83 YEAR OLD JOHN THOMAS, WHO DIED OF NEGLECT IN CARMARTHEN WORKHOUSE IN JANUARY 1849

The following, and sad story tells of the utter neglect of a frail octogenarian resulting in his painful and traumatic end that could so easily have been avoided had his family and local community taken more interest in his wellbeing. Taking over four hours to be transported in an open cart to the Carmarthen Workhouse ( at his own request) a distance of seven miles in the freezing month of January with hardly any protection from the weather, ultimately aided his early demise. As is also the case with so many of his generation, he died in the Workhouse amidst the most terrible conditions and is buried in a paupers grave. May he rest in peace.

An INQUEST was held on Saturday last, at the Board Room of the Carmarthen Union Workhouse, before John Hughes, Esq., Coroner, upon view of the body of John Thomas, who met his death in the mode detailed in the following evidence. The first witness examined was Thomas Jones, who said about nine o’clock on the morning of Wednesday last, I saw deceased in the hayloft belonging to Plas, near Llanstephan.

PLAS, LLANSTEPHAN. AN IMPOSING RESIDENCE OVERLOOKING THE TOWY ESTUARY

I asked him why he was lying there, and he said because they had not put up a bed for him, speaking incoherently. He raised himself in a sitting posture, and said his back was painful, and that he had had a bad fall in coming through the hayloft door the preceding night. There was sufficient light for me to see that he had a bruise over one of his eyes. I then sent my wife down to the village of Llanstephan, who brought deceased’s son and police constable Thomas Phillips, by whom the prisoner was assisted home. He was accustomed to sleep in the loft and obtained a living by begging about the country, and received no parochial relief. Deceased was about 83 years of age. Thomas Phillips was sworn and said:- That he is a constable of the parish of Llanstephan, and was sent for by last witness to see deceased whom he assisted in company with his son, to his son’s house, where he (witness) gave him some beer, bread, sugar, and sevenpence in money. He stayed in his son’s house that night and seemed better in the evening, but complained of pain in his abdomen. On Thursday morning witness and deceased’s son put him in a cart to take him to Llanybri, two miles off, in order to see the relieving officer. About three bundles of straw were put in the cart for him to rest upon, and a piece of carpet was wrapped about his legs. He was very badly clothed it was a bitter cold day and freezing hard. He expressed a wish to be in the sick ward in the Workhouse. Having obtained an admission ticket for the Workhouse, witness put more straw over him, and brought him to Carmarthen, where they arrived about half-past three. The journey, being about ten miles, lasted four hours. John John, Master of the Workhouse, deposed that when deceased was brought into the sick ward, he was very low, and could hardly speak distinctly. He was extremely cold and had but a little straw over him. Witness immediately sent for Mr Williams, the surgeon to the union, who was from home. Mr. Rowlands, surgeon was then sent for and on his arrival at 8 o’clock he ordered some gin for him, but before it could be obtained the man was dead. Witness believed he died of exposure to the cold. He was in a very filthy state when brought to the Workhouse, and covered with vermin. When he arrived witness believed him to be dying. He was about 83 years of age. David Thomas, deceased’s son, deposed that after his father’s removal to his house he smoked a pipe and seemed much better. He admitted that he gave his father in charge to Thos. Phillips under the Vagrancy Act. The inquest was adjourned until Monday when the evidence of James Rowlands, Esq., surgeon, was taken. He deposed as follows: – “On Thursday last about 8 o’clock in the evening I went up to the Workhouse, and saw deceased in the sick ward. He was in bed by the fire and in convulsions. He was quite cold in his thighs, arms and forehead. His legs and arms were quite stiff, and the pupils of the eyes dilated. No pulse could be felt at his wrist. I believe he died from the effects of some injury done to his head, but he may have died from exposure to cold. I ordered heat to be applied to him, and some gin to be given him in gruel. From the external bruise around the left eye, I believe some injury was done to the brain. That was also indicated by a weakness of the right side and convulsions in the left side”. The Coroner then ably summed up the evidence, and the jury returned as their verdict, that deceased died in the Union Workhouse, but how or by what means he came to his death, there was no evidence to determine. Both deceased’s son and the constable Thomas Phillips were severely reprimanded for their inattention and neglect of the deceased.

THE BURIAL REGISTER ENTRY FOR JOHN THOMAS