1916 court: Neglected wife turns to relief fund for help

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Possessing a badly bruised eye, a well-known Scarborough man, a painter, named Francis Mennell, whose address was given as 3, Barry’s Yard, St Mary’s Street, Scarborough, but who was brought from Huddersfield to Scarborough, appeared on a charge of having neglected to maintain his wife, whereby she became chargeable, on December 7th, to the funds of the Scarborough Poor Law Union.

The charge read over by the acting clerk (Mr EJ Birdsall) stated that defendant, “being able to work,” neglected to maintain his wife.

Defendant: Able to work! I have done no work since the 8th of last March.

The acting clerk: Do you say you are unable to maintain your wife?

Defendant: Yes. He added that he had had two fingers amputated (defendant had been engaged, after leaving the Royal Engineers, on other work and met with an accident, part of the two fingers being removed). He was also understood to say that a thumb had been affected.

The acting clerk next asked defendant whether it was not a fact that he had £34 4s 10d on him when arrested, and to this he replied: I had that as compensation (for the accident).

The acting clerk: Yet you say you are unable to maintain your wife?

Defendant: Certainly, I cannot work with this hand.

Mr J Dyde, Workhouse Master, who is acting for Mr Todd, as relieving officer during Mr Todd’s indisposition, said Mrs Mennell applied on November 18th to the guardians for relief, producing a medical certificate that she was not able to work. On the 7th December she was granted 5s a week and had had in all 27s, from the guardians. The total indebtedness, including the cost of fetching defendant to Scarborough was £2 13s 1d.

Defendant said he had been in the Royal Engineers and was discharged after serving several months. During the time he was in the engineers his wife had received 17s 6d a week. She had 4s 6d from a son in France. During the time he (defendant) was away she was locked up for having been drunk - helplessly drunk. When he was on furlough from his regiment she had been drunk in the house, and had men drinking in the house.

Mrs Mennell (from the body of the court): It is false, I was in the Ebenezer (Chapel).

The acting clerk (to defendant): Have you made any arrangements to keep your wife in the future?

Defendant: I haven’t.

The acting clerk: Do you propose to do so?

Defendant: I’ll allow her 5s a week, but she’ll spend it in drink when she gets it.

The chairman, Alderman Pirie - the other magistrate on the bench was Mr J Sinfield - told defendant that he was very sorry to see him there again, the defendant had been there so often over that business.

He asked: “Are you willing to pay this £2 13s 1d out of the money you have on you?”

Defendant said he would willingly do so.

The chairman: And you must make arrangements with your wife, and make her an allowance. The case, the chairman added, would be adjourned until January 26th, and during that time defendant must try to make arrangements.

Defendant said he would try to get some employment, but he had two fingers off.

The chairman: You have a nice sum of money on you.

Defendant: Yes, but I have to live.

The chairman: I hope by the time the money is spent you will be better.