Whenever I read about families in times gone by neglecting children, I have to wonder if parents had no choice because of poverty, rather than doing it deliberately or through cruelty. Such a case follows from 1907 and a warning that the content may be upsetting.
On Wednesday 5th June 1907, Charles McGuigan a brusher and his wife Ann McGuigan found themselves in Hamilton Sheriff Court. The couple lived at 22 Forrest Place, a former old tenement which once stood where the carpark is now behind Gilbride Pharmacy. The building was notorious, its tenants often in trouble with the law and there is every indication that the building was far from being fit for purpose.
The charge the couple faced was having wilfully neglected their five children between 13th April and 12th May 1907 in a manner likely to have caused them unnecessary suffering. For failing to provide them with sufficient food, bed and body clothing and failing to keep them clean.
John Cassells, a writer representing the McGuigans provided a case which satisfied the judge to let Charles McGuigan go, the charge withdrawn. However, this was largely due to the fact that Mrs McGuigan pleaded guilty and Mr Cassells went on to make a statement that she had neglected her children, rather than intentionally trying to harm them. During the period in question, her husband had earned 31 shillings 6d per week, but it was what the inspector found on the lead up to the case, which was notable.
In the days before the charge, the Inspector had visited Forrest Place and was permitted entry to number 22 and found little or no furniture and no comfort or beds at all for the five children. The neighbours had taken in the children as Mrs McGuigan was heavily under the influence of drink, whilst her husband worked. Ann McGuigan received a month in jail.
Pictured are small children outside Forrest Place, around the time of this incident. Perhaps the McGuigan children are amongst them?