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, 1913
Paupers relieved in 1842, 30
Sum distributed among them, £89: 1 : 6.

Rev. John Fergus, Assistant Minister of Auchterderran, 12 October 1843

I am assistant to Dr Murray, the minister of Auchterderran. I have not been in the parish quite a twelve month; but the session-clerk, Mr Low, who is with me, will aid in giving any information relative to the poor. There is no legal assessment in the parish, but there has been for many years a voluntary contribution by the heritors, according to the valued rent. The funds are managed by the kirk session. We often refer cases to the heritors, but they do not attend the ordinary meetings of the kirk-session for the relief of the poor. The elders do not regularly visit the poor. When application is made to them, they do so. Our usual rate of allowance varies from 3s., to 8s. a month.

We have one man who is wholly unable to do anything for himself and requires to have a person to attend him. He is upwards of sixty. He is allowed 3s. 6d. a week, which is paid by way of board to the person who keeps him, and in whose house he lives.

There is another man, upwards of seventy, who is unable to do anything. He is also boarded out at the rate of £10 a year. Andrew Kilgour with whom he lives, is no relation. He is a labourer, and is married. The old man is very well looked after, and kept clean and tidy.

We have one case of a widow with children. She is about thirty five, and has four children; the youngest is two years and a half old, the eldest may be ten. The three eldest are at school. She receives 2s. 6d. a week. She is a stout woman, and keeps a small shop. Her husband was a labourer, and was killed in a quarry. Her friends are very kind to her.

We have two families of orphans, both of two children. The children of one family, a boy and girl, are boarded out with different individuals, The boy is about nine or ten, and is boarded in the family of a collier at 2s. 6d. a week, and the girl at the same rate, with a weaver`s family. We allow them clothing besides, and Mr Low, the session-clerk, and one of the elders, call occasionally, and see that they are properly taken care of.

The other family of orphans live with a brother and sister, and receive 5s. a month. They have only lately been put upon the roll. Their brother is a collier.

We have no lunatics nor fatuous persons on the roll. There is one blind man, to whom we allow 4s. a week. He is married, and has a family of six children, the eldest of whom is not above thirteen. He was sent to the infirmary in Edinburgh, on account of his blindness, but received little or no relief. He was a collier, and is attended by the surgeon at Lochgelly, who receive a salary from the coalworks.

The rest of our paupers are generally old people disabled from old age. We do not pay any doctor from the poor funds, nor do we make any allowance for medicines. There is a doctor resident in the parish, who is paid for attending on the colliers, as before mentioned. The plan adopted is for the master to retain a part of the wages, which goes to pay the doctor. Sometimes, when the poor are sick, and require extra diet, a small additional allowance in money is made by the session. I could not state what sum was given on this account last year; but I believe it was very little.

We defray the funeral expenses of paupers. The price of a coffin is 12s. The whole expense may amount to 18s. We generally take possession of the effects of deceased paupers, but we do not take a formal disposition before putting them on the roll.

The children in the parish are mostly all vaccinated.

The mass of our population consists of colliers and agricultural labourers. There has been some destitution among the female colliers this year, in consequence of the recent act prohibiting them from working in the coal-pits. In consequence of that prohibition, we have been obliged to take upon the roll a few aged persons, whose daughters formerly maintained them. Some of the women who were employed in the coal-pits, found occupation in field labour; others got work at the coal-hills above ground. They found difficulty in getting into service, none of them having been trained to it. There was no subscription for them in the parish; but they went round to the farmers` houses, and got meal and potatoes. There were upwards of forty females belonging to Auchterderran, who were thrown out of employment by the operation of the act. There was a good deal of immorality connected with that class of people. Many of them had natural children. I think that, for a limited period, it might be advantageous to give a right of relief to females who were thus thrown out of employment ; but I would not give a right of relief to able-bodied persons generally, for there are comparatively few willing to work who cannot find employment.

At Clunie, one of the coal-works in the parish, the colliers are a superior, intelligent class; many, indeed the greater part, of them, have saved money; but in Lochgelly, a village with nearly 900 inhabitants, mostly colliers, the people are poor, and many of them improvident. The difference in the morals and economical condition of the two sets of colliers, arises from those at Clunie having been long superintended by the proprietor, Mr. Ferguson of Raith. All the heritors are ready to come forward to supply the necessary funds for the poor, by voluntary contribution. We make out a statement of the probable amount required, and they assess themselves accordingly. As long as the present system continues, there is no necessity for having a legal assessment. I am satisfied with the means of education in the parish, if the people were willing to [illegible] themselves. With the exception of a few of the colliers, most of the children are sent to school.

Mr William Baird Low, session-clerk of Auchterderran, was present during Mr Fergus` examination, and concurred in his statements. He suggested, in imposing any rate for the relief of the poor, some means should be taken for laying a share of the burden on the proprietors of collieries. Under the present system, the voluntary assessment is paid entirely by the heritors, and the coal proprietors do not pay for the collieries; and it is from the collieries that the great mass of pauperism arises.