Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Harsher Times

Harsher Times

 The world was a harsher place 100 years ago. The poor begged for food, work, clothes....hands out were few and far between.
Sure, the Salvation Army was prominent in South Australia, but sometimes, even they were unwilling to help the less well off.

The Advertiser - Friday 8 August 1913, page 18
It was a harsh world, Young ladies could be institutionalised for baby's out of wedlock, being out past curfew, fraternising with boys....or having their husband die or divorce them.
 It didn't take much to be sent to one of the Destitute Asylums of the era, but often it was hard to get back out of the Asylum, many people lost their lives inside them from medical conditions through to suicide and murders, Adelaide's Asylums saw some heinous crimes in their time.

A story printed in The Advertiser on Saturday the 26th of January 1895 (page 6) tells the story of how one Bessie Parker made her way into the Asylum.
 This young lady, who lived just outside Gawler had fallen in love with George Mallyon, a local lad.
 19 year old Bessie and her new friend George had a bit of fun together, and young Bessie became pregnant. It would seem Bessie kept quiet about her pregnancy as long as she possible could, with holding the information from her parents.
 Nearing the time of the child's birth, Bessie could no longer hide her baby belly from her parents, and in a fit of rage she was kicked out of the family home.
 Heavily pregnant Bessie was now camping next to the Gawler river, exposed to the elements, her lover, George, was still around, and when the baby decided it was time to come into the world, it was George who assisted, no women were called, no doctors, just Bessie and George on the side of the Gawler river.
  George unfortunately was not a midwife, nor doctor, and the baby was born, but soon died (It is reported in the coroners report that the most likely reason for death was the head of the child hitting the ground forcibly as it was born)
George, ran to his house nearby to grab horses and a trap - when he returned Bessie had wrapped the body of her child in linen.
George loaded mother and child and drove them into Adelaide to the Destitute Asylum. It was here that George soon learnt that it was a crime not to report the birth to the Gawler police, and not to report the death to the local coroner - an inquest was soon launched.

 Bessie on the other hand, was taken inside quickly and treated for the trauma to her body after given birth. When the inquest was launched proper (a good five days later) Bessie was considered not to be within a mental capacity to answer questioning from the coroner.

The end result of the Coroners verdict: "The child had died through want of proper attention - no blame can be attached to anyone".

© 2013 Allen Tiller

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