventy, a person of good character, who has seen better days, who receives only 2s. a month. She lives alone, and may make a few pence by selling bread; but her earnings must be very small.

In the parish of Falkirk, I cannot say that at present any distinction is made in admitting parties on the poor roll with reference to religious differences; but I formerly came in contact with cases of this kind at the commencement of my ministry. The late Dr Belfrage’s session were in the practice of contributing to the poor fund to the extent of £10 a year; but this example was not followed by the other dissenting congregations, the poor of whom, in consequence, experienced greater difficulty in getting on the roll. In Falkirk now the heritors take more share in the management, and matters are conducted on a more liberal system. I know and visit some of the poor in the adjoining parish of Larbert, and there great obstacles are thrown in the way of paupers getting on the roll on account of religious distinctions. I visit among the poor of my own congregation. Those, whom I see, having been for the most part formerly in better circumstances, are not so destitute as to clothing, bedding, and other furniture, as the general poor in the town. This is the case with the parties belonging to the dissenting churches generally. There is a great deal of begging in the town. Many of the persons begging are beggars by birth and profession; they marry as beggars, and beget children as beggars. There are also many beggars from other places, who come and locate themselves in Falkirk. It is a well-known fact, that the poor on the roll are authorized to beg; they beg on all days of the week, but particularly on Saturdays. I have nothing further to suggest.

Joseph Dawson, Esq., Manager for the Carron Company. 6th February 1844
I have been manager for the Carron Company for nearly nineteen years, and I have been about the works for the greater part of my life. The Carron Company have both coal and iron works, and employ from 800 to 1000 people. The people employed are mostly men and boys. There are a few women employed about the coal works, and, previous to the passing of the recent act prohibiting women from working under ground, we employed a good many women. There has been great distress among the women formerly employed in the coal works in consequence of the act; they have no means of finding other employment. There is a friendly society called the Carron friendly society, to which most of the workmen belong. It is a permanent society, and regularly enrolled under the act. It has been in existence since 1762. I myself have been a member since 1806. Persons who are sick, or off work from infirmity, are entitled to the benefits of the society. There are at present a good many old people, who have no other disability than the infirmity arising from old age, who are regular pensioners upon the society. The allowance is, for the first twenty-six weeks, 5s. weekly; for the next 156 weeks, 4s. weekly (making together 182 weeks); and 3s. weekly for such farther period as an individual may be entitled to the benefit. On the death of a member, £7 are allowed for the funeral; and a member, on the death of his wife, is entitled to a funeral aid of £2 ; and on the death of the widow of a member, her family are entitled to a sum of £2. A member, applying for assistance, must either appear before a committee, who meet monthly, in person, or send a medical certificate. Stewards are appointed to visit and report on cases in the districts, for which they are nominated; and no case is relieved without a certificate from the steward of the district, except where members live at a distance, such cases being specially provided for. There is very seldom any imposture attempted; the cases are all strictly investigated. There are several other benefit societies in the neighbourhood; but the Carron company particularly patronize the Carron friendly society. They contribute annually towards the funds, and urge all their workmen to join, if the society will receive them. The club dues are almost universally paid by the company, and deducted from the wages. The present payment is 3s. 1d. a. quarter; and the entrance varies according to the age from 4s. to 12s. Were the money not collected in that way, many of the workmen, particularly those who are improvident, would not be able to continue members.

There is no medical man attached to the Carron friendly society, but there are several clubs about the works specially for providing medical assistance. The usual method is to make an agreement with a doctor, to pay him so much a quarter, for which sum he attends the members and their families. There is no savings’ bank in the neighbourhood, and I am not aware of any of the workmen having deposits ; a few of them, but not many, save money.

Where a man dies leaving a widow with young children, they must just apply to the parish for assistance. The company in such cases generally allow the widows to continue in the occupation of their houses, and they pay no rent.

About three fourths of the persons employed in the Carron works are upon piece work. The rest are day labourers, whose wages are from 10s. to 12s. a week. During the late depression in trade none of the workmen in the Carron works have been dismissed, although they have been for some time on short work. The food of a labourer consists of oatmeal porridge, with beer or milk, for breakfast; for dinner, they have kail or broth, with bread and potatoes; for supper, either potatoes with herrings, or fish of some description or other, or else porridge; but most of them get a proportion of butcher meat every week. Intemperance is certainly on the decrease, but whether that arises from want of funds, or from inclination, I can hardly tell.

Rev. William Begg, Minister of Falkirk.
I am minister of the parish of Falkirk, and have been so since July 1840. I do not regularly attend the monthly meeting for the relief of the poor, but I occasionally visit the poor at their own houses in my regular visitations in the parish. The paupers on the roll are generally very ill off. In a great many cases their allowances are inadequate to maintain them without begging. There is a good deal of begging in the town, both among paupers on the roll and strangers. There is no provision made for looking after the poor in sickness. The medical men have an exemption from the assessment, as you will already have heard from Mr Marshall; but the sum remitted to them is comparatively small. In ordinary times I have not witnessed much distress among able-bodied persons from want of employment. During the late depression of trade there were several unemployed operatives in the village of Camelon, amongst the nailers, but a subscription was raised for their relief; but even in the town of Falkirk, I know some families amongst the operatives who were very ill off, owing to want of employment. We got a little interim supply for them from the poor fund. The sum so given was very small. Perhaps they are otherwise assisted by their neighbours and friends. Had it not been for this they must have starved altogether.

The reason why I do not regularly attend the meetings of the committee for the management of the poor is, that the day they fix for their monthly meetings, namely, Friday, is inconvenient to me, as I am on that day making preparation for the duties of the Sabbath. When I have attended the meetings, I have never seen any distinction made in granting relief on account of religions differences. The late secession from the establishment has very little affected the numbers of my congregation. The number of persons, who have recently seceded in the parish is not, I should think, above 200. There were, however, previously a good many dissenters in the town. I think that an individual ought not to be able to gain a settlement by so short a residence as one of three years. Farm servants come in from rural parishes at an advanced period of life, and become a burden to Falkirk. I am not personally acquainted with any cases of that kind. I have heard complaints on this: head from various members of the committee. I think, also, that there is great evil in there being so many lodging houses in the town. They are chiefly inhabited by vagrants and persons of bad character, and are seminaries of vice and disease. I think it would be a very good thing, if it were necessary for all lodging house keepers to take out a regular licence, it would then be possible to bring them under some control. I would make the same remark as to spirit shops and pawn shops. With respect to the pawn shops, I refer merely to the “wee pawns," which are, in fact, merely evasions of the pawnbrokers act, and which ought to be suppressed. It would also be advisable, if possible, to compel all manufacturers and master of public works, to support their own workmen when disabled from labour by disease, accident, or old age, in the same way as is now done in the Carron works. I think, also, that the workhouse system should be introduced into Scotland, at least into a town like Falkirk. I have never seen any workhouses, but my idea is that the poor on the roll would be better looked after if there were one of these establishments.

Mr Thomas Hardie, Merchant, Falkirk. 6th February 1844
I am one of the committee of management of the poor in Falkirk, and have been so during the last two years. I had previously been a. member during one year. I attend the meetings pretty regularly. They are not held monthly, nor at any stated periods, but just as often as they are called by the collector. If any member of the committee desire a meeting to be called, the collector gives notice to the members. The number of members attending the committee varies from three to twelve. We do not allow applicants for relief to come before the committee. We did so formerly, but we discontinued the custom, finding it inconvenient, and by no means adapted to make us acquainted with the real circumstances of the applicants. I have occasionally, but not often, visited paupers at their own houses. I cannot say that the poor are properly provided for. I think the allowances given to them are too small. They cannot subsist upon those allowances. I know several paupers for whom the sum they receive would not be more than sufficient to pay for fuel and rent. Some of them can do a little, and are able to eke out a livelihood by their own industry. They carry coals, wash houses, and work in a nursery garden during the summer time. Moreover, some of them get a little work from farmers in the neighbourhood of the town. Many of them, however, depend almost entirely on private charity and begging. A number of the poor, who are receiving relief go through the town to beg on Saturdays. We have besides a great number of stranger beggars. I cannot state that the rates of the allowances have been increased within my remembrance. We consider each case on its own merits. No proposition has ever been made at the hoard to give the old persons a sufficient allowance to maintain them without begging. There are a great many persons on the roll whom you could not keep from begging if you were to give them £1 a week; it is so difficult to break them from the habit when they have once acquired it. When we know that some of them have relations able to maintain them we give less on that account. If there are any old people on the roll we sometimes compel their children to maintain them. There has been no case of the kind since I have been on the committee, but I remember a case in point. I do not remember more than one.

We have experienced inconvenience from the absence of a law for punishing men who desert their wives or families. For example, there was a man here, of the name of Gardiner who had three children under six years of age. He went away with a woman not his wife. His wife also left the town in company with another man, as it was said. His children were for a time maintained, by the neighbours giving them something to eat, till at last they became a burden upon the parish. We found it, however, impossible to punish the man. We applied to the procurator-fiscal here, who told us that he could do nothing, as there was no law to punish them. This man Gardner came back to the town six weeks after. We are still maintaining the children. The man laughs at us, and goes about unpunished.

We experience inconvenience from individuals having obtained a settlement in our parish from three years’ residence. Persons who come from a country parish where there is nothing but farm labour come into Falkirk when they are unfit for farm work, perform light jobs during three years, and then become a burden to our parish. I cannot at present recollect any particular cases of the kind. We are likewise burdened with Irish. I do not know how many Irish we have on the roll; and if they or any other travelling poor die here, we have to pay for the burial. I would likewise mention that lodging houses for beggars are a great nuisance. I do not know how to get rid of them. The heaviest burden which we have in our parish is the widows with children of men who have been employed at public works. I think that manufacturers ought to be obliged to find means to maintain their own poor. The expense of maintaining lunatics in Glasgow is like-wise very heavy.

Mr William Simpson, who had been previously member of the committee for several years, was present at Mr Hardie’s examination, and concurred in his statements.

George Hamilton, Esq., M .D., Falkirk. 7th February 1844
I am a practising physician in Falkirk, and have been so upwards of ten years. I have been in the habit of visiting the paupers at their own homes. I have almost always done so gratuitously. There have been, at the utmost, three cases in which I received any remuneration. Two of them were cases of women who had been burned, and the state of one was very loathsome. Besides, I am exempted from the payment of poor rates, as is the case now, l believe, with all the medical gentlemen of the town. The value, however, of that exemption is quite a [illegible] compared with the trouble which we have. I had previously for three years charge of a large portion of the out-patients of the royal dispensary at Edinburgh. In comparing the situation of the paupers in Falkirk and Edinburgh, respectively, I may mention, that in Falkirk we are worse off as to the facilities for treating destitute persons in sickness. When I was practising in Edinburgh, I always carried about with me lines of the destitute sick society; and if I saw a case in which extra assistance was necessary for the patient, I had nothing more to do than give him one of these lines, and the case was looked after immediately. In Falkirk, I have applied to the parish in such cases; but the relief afforded by the parish has been of the most trifling description. In some instances they have given as much as would purchase a bottle of wine. But if an application were repeated, or the case protracted, there was considerable difficulty in getting anything. Latterly, I think, that they have been somewhat more liberal, owing to Mr Begg, the minister, having, I believe, some extra fund at his command; but still the provision for the relief of the sick is utterly inadequate. I have a very great difficulty indeed in treating paupers properly, owing to my not having the means of supplying them with suitable nutritious diet. Falkirk is, on the whole, a tolerably healthy town, certainly more so than the old town of Edinburgh. But there are certain parts of the town of Falkirk, and of the village of Lauriston, which are chiefly inhabited by paupers, and which are very unhealthy. Fever prevails there, whenever fever prevails in the parish. There are a great number of lodging-houses in these parts, and these lodging-houses tend in no common manner to foster fever. We have sometimes in these lodging-houses a succession of fever cases in the same bed. One person is seized with the disease, and either dies or removes elsewhere. Another person comes into the same house and bed, is attacked in the same manner, and gives way to a successor, who receives the same infection. These lodging-houses are the most fertile sources of fever. I have known them to be the means, through vagrants, of introducing fever from Glasgow and other towns. I have observed that the strongest and most healthy labourers in full employment, have been attacked by fever, when they have come into contact with these centres, as it were, of poison. I certainly hold, that destitution is favourable to the diffusion of fever; but as far as my own experience goes in Falkirk, I cannot say that any strength of body is a protection, when brought into within the range of the poisoned atmosphere. I speak from considerable experience, as from 400 to 500 railway labourers were under my general superintendence during three years. The contractors collected so much from the men, and paid me. It was the rule of the works, that whoever came to labour there, should pay so much to a doctor. I did not trace any of the fevers to drunkenness but I have no doubt that labourers, by intoxication, would be more susceptible of fever from contagion. The proportion of fever cases was far greater amongst the railway labourers than amongst other classes of the community. I attributed this to the railway labourers being crowded together, and living in lodging-houses. Their wages were high; they were well paid; and lived very well indeed. I have made precisely similar observations respecting the colliers. I have been attending lately a family of colliers - a husband, a wife, and six children - who all live in one confined hovel. They are in the receipt of good wages; but six of the family have been seized with fever. They are filthy people. I did not trace their fever to any defects in drainage. Their fever was the prevailing epidemic, rendered doubly poisonous by their living crowded together. A surgeon practising amongst the colliers on the borders of the parish of Falkirk, caught the fever not long ago, and died of it.

The children of the parish are generally vaccinated. This is done gratuitously. Since the late act of parliament on the subject, lunatics are properly treated in this part of the country. We have now only to report a case to Mr Marshall the collector, and if it is dangerous to leave an individual at liberty, active measures are taken to confine him to an asylum immediately. I have never seen Janet Gentles. I have attended some of her relations in the same house, but I have never been asked to see her. Indeed, it was only casually that I knew that there was such a person. I have occasionally witnessed considerable destitution amongst able-bodied men; particularly last year, amongst the nailers. I was one of a committee for the purpose of collecting subscriptions for affording relief to nailers and other labourers. The sum raised was, I believe, upwards of £70. No relief was given, except in return for work. The nailers were employed in making nails, - the labourers in improving the roads. The weekly number of individuals who received relief, was exclusive of their families, about sixty-five nailers and nearly thirty labourers, who, however, were relieved for only a few weeks ; the nailers, on whom the pressure of destitution was most severe, received relief for about nine weeks in all, a few a week or two more. There was great difficulty in procuring subscriptions for the relief of the unemployed. The heritors, with the exception of the Earl of Zetland, Mr Forbes, and a few others, subscribed hardly anything. The inhabitants of the town contributed a little; but the sums subscribed were small. The subscription did not by any means meet the necessities of the nailers. They spread themselves up and down the country, and provided for themselves in the best manner that they could. There was no particular disease amongst them at that time. The season of the year was healthy. I have nothing further to state.

James Wardrobe Dickson, Esq., Sheriff-Substitute of Stirlingshire.
I am sheriff-substitute of the county of Stirling, and have acted as such ten years. During that period, I have had opportunities of becoming acquainted generally with the condition of the poor classes, and of paupers in the county. The provision for paupers is quite inadequate, amounting sometimes merely to a penny a day for a single individual. I know several cases in which aged paupers only get 2s. 6d. a month. I am speaking of the village districts, not of the town of Falkirk. I have no conception how the paupers manage to subsist. They generally live with some relation or connexion but the latter are frequently as poor as themselves. There is not much employment here for women in knitting or spinning, or in winding bobbins. There are very few hand-loom weavers in the eastern district of Stirlingshire, of which I am now speaking. Their employment is chiefly in outdoor labour. There is not much begging amongst the poor on the roll in the village. There is a good deal in the town of Falkirk, but not much in the country. Last year there was a. great deal of begging by unemployed operatives. I am of opinion that, according to the law of Scotland, beggars may be punished, whether they beg in their own parishes or not; but this law is a dead letter in this district; and I am not aware of any instance in which punishment has been inflicted for begging. The only laws on the subject are of very ancient date, anterior to the reign of James VI. Strictly speaking, I should deem myself justified in punishing an individual even for begging in his own parish ; that is to say, if the old laws on this point are not held to have fallen into desuetude.

No provision for lunatics is made in the county of Stirling. The parishes sometimes send their lunatics to Edinburgh or Glasgow, but it is difficult to induce them to do so on account of the expense. Dangerous lunatics are not allowed to be at large, because the authorities interfere. I remember only four cases of dangerous lunatics allowed to go at large during the period of my being sheriff. In two of the cases I interfered, and caused them to be sent to an asylum. In the two other eases, the parishes must have taken steps for confining the patients.

There is a great deal of bastardy in the county. There are very few women among the labouring classes (except among the colliers), who are married, without previously having a child, or at any rate without being previously pregnant. The yearly suits for aliment before me, are on an average about twenty a year. The sum which I usually decree for aliment is £6 a year. In several instances, putative fathers support their illegitimate children, without driving the mothers to the necessity of bringing an action against them. The sums decreed against the fathers by me are pretty regularly paid. I think the law works well. Parishes do not often bring an action in the name of the woman. There has not been a single case of the kind in Stirlingshire, as far as I remember, since I have been sheriff of the county. The total expenses of a suit for aliment could not, on an average, exceed £10 or £12. This, however, would of course depend on the nature of the evidence required to prove the case, and on the number of the witnesses. The decree for aliment is, in the first instance, practically until seven years of age for a boy and ten years of age for a girl. I never knew an instance of a second suit being brought. The reason why, in my opinion bastardy has been less common amongst colliers than amongst other classes, is, that until the late act, women were allowed to work under ground, and were thus sources of profit as wives. The same was the case with children who were sent to work as early as at ten or twelve years of age. I do not remember that there has been any extra general subscription in this county for the relief of the unemployed operatives, except a subscription which was entered into on account of the Queen’s letter, in 1842. Last year there were many unemployed operatives in this part of the country, owing to depression in the nail trade, but they have found employment again. There was likewise some distress amongst common labourers. These were assisted by the private charity of benevolent individuals. There is a good deal of intemperance in the county, but there has been a very great improvement in this respect during the last four or five years, owing to tee-total and temperance societies. I have nothing further to state.

Notes of Cases of Paupers visited at Falkirk, Wednesday, 7th February 1844.

1. Robert Shaw, aged seventy-five. Allowance 2s. 6d. a month. Rent £4 a year. He keeps a small lodging-house. He has three beds in two rooms, and takes in sometimes as many as four lodgers. Two slept in his house last night, and paid 4 1/2d. between them. Room dirty, but with a good deal of common furniture.

2. Jessie Oswald, aged five years. She is boarded for 6s. a month with James Oswald, a gardener and house servant, and his wife, who have six children under thirteen. Jessie Oswald is a foundling, and was nursed by Mrs Oswald. She seems well taken care of. J. Oswald earns 12s. a week. His rent is £4, for a house and large garden. Room decently furnished, with a clock.

3. William Bride, an orphan, aged eleven. A fatuous boy, boarded for 7s. a. month with Robert B____, a labourer, and his wife, who have two grown-up children alive, but none living with them. The orphan has an uncle, a distiller, in the town. Room very decently furnished - two chests of drawers, a clock, &c.

4. Widow Robert, aged seventy-six. Allowance 4s. a month. Rent £2 10s. She takes one or two lodgers occasionally. She lives next door to her son, a labourer, who is married and has no family; and she has an unmarried daughter living near her, who looks in upon her from time to time. Widow Robert takes charge of two boys, William Orr (see next case), and another boy, the illegitimate child of one of her daughters, who is dead. Room dirty.

5. William Orr, aged five years. An orphan, who is boarded for 7s. a month with Widow Robert. (See preceding case.) The boy is at school.

6. Widow Coubrough, aged fifty-three. Allowance 3s. 6d. a month. Rent 35s. a year. She sews a little, and has a grand-daughter living with her, aged ten, whose mother is dead, and whose father will not do anything for her. The little girl has not yet been sent to school, as there is no room in the charity school. Room dirty, and very barely furnished.

7. Thomas Kincaid, aged about fifty-five. Allowance 5s. a month. Rent 24s., which is paid for by letting a piece of ground, his own property. He works a little as a carpenter, but is reckoned eccentric. Room dirty, and in confusion. Furniture, three chairs (one broken), one table, and a bed of straw on the ground.

8. Elizabeth M‘Rory, aged fifty-four. Allowance 2s. a month. Rent 24s. a year. She has an illegitimate daughter, aged ten - an illegitimate boy, aged seven - and an illegitimate grandchild, aged three, living with her. She receives relief on account of her two children. The mother of the grandchild is in jail, and the grandmother receives 4s. a month on her account from the parish, until a decree, which has been obtained against the putative father, is put in force. Room poorly furnished, and dirty.

9. Margaret Conochie, aged eighty-six. Allowance 5s. a month. Rent 16s. a year. She receives 7s. a month from the ladies’ society, and has lately received a cart of coals. She lives alone, and is totally unable to work, but is not confined to bed. Room small, but decent. Furniture, three chairs, one stool, one table, one chest, one bed.

10. Widow Alexander Wilson, aged sixty. Allowance 4s. a month. Rent 16s. a year. She lives alone, but earns a little occasionally, by knitting stockings and going errands. She receives 1s. a mouth from the ladies’ society. Furniture, four chairs, one bed, one chest, one table, and an old chest of drawers.

11. Widow Doherty, aged seventy. Allowance 4s. a month. Rent £1 a year. She has a grandson, aged twelve, living with her, who is in service at present during the day. The old woman goes out hawking small articles in the country, and begging. She has been in Falkirk twenty-eight years; when she first came to it, was a widow with two children. Room dirty and poorly furnished.

12. Widow Haddoway, aged fifty. Allowance 2s. a month. Rent £1 year. She lives alone, makes ladies’ caps, and sells them in the country. Room clean. Furniture, four chairs, two beds, two tables, one chest of drawers.

13. Mary Thom, aged seventy-seven. Allowance 4s. a month; which, she says, is too little. Rent £1 a year. She lives alone, and cannot work. She is very dirty in clothes and person. Room dirty. Furniture, six chairs (two broken), two chests, one table, one bed. She has an illegitimate daughter, married to a shoemaker in the town, who has five children under sixteen She is helped by them a little. She has received from Mr Forbes of Callander a cart of coals during the winter.

14. Ellen Bell, a foundling, aged five years. Boarded for 6s. a month with Widow Callander, who has one child, aged eight, living with her. Widow Callander was left a widow with eight children. She has worked hard, and has never applied to the parish for relief. Furniture, two beds, four chairs, one table, one chest of drawers - cupboard of crockery, and alarum clock.

15. Ann Liddell, aged forty. Allowance 4s. a month. Rent 13s. a year. She has a husband in the 91st regiment, at the Cape of Good Hope. He has been eight years absent, and during that time she has received £2 from him. She has a boy aged eight living with her. The orphan seemed well taken care of. Furniture, three chairs (two broken), a small broken chest of drawers, a small round table, a small cupboard, one bed.

16. Rebecca Morton, aged sixty-four. Allowance 5s. a month. Rent £1 a year. She has received a cart of coals from Mr Forbes of Callander. She is lame, lives alone, and is unable to work. Furniture, one bed, one stool, one chair, a few tea things.

17. Rachel Leishman, aged sixty-eight. Allowance 4s. 6d. a month. Rent £2. She has a daughter living with her, aged twenty-eight, who has three illegitimate children, by different fathers, living with her; James, aged fourteen; George, aged seven; and Jessie, aged four. The latter has received nothing for her children, either from the fathers or the parish. Room dirty, and wretchedly furnished; one bed, one chest, one cupboard, three chairs (two broken), no table.

18. Margaret Callander, aged fifty-five. Allowance 6s. a month. Rent £1 a year. She lives alone. She is lame, but she knits stockings or sews. Room remarkably clean. Furniture, one bed, seven chairs, two tables, one press-chest.

19 and 20. Mary M‘Millan, aged three, and Ann Barker, aged nine. Two orphans, boarded for 15s. a month together, with William Binnie, a labourer in a foundry, aged sixty-eight, and his wife, who have a daughter, aged twenty, living with them. Room very clean and decently furnished. The orphans are kept clean, and are well attended to; but the eldest is said to be unmanageable.

21. Widow Hamilton, aged fifty-five. Allowance 5s. a month. Rent £2 a year. She has a son, a tailor, aged fourteen; a daughter, aged twenty-two; and a daughter, aged eleven, living with her. She likewise takes in a lodger occasionally. Room decently furnished; it contains three beds.

22. Andrew Christie, aged seventy-three. Allowance 6s. a month. Rent £1 a year. He has an unmarried son, aged forty-three, a mason, living with him. Room small and plainly furnished. The son has been out of employment during the last three months, but has subsisted on his savings.

23. James Campbell, aged fourteen; Sally Doyle, aged twelve; Kitty Doyle, aged five; and Jenny Allan, aged eleven. Four orphans, boarded for 26s. a month together, with Archibald M’Lean, aged seventy-eight and his wife, aged forty-seven, who have five children living with them, between twenty-two and nine years of age. The old man is bedridden, and has a pension of 1s. a day. To wife seems active; but her time is taken up in attending to the house and to the children. The rent is £3 15s. a year for two rooms. There are four beds, besides the one occupied by the old man. James Campbell is not sound in his mind.

24. Agnes Salmon, aged sixty. Allowance 3s. a month. Rent £1 a year. She has an unmarried daughter, aged twenty-seven, living with her. The old woman can work very little, but is well looked after by her daughter, who would be in service in a good place, if she did not think it her duty to be at home with her mother. The settlement of Agnes Salmon in Falkirk is doubted, although not disputed; and on this account she receives a smaller allowance than would otherwise be given to her. [This is stated on the authority of the superintendant.] Garret small, but clean. Furniture, one bed, three chairs, three chests, one small table, and a little crockery.

25. Robert Sutherland, aged sixty-three, and his wife, aged sixty-five. Allowance 3s. a month. Rent 30s. a year. They have a son, aged twenty, living with them, a slater in summer and a weaver in winter, who is married, and has three children under seven years of age. Robert Sutherland has been confined to bed by a feverish cold during the last fortnight. He has not seen a doctor, "because he had nothing wherewith to pay him." His wife is in good health, and works at tambouring. Room barely furnished.

26. Ellen Gilfillan, aged seventy-seven. Allowance 6s. a. month. Rent £1 1s. a year. She lives alone. She has a very bad leg, the odour of which is most offensive. She gives 3s. a month to a neighbour - (see next case) - to look after her. She receives 1s. a month from the ladies’ society, and an old master is kind to her. Room decently furnished, and clean.

27. Widow Allan, aged forty-three. Allowance 2s. 6d. a month. Rent 24s. a. year. She has a son, aged nineteen, a tailor, and a son, aged fourteen, who works in a foundry, living with her. She looks after Ellen Gilfillan - (see preceding case) - who gives her 3s. a month. Room poorly furnished.

28. Mary Lawrie, aged eighty-four. Allowance 5s. 6d. a month. Rent 15s. a year. She lives alone, and is quite unable to work. She receives 2s. a month from the ladies’ society. Room decent. Furniture, one bed, five chairs, one chest of drawers, and old spinning-wheel. She had plenty of coals in her room, which she had bought herself.

29. George Cuppels, aged two years. An orphan boarded for 5s. a month, with William Frazer, a gardener, aged twenty-six, and his wife, aged twenty-eight, who have no children, and who offered to take charge of the orphan, intending to adopt it. Room clean, and respectably furnished.

30. Robert Ross, aged thirty-six. A fatuous person. Allowance 10s. a month. He lives with his father, aged seventy-five, a carter, and with his mother. He is able to work a little at farm labour. His father seemed a very respectable person. Room clean and neatly furnished, with clock and chest of drawers.

31. Janet Gentles, aged forty-three, a lunatic. Allowance 20s. a month, for which she is boarded with two unmarried brothers and an unmarried twin sister. She was one of three born at a birth. She was in a small closet, which has small holes cut in it for air, but which is locked up. She lies on a bed of straw, with blankets and coverlets; but she is violent, and tears her clothes. Her madness was caused by religious enthusiasm. Her brother and sister keep a public house.