Poor Law records: Minutes

Alexander Morrison’s entry in the General Register of the Poor shed new light on his situation between 1894 and his death in 1898.  The General Register listed several changes in his circumstances.  For each of these changes, a decision will have been made by the Parochial Board (by this time Parish Council).  By looking at their minute books for the dates mentioned in the General Register, it is possible to find out more about Alexander.

Stornoway Parish Council minute 27 July 1894

The image above shows the full minute book page for 27 July 1894 where Alexander is admitted onto the roll.  The minute would have been written-up neatly by the clerk and you can see how the minute is indexed down the left hand side of the page to make navigation easier. 

Below is the more detailed extract from the page relating to Alexander:

Stornoway Parish Coucnil minute of 27 July 1894

The minute gives us his wife’s maiden name which is useful for tracing family history and also detail on the Prudential Life Assurance policy mentioned in the original Application, complete with reference numbers.  The researcher who discovered these records contacted the man from the Pru to see if they had any records relating to the policy but sadly, due to the sheer number of policies held, the Pru do not retain individual cases.  Is was a nice new avenue of research though!

31 Oct 1894

The minute of 31 Oct 1894 gives further details on the Assurance Policy.  As the Parish Council are assisting Alexander and his wife, they take possession of the policies and cash them in, the money then being added to the coffers to support Alexander and other paupers.  At the same time, his weekly assistance is dropped to two shillings from three.

Stornoway Parish Coucnil minute of 30 April 1895

In March 1895, Alexander’s assistance is reduces to one shilling, six pence, presumably because his wife has passed away and he no longer has to support her.

Stornoway Parish Coucnil minute of 27 Oct 1897

Stornoway Parish Coucnil minute of 27 Oct 1897

On 27 October 1897, the Council decide that Alexander, along with 15 other cases, are to be offered places in the new Lewis Combination Poorhouse at Coulregrein. 

The minute of the following meeting on 8 December 1897 reveals why Alexander was struck off the roll as seen in the General Register:

Stornoway Parish Coucnil minute of 31 Aug 1898

Stornoway Parish Coucnil minute of 8 Dec 1897

R1_231_18971208_003_detail.jpg

The poorhouse was deliberately an unpleasant place to be and it would appear that in less that two days Alexander realised it wasn’t for him.  As the Parish Council were dictating how Alexander was to live as they were paying for him, his refusal of the help offered meant he was struck off the roll and received no more financial aid.

The minute of 31 August 1897 shows that Alexander returned to the poorhouse and is therefore admitted back onto the roll.  This is the last we hear of him in the minute book, his death being recorded in the General Register on 13 October, two months after he returned to the poorhouse.

Minutes can be an amazingly rich source of information on the islands’ paupers but sadly, the level of detail available relied on the diligence and minuting-style of the clerk.  Sometimes, the poor are referred to just by their reference number in the Applications or General Register.  Other times, like above, extra detail is provided.  Its hit and miss, but such is the joy of research!

About David Powell

Project Manager and Archivist with Tasglann nan Eilean Siar
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