Grubbed in Dustbin for Food – Father Sent to Prison for Neglect

January 1939

South Yorkshire Times, January 27 th

Grubbed in Dustbin for Food
Denaby boys Plight.
Father sent to Prison for Neglect.
Sordid Story.

The statement that boys aged nine and five and grubbed in a dustbin for Yorkshire pudding and ate pork rind thrown out for dogs, was made to the Doncaster West Riding Bench on Tuesday, when John A.Robson (29), 22 Edlington Street, Denaby Main, was charged with neglecting his sons, Albert and Kenneth, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering and injury to their health.

The prosecution was taken at the instance of the N..S.P.C.C. and Robson was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.

On a further charge of attempting and endeavouring to obtain goods by false pretence from George Manchester, grocer, he was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment, this term to run concurrently with the foregoing. A charge that between December 25 and January 6 at Conisbrough he feloniously received a pair of black shoes valued five shillings, which he knew to have stolen, was dismissed.

Trying to look Innocent.

Announcing the sentence, the chairman (Mr Mark L.Nokes) said: “You are the most despicable sort of man whoever stood there and tried to look so innocent. You never had any thought in your mind about your children at any time. I do not know what is the condition of your wife in hospital, but I suppose she is the same as the children; she has not had a chance. We do not know how you could see your little children on Christmas Day, with snow up to their knees, no stockings, no boots, have to run to dustbins for something to eat. You ought to be ashamed of your own manhood. We cannot punish you properly as we would like to do. I am sorry the sentences will have to run concurrently. Your children will be put away. You are not worthy of your responsibilities towards them.”

Robson’s wife was similarly charged with neglecting the children, and after it been stated that she was now in hospital and was pregnant, the bench adjourned the case sine die. Inspector Gooderson stated that there were several charges against one of the children.

Mr W.F.Bracewell, prosecuting in the neglect case for the N.S.P.C.C.said when the family first came to the notice of the society. It consisted of father, mother, and three children, but one child had died. In November 1937, the family lived at Edlington, and the parents were reported to the society by the School Medical Officer. They received several warnings. Robson then moved to Denaby, and they were not traced until they were brought to the notice of the society in July 1938. The charges ran from that date.

At Denaby the whole family were found living in one room containing a double bed in which parents and children slept. The house was fairly clean then and the children were in fair condition. They were badly and unlikely clad, and the parents were warned. There was some improvement until November 1938, and education authorities made a report to the society that Albert was in a dirty, badly clothed, and neglected condition. The home had been under almost constant supervision since that time.

Without Boots

the children were frequently found without boots, and on January 9 they were found in rubber shoes. Several women would say that the children were badly dressed and describe how hungry they were.

The smaller boy had been seen to pick up pork rind thrown out for a dog.

A medical examination of the children was made, and Albert was found to be suffering from bronchitis. They were once removed to a place of safety. “One boy,” said Mr Bracewell, “has had a report made against him to the police for stealing, but no proceedings will be taken because it will be fairly obvious that he has been driven to this by hunger or by the inducements of his father.”

Inspector John Horsewell of the N.S.P.C.C., described how he found the family at Edlington, and Denaby. The defendant had been working off and on and during 10 weeks he was off work he received £2 1s a week. During this period he did not pay his rent. Robson said he had had a lot of illness, but gave no excuse. His wife and he went drinking, but apparently not to excess. The inspector added that although the parents were warned that the doctor would be coming to make an inspection of the children they were still unwashed when he arrived.

Robson: You did not tell us what day the doctor was coming up.

Mr Noakes: They want washing every day whether the doctor is there or not.

Doctors Evidence.

Dr David Clark said on January 10th he examined the children. Albert was suffering from bronchitis and was not suitably dressed. Kenneth was unwashed and not suitably clad. He was of the opinion that the children had been caused unnecessary suffering by not been properly clothed. The children were well nourished.

Emily Phillips, married woman, Wood View, Denaby, said she was washing the front of Denaby Picture House when she saw Albert cold and wet through. It was raining heavily and he said he was going on an errand for his mother. She gave him a shilling and sent him to buy a pair of stockings, and also got him a raincoat. His boots were rather big and were tied at the top. “I felt very sorry for him,” added the witness.

Hannah Knowles, married woman, of Edlington Street, Denaby, said she knew the Robson children and considered that they wanted looking after. She had sometimes given the younger boys something to eat. On one occasion she threw a piece of Yorkshire pudding into the dustbin. The little boy took it out, and the elder said, “I am the biggest, give me half.” Whereupon they ate it.

Ellie Guest, married woman, Sprotborough Street, Denaby, said she had several times given Albert puddings, buns, scones and pie. He had asked her for food. On one occasion she sent him home with half a loaf, and he came back with a note for money to buy something.

Defendant asked the witnessif she had not given the food after asking the children to run errands. The witness replied that had never been the case; she had sent the boy unnecessary errands and given him coppers.

Violet Woodhouse, married woman, Sprotborough Street, Denaby, said she had found the little boy hungry and he had asked her for crusts from the table.

Sgt Eyott said he had known the family for about six months. The father had associated with other women. With regard to the cases involving one of the children, the reason was hunger. The boy must have been driven to it. The defendant did not seem to be a man who took drink, but he and his wife did not seem topull along together. “When I have been fully clothed,” said the sergeant, “I have been cold, but I’ve seen these children in jerseys, trousers, and boots, without a shirt.

Robson told the bench he did not wish to make a statement in regard to this case.

Attempt to get Food.

Inspector Goodison, prosecuting on the false pretences and receiving charges, said in the former case, to which defendant pleaded “guilty,” an attempt was made to get 10d of food by false pretences. The boy Albert was sent with a note to a local grocer named Manchester. The note read: “Please, Mr Manchester, will you let me have these few things until the morning – 3d of potatoes, one pound of sugar and a loaf,” and the note bore the name of Mrs Bates. Mrs Bateshad anaccount with Manchester, and apparently the defendant was aware of that fact, but she also had a book in which the order could be written. In consequence, Manchester made a complaint to the police. Robson was interviewed, and admitted he had sent the boy. He said, “I was a bit short until morning.”

The Inspector then dealt with the receiving charge, which Robson denied. The facts were that a man named Bright, on November 25, left one house and went elsewhere. In the course of removing he missed a pair of black shoes, and these were later found at a pawnbroker shop. They were taken there by a girl who visited the place for several people. She told the police that the shoes were brought to her by one of the children, and she had paid over 3s 4d to Robson himself. The boy made a statement to the police to the effect that he stole the shoes when the removal was being made.

Robson told the bench that the children had sufficient food. He had a drink occasionally, and smoked a little.

Mr Nokes said that on the receiving charge Robson would be given the the benefit of the doubt.


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