Death of a pauper
This week we've been looking at the records of the Board of Supervision, a body established under the Poor Law (Scotland) Act of 1845 to implement the reformed system of poor relief in Scotland, and to act as an appeals body. The Board of Supervision lasted for 50 years until it was replaced when poor relief was transferred from Parochial Boards to local authorities.
We came across one noteworthy case which illustrates several aspects of the operation of the Board of Supervision and the workings (or, in this case, failings) of the poor relief system. The case first appears with no mention of the name of the poor man:
Thursday 30th November 1871
The Board were usually fairly scrupulous about gathering evidence, and as such many cases dragged out for extended periods. The next mention of the case is nearly two months later.
Thursday, 11th January 1872
Four weeks later, the Board again considered the evidence
Wednesday, 7th February 1872
When it came, the Chairman's verdict was devastating
Thursday, 15th February 1872
Even through the bureaucratic politeness, it's clear that the Board believed that the Inspector's actions were a factor in the death of poor Alexander Macdonald. They didn't however go so far as to dismiss him - something that in other cases they were willing to do.
The Board of Supervision had a dual role - providing guidance to the local officers responsible for the operation of the Poor Law, and acting as an appeals body for applicants dissatisfied with the amount of support they received. We are currently indexing the appeals cases considered by the Board from its inception in 1845 to its abolition in 1895, and will be publishing the index in the next few months. Watch this space!
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