CHARGE OF CRUELTY TO CHILDREN
Thos. WEIGHMAN (52), miner, and Mary WEIGHMAN (53) both of 26, Arlecdon-road, Arlecdon, were charged with having unlawfully and cruelly neglected Rebecca WILLIAMSON, four months old, in a manner likely to cause the child unnecessary suffering, at Arlecdon, on the 26th June, and on divers other dates.
Supt. HOGG said that the child was a daughter of defendant’s daughter, who was confined about four months ago, and no doctor had been attending. The house was visited by Sergt. BATEY and a constable, but the sergeant was ill and could not attend, so the constable would be called and the doctor who attended the child.
P. C. CLARKE, stationed at Rowrah said that from information received on the 24th June last, about twelve mid-day, he visited the house of the defendants at Arlecdon-road, and on going into the kitchen he saw the woman defendant sitting on a stool beside the table. The infant child, aged at the time about three months, was lying on the sofa crying loudly. Sergt. BATEY who was with witness told the defendant that he had come to see the infant, and that he would like to see it undressed. The child’s clothes were sodden with urine, and in a most dirty state. It was very scantily clad, and it had never been cleaned. The defendant (woman) said, “I have not had time to wash it today.” The child was examined. It’s body was in a most emaciated state. Its flesh looked flabby and had a withered appearance. Both of its legs looked deformed. It’s back and abdominal parts were discoloured, and in some parts the bones were protruding from the skin. It had been allowed to lay. It was in a neglected state from wanting food and nursing.
The Sergt. Asked her what she fed the child on. She said, “I feed it on bread porridge, which I make from bread, warm water and a bit of sugar to sweeten it.” The Sergt. Asked whose child it was, and she said it was her daughter’s, who was in service at Maryport. The child was born with defendants, but they had had no doctor. The Sergt,. Asked her of they gave the child milk, and she said, “No, I cannot afford to get any. My husband gives me no money.” The Sergt. Advised her to get some milk, and see a doctor at once. She said it was the wish of her daughter that the child was left in her custody while the daughter went out to work.
Witness and Sergt. Visited the house again at 5 p.m. on the 26th June. On going into the kitchen they saw the two defendants getting their tea. The child was lying on the sofa as on their first visit, crying loudly. On the woman taking the child up it stopped crying. The child was again examined, and it was in the same filthy condition. It had never been cleaned that day. The body of the child was blue and felt quite cold. In reply to the Sergeant, she said that she had not called in a doctor, but she took the child to Dr. MORRIS’ surgery at Frizington the previous day, and that she had got a bottle of medicine. She had to call again on the 28th. The Sergeant asked how long it was since the child had been fed. She asked her husband and he replied, “I think it would be about two o’clock.”
The only furniture in the room was an old sofa, table stool and a chair. The sergeant asked her where the child slept. Mrs. WEIGHMAN replied, “It sleeps there with me, on the sofa.” The child was in a dirtier state than on their first visit. Mrs. WEIGHMAN said she preferred sleeping on the sofa with the child, as when it cried at night she would give it its porridge, which she kept in the oven. There was some milk in a jug on their second visit, and she fed the child with a spoon from the jug. When the Sergeant drew her attention to this she said, “Yes I got some milk sergeant, and I gave it it yesterday for the first time.” She also said, “I am sick and tired of nursing this bairn. It has taken more nursing than all my thirteen bairns together. I am going to send for its mother, as I prefer working in the fields than nursing this bairn.”
The family living in the house are Ruth, aged 19 years, no occupation; Emily, 17 years; Willie, 13 years, and James 12 years; also Mary Ellen aged 3 years 11 months, a grandchild and daughter of Rebecca’s mother. Emily is bringing in 4s per week, and George about 2s per day. The male defendant was employed at Margaret Pit, Frizington, and had been there about 19 years. The woman defendant said that she had only received 5s from the daughter at Maryport, for the keep of the child. The male defendant told witness that he had 32s per week independent of extra shifts. He allowed the wife £3 per fortnight, and he paid the rent. He gave her £3 15s for two separate fortnights. The surroundings of the house were in a very filthy state. The children were badly regulated with regards to hours, and only the other Sunday morning he put two of the daughters into the house at 2-30 o’clock.
Dr. MORRIS said that on Wednesday, the 25th June, the female defendant brought the child to him. He found the child in a very emaciated condition. The flesh was flabby, poor condition. There were signs of rickets. The legs were rickety. There was a bruise on the left cheek and the baby showed that it had not been kept dry in its private parts. It was a badly nourished baby, and showed signs of not having been looked after.
The Chairman: Did you notice any deformity in the child?
The Doctor: The deformity was due to rickets, due to lack of food and nourishment. The woman told the witness that she had not given the child milk, and that she fed it on bread and water. He advised her as to how to feed the baby; also about keeping the baby dry. She said she would get the Virol, and promised to follow the directions carefully. Witness saw the child on the 28th June. The child was not what he expected to see of a four months old child, due to bad, unwise feeding and neglect, likely to cause the child unnecessary suffering.
The Chairman: Would you have known that this woman was the mother of thirteen children? Would you think she should know how to feed the child?
Witness: I did not know until she told me. I think she should have known how to feed a child.
In answer to the Chairman, the male defendant said that he had nothing to say, but the female said she had done what she could for the child, and had looked after it and cleaned it. She worked in a field and had a daughter at home, who if she could not clean the child she could do nothing.
The chairman said they had plenty of money to keep the house in order.
The female defendant said they should have had money by them if they had not had such a rough family.
The Bench retired, and were away about five minutes. On their return the Chairman said with regard to Thos. WEIGHMAN the magistrates thought this was a case in which they would like to say something strong to him. They did not find fault with him for the provision of his family. The Bench were satisfied that he had provided sufficient money to keep the house in order, and clothe and feed the children sufficiently. They did not think him culpable for the way the way the child had been treated, and taking other circumstances into consideration they were not going to inflict any fine on him, but to give him a strong warning that he should not allow such practices to be carried on in his knowledge. They deprecated very strongly his allowing his wife to treat the child in the way it had been treated.
With regard to Mrs. WEIGHMAN, the Bench were perfectly satisfied that they would only be treating her lightly when they ordered her to be sent to prison for two months hard labour. It was a disgrace that a woman like her, having had thirteen children, should allow a child to be treated like that. The Bench could scarcely believe that in a Christian country like this that a child should be kept under such conditions as those under which this child had, and they felt they were only treating the female defendant lightly by sending her to prison for two months.
The prisoner weeping bitterly was taken to the cells.