George Millard was the author's Great-Great-Grandfather.
The Mitigation of Dr Millard
I swear by Almighty God to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
George Llewellyn Millard, Market Street, Haverfordwest. Fifty-three years of age. Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, to which honour I was admitted by examination on the seventh day of July eighteen fifteen. In consequence I have now practised in this town, if you do not include my apprenticeship, thirty-three years.
I think, Your Worships, that I am well known amongst my peers here, and for that matter by the burgesses too, and it pleases me to think that it was by virtue of my reputation among the people of this fine town that I was appointed as the Medical Officer to the Poor Law Union and to The County Asylum here in March eighteen forty-three. The duties of the Surgeon to the Asylum are to attend on one day a week to the medical needs of the unfortunate inmates and advise Mr and Mrs Hanson, who are the appointed supervisors, in their ministrations. I receive a stipend of thirty pound per annum for this office, which is not a considerable sum, when I am detained from my practice and thereby from more lucrative emolument.
May I say before continuing, Your Worships, that it pains me in no small measure, no small measure, to find myself, as a man of no little standing in our community, if I may, summoned before you on charges of neglect. The Commissioners in Lunacy have their appointed capacities, but Sirs, what do they know, sitting up there in London, of how our ancient borough functions? The government, after all, has charged you and your colleagues on the Bench with the operation of the Pembrokeshire Asylum, at no minor expense to the propertied class in this town, and by The Act – I mean the Act of ‘twenty-eight, as you will understand – it has imposed onerous duties, as well as expense, on those who have to take upon themselves, out of their sense of civic obligation, and doubtless, their sense of Christian duty too, the administration of succour to the most unprovidential and wretched of their fellow men. So indeed, you are encumbered by the Act, but they do not trust you to understand and fulfil your charge, but that they must send their agents to pry, and probe, and busy themselves about to see how it is done. Thus it is that I find myself before you.
Your Worships will remember all too well how our Asylum came to be. Some years before the hand of Parliament deemed it necessary, your worthy predecessors wisely saw the need to restrain and safely accommodate the lunatics of this County, who were otherwise a sad charge on each Parish, and a threat to the safety and decency of the respectable public. There is no room on Pembrokeshire roads for those who have maddened themselves by intemperate vice or whose conduct, however unwitting, is an affront to the morals of our good ladies, or even our servants. I speak, Sirs, as the father of five daughters myself. So it was that when the opportunity afforded itself by the removal elsewhere of the town’s Bridewell, the burgesses seized upon the old gaol premises at St Thomas to meet the need they had identified. It was a decision both provident and prudent.
Your colleagues recognised that the premises were in some respects deficient. They were not designed for those for whom no bounds had been set to incarceration, and the state of our medical knowledge being as it is, that means most of ‘em. Thus I was gratified to find upon my appointment that, exemplia gratia, it was proposed to fit out the window apertures with glazing. St Thomas’ Green is exposed to all the winds of our lovely West Wales, crowning Haverfordwest as it does, and this change afforded considerable amelioration for the lunatics, and indeed for Mr and Mrs Hanson. It is only right that proper regard should be had to the welfare of the county’s servants, who have such trying duties to fulfil. That’s my view.
The Commissioners complain that the cells, what were formerly the cells, the rooms made available to the inmates, are small, and insufficient in number, so that they are obliged to share their bedding, in the common spaces. Sirs, I can only use the tools I am provided, but I have always enjoined Mr Hanson to ensure the integrity of the sexes is respected. This has occasioned particular problems with regard to the sanitary facility in the yard, but I felt that this was sufficiently met by Mrs Hanson’s expedient of hanging up a blanket, as a pro tem measure. I cannot surely be held to account for the numbers consigned to the establishment. It is a frightful reflection of our times that there are so many among the indigent, deserving or otherwise, that they cannot or will not be accommodated amongst their own.
The sad fact is, Your Worships, that for all that we are approaching the mid-point of this century, many there are who sleep in houses that are little better than stables and live on a potato broth. And I do not speak of Ireland. I anticipate your ready agreement that it is not the duty of the well born or of the professional or even the artisan classes to provide for the pauper a standard of life to which those better classes themselves can only aspire. The mad for whom this county provides have daily meals, a roof, and since last year, even chairs in which to take their ease. There are many outside this town who would count them fortunate. And Mr Hanson and I have still been able to contain the cost to the public purse within five shillings each week per personam, when I am advised other Unions in Wales are obliged to spend as much as six shillings and eightpence.
But I do not wish to presume on the Bench, so I will pass on to what the Commissioners seem to regard as the casi belli of this matter, the absence of the statutory records. Haverfordwest is a grand town, two churches, the ruins of the castle of our forebears, and fine streets. But it is still a small place by the standards of London. When my dear wife and I walk beside the river, or come from St Mary’s church of a Sunday, we see familiar faces all round. I think we are liked Sirs, and I hope we are trusted, as I trust the townspeople with whom I have daily intercourse, because I know them, have known them, donkey’s years, as we say. So what is the merit in bits of paper?
The Commissioners ask that I produce records of complaint. But I am the medical officer, I am there to attend to medical needs. The inmates do not complain to me, they go first to Mr Hanson, who has their ear I’m sure. I was aware, as I admit, that the chimney filled the common rooms with smoke on an intermittent basis. I understood that Mr Hanson was to deal with it. I was not aware it was blocked. The ventilation has long been a problem, a long time. The propinquity of the cattle market has not assisted us. It is not easy to grasp when a lunatic has a complaint, and it is true that in the main, they are mostly compliant. I did not grasp Elizabeth Parry’s gist, I regret. She is from the north of the county and I have little Welsh now, coming from Manorbier as you will appreciate. I recommended to Mr Hanson that slopping out should be done by some course other than through the bakery when baking was on hand. What other course was not for me to suggest.
Restraint, the Commissioners say, where are the records of restraint? All I can say is that Lord Shaftesbury hasn’t been dragged from his fireside on a winter night to wrestle with a madman who thinks he is St.John the Baptist and that Mrs Hanson is a Welsh Salome set upon tempting him. Last year, last year Your Worships, I had to attend a single woman who was committed, I can hardly tell you in the propriety of the courtroom, committed because she had once arranged the death of her unborn child, and was enceinte again, and hourly threatened to cut her own throat or hang herself or in some other way do away with herself. Raving is a word that’s used lightly, but only them as must work with the mad really know what it means, the thrashing, the language and the screaming.
But what can you do? You can’t bleed an idiot child or put a mustard poultice on a melancholic. And we have a lot of them, that sit staring at the wall for days at an end. I have a man from Narberth currently, perhaps I shouldn’t say that - no matter – wherever he is from it doesn’t much signify - he will not leave his bed, save to use the necessary offices, which he doesn’t often manage unattended. All day he spends, cowering beneath his blanket. Were it not that Mrs Hanson is prepared to exceed the limits of her duty and bring him his food, he would starve. Five years he has been like that, and there is no end in sight. What to do, what? Don’t think I’ve not asked myself. You find you cannot think… But they are all mad, you tell yourself. You cannot expect more.
You see, the restraining chair and the confining waistcoat have forever been the tools of trade of the madhouse keeper. I fear that you will classify me as such, oh yes, though you may shake your heads. But for all the modern injunctions, the alienists in London can scratch their heads, they can’t suggest otherwise, they don’t manage the lunatic week in and week out as the professional man must. And then, at the end of the day, or just as likely, the night, I have to return to my home down the hill in Market Street to my wife and my children, and the law says I must sit down and write an account of these transactions, which I have to harden my heart even to contemplate. Harden the heart, yes.
And the very next morning I must see my town patients on my round, or at my little surgery, and smile and ask after their sister or their husband, and have an opinion on Mr Williams’ preaching, or the price of soap. There goes that nice Dr Millard with his girls, lovely girls they are, such a credit – I’ve a son too of course - and I think of growing up in Manorbier, quite close to the sea – I expect you know it Your Worships – and the great step of apprenticeship away from home, and the excitement - my family are just country people - this town, my life, was a world away. My wife Elizabeth - we married in the Cathedral in Brecon you know – came back here to live with me, a man of repute in the town she understood, and I think rightly understood, so that my eldest daughter married a son of the town Sheriff, I don’t need to mention his name, and I worked at my practice. We flourished, flourished in our little way. Manorbier might be proud. I hoped it was. But Manorbier doesn’t pay the rent or the coalman or my daughters’ French lessons. It only has its expectations. Who’s to say it’s right?
I pleaded guilty you see. Your Worships must do what you must. We all must do what we must. But I’m a professional man, you know, professional, that’s the word. It must mean something, mustn’t it? Can I stand down now, Your Worships? May I stand down?
The rights of Christopher Thomas as author have been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
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