The Newport, Wormit & Forgan Archive

Evidence to the Poor Law Inquiry 1844

Minutes of Evidence taken before the Poor Law Inquiry Commission for Scotland

Examinations: Synod of Fife, Presbytery of St Andrews, Parish of Forgan.
Rev. C. Nairn.
9 Oct. 1843.

Population in 1841: 1219
Paupers relieved in 1841: 7
Sum distributed amongst them: £24 : 1 : 11.

Rev. Charles Nairn, Minister of the Parish of Forgan:
I am minister of the parish of Forgan, and I have been so for upwards of seven years.

There is no legal assessment in my parish for the relief of the poor. We depend altogether upon the sessional funds for this purpose, but the heritors have subscribed voluntarily for the last three years, for the support of some lunatics. There are six heritors in the parish, of whom two are resident. None of the non-resident heritors has ever sent me contributions to the church collections; one of them distributes, occasionally, coals on his own estate. The heritors do not attend the ordinary meetings for the management of the poor; we occasionally, however, lay before them the state of our funds.

Our usual allowances to the poor on the permanent roll, are 1s. 6d. a week. We have no bed-ridden person on the roll, nor widow, nor orphan, nor blind person, nor deaf and dumb. We have two lunatics in the Edinburgh asylum, and one fatuous person, who is a young man, about twenty-four years of age, he is allowed 2s. a week. He lives with his parents. His father is a labourer, and has a large family, of which the youngest is about twelve years of age. We do not usually provide a doctor for the sick poor from the poor funds, but we have occasionally paid a doctor's bill. I think it is about two years since we have done such a thing. We do not provide extra nutritious diet for the sick poor from the poor funds, anything of that kind comes from private sources. The poor on the permanent roll are not able, generally, for any work, however little. Under these circumstances, I cannot explain how they live on 1s. 6d. a week : it has often been a wonder to me. The only way I can account for it, is by the kindness of neighbours.

We have four persons on the permanent roll, - one is the fatuous young man previously referred to, another is an old woman, above seventy years of age, who resides alone, her allowance is 1s. 6d. a week. I do not know what her rent is. I do not believe that she is rent free. I do not know what relations she has. She is totally unable to work. There is another old woman, nearly eighty years of age, her allowance is 1s. 3d. a week. She resides with an un-married daughter, who has a house on the property of Tayfield, and keeps poultry for Mr Berry, who works occasionally at agricultural labour, and has a natural daughter, who is in service in Edinburgh. The old woman is maintained by her daughter and grandchild, with the allowance from the session. There is another middle-aged woman, who lives alone. She receives 1s. 6d. a week ; and her house rent, the precise amount of which I do not know, is paid by the kirk-session. She is in delicate health, but may earn a little by sewing.

We defray the funeral expenses of deceased paupers, allowing about 15s. for this purpose. The children in the parish are generally vaccinated. There is scarcely any begging amongst the poor on the roll, but there is a great deal of vagrancy. This is owing to the vicinity of Dundee, and to the high road passing through the parish.

I am not accurately acquainted with the size of farms in the parish. We have a good many agricultural labourers in our parish, not having land, and not being farm servants. I have not witnessed any very great destitution amongst them. The bulk of our population consists of this class. We have very few weavers in this parish, but we have a few seamen and families connected with the ferry. We have never found it necessary to raise subscriptions for the relief of the unemployed in our parish. The inhabitants are decidedly active, industrious, and temperate in their habits, and are, generally speaking, well educated. I am quite satisfied with our means for providing education in the parish. The late secession from the established church will materially affect the church collections.

My experience in the parish would not warrant me in recommending an assessment for the support of the impotent poor. I have always thought that the allowances were too stinted, but I think that the evil would be remedied by a more liberal contribution rather than by an assessment. In our case, the stinted allowances are not owing to the want of funds. Having such a horror at an assessment, the course which I would pursue in parishes where stinted allowances are owing to deficient funds, would be to press upon the people the duty of their subscribing more liberally. I should not approve of giving able-bodied people out of employment relief from the funds, unless in seasons of great extremity. We did give a little assistance of this kind about 1838. We gave relief then to two or three able-bodied persons.

I have no further suggestion to make on the poor laws.

Parliamentary Papers, 1844, [565], Poor Law Inquiry (Scotland), Appendix III, p. 304

© Parliamentary Papers are Crown Copyright.

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