Denaby Child´s Death – Father reproved for Neglect

February 1918

Mexborough and Swinton Times February 21918.

Denaby Child´s Death.
Father Reproved For Neglect.

Mr. Frank Allen held an inquest at the Denaby Main Hotel on Tuesday relative to the death of Harriet Moorhouse (10), 5 Edlington Street, Denaby Main, who died on Sunday morning in circumstances suggestive of ptomaine poisoning.

Fred Moorhouse, fireman, 5 Edlington Street, New Conisbrough, said he was employed at Cawley´s Dye Works, Cleckheaton, and lived at Liversedge. He identified the deceased as his daughter. So far as he knew she had been a healthy child. He left Denaby on December 4th and had not been home again until he heard of the child´s death. There were three other children in the house a boy of 16, and two girls of 13 and 12. His wife died six years ago. The boy was a pony driver and earned 38s. 6d. per week. Witness earned from £3 10s to £4 a week. Since he had left Denaby he had sent £2 or £3 home for clothes.

The Coroner : Why did you leave Denaby at all ? To get work.

The Coroner : To get work ? Why you couldn´t miss work at Denaby if you tried man.

I couldn´t get a job except as a fireman, and I wasn´t having that.

Do you consider you have done your duty to your family to leave them in a state like this ?

I have been working to get them a home together over yonder.

Why didn´t you leave them with one ?

What do you call the place where they are ?

A pig would turn it´s nose up at either of those bedrooms !

Witness said it was the fault of the girl aged 13, who would not keep the place properly. She could do it if she tried, but she was always wanting to play. When he was at home he taught her how to keep the place clean.

The Coroner : What on earth do you expect a child of thirteen to do but play ? Do you ask the jury to believe that a child of thirteen and another of twelve are fit to take care of a house.

Witness : Well, there was my sister-in-law looking in.

Witness admitted that the eldest boy had to keep the home going, but said the children received 9s – 3d per week separation allowance in respect of an elder brother in France.

The Coroner : How much do you pay where you live ? £1 a week.

Then you have from £2 – 10s to £3 to spend on yourself ?

I have not spent it all. I have £10, and have spent a sovereign since I came home.

Does it occur to you that you have very seriously neglected these children of yours ?

They have had plenty to eat, and they could have kept the place clean if they had liked.

Evelyn Moorhouse, sister of the deceased, said she was thirteen years old. Since their father left them sometime in December their brother Ambrose had earned the money to keep them. Their father had sent money sometimes ten shillings and sometimes fifteen. Her aunt had received the money, and had bought food and clothing for them with it. She ( witness ) had kept the house and done the cooking. They had had plenty to eat. Her aunt had occasionally done their washing. Harriet began to be ill at half-past eleven on Saturday night. They went to bed at half-past nine. She and her two sisters slept together. They had for supper chips and apples. Harriet began to vomit, and was getting out of bed every few minutes all night. She got much worse after the brother went out to work at half-past five. At half-past six she went for her aunt, and at ten minutes to seven her sister was dead.

Dr. W.J. McClure said he had made a post-mortem on the body. He found no sign of irritant poisoning, but an extensive adhesion of the lungs and liver to the chest wall and diaphragm. The child must have been in very poor condition (although fairly well-nourished), and the vomiting was probably the result of the unsuitable nature of the food she had had. Death was due to shock and exhaustion following the vomiting. The body was lying on a table in the bedroom, and the only other piece of furniture was a broken chair. The bedroom had the appearance of being recently cleaned.

Sarah Moorhouse, 16 Tickhill Street, Denaby, wife of Walter Moorhouse, uncle of the deceased, said the father of the children went away without saying anything to her or her husband, and without making arrangements for the care of the children. She had gone in on Saturday afternoon to take the boy´s money and to lay it out. The boy usually brought home about 24 shillings, after the rent had been deducted at the pit. There were some arrears of rent, which had been deducted from the boy´s wages. Then there was the separation allowance and the father had sent a pound. She had looked in constantly to see that the children were alright ; sometimes five times a day. She had not noticed that Harriet was ailing.

P.S. Lewenden said that when the death was reported to him he went to the house and found it very dirty. The bedroom in which the three little girls slept was filthy, and apparently all the covering the children had for the bed was a sheet, a blanket and a lot of old rags. The boy´s bed was better supplied with covering. There was no food in the house, but the girl Evelyn said they were having plenty to eat.

The Coroner said that on the medical evidence the jury were committed to a verdict of ” Death by Natural Causes,” but they were entitled to say whether they were satisfied that the children had been looked after properly or not, and to ask themselves whether it was a right thing for a father to go away and to leave his family to Providence.

Personally he considered it most improper that this man should have left his children like this without making proper provision for them, and should have left this poor lad of sixteen to keep them and to pay not only the current rent of the house, but the arrears, which the father had left behind him. There appeared, fortunately, to be no suggestion of starvation in this case, but you could neglect children without starving them. The children had been living under the most disgraceful conditions. They had seen for themselves the state of the house. The bed clothes were not fit for human beings to use. A juryman said he thought the conduct of Moorhouse was inhuman, and the jury, after returning a verdict of ” Death from Natural Causes,” asked the Coroner to censure him.

The Coroner, addressing Moorhouse, said the jury had found his conduct to be censurable, and he heartily concurred in that view. The family had been grossly neglected, and there was no doubt that the conditions under which they were living had affected the health of the child who had died. Moorhouse had gone twenty or thirty miles away, and while he had been earning £3 10s or £4 a week he left his children totally dependant on the earnings of a lad of sixteen and the housekeeping to a child of thirteen. This child of thirteen ought to be at school – I do not know how the school authorities missed her – but instead she is losing her education and spending her time looking after the house in order that you may live somewhere else and spend your wages on yourself.

Moorhouse : That´s a lie.

The Coroner : Very good. I want to warn you that unless you make immediate provision for the proper care of your remaining children serious consequences to you are likely to follow. It is not right that a father should go twenty or thirty miles away from his children and leave them to Providence. It is not right and it will not be tolerated.