Monday, 4th February 1867
Sad Day Of Destitution & Death Near Wallasey
On Friday an inquest was held before Mr. Churton, county coroner, at Liscard, on the body of John Frost, shoemaker, aged 70 years, who died very suddenly on the previous evening.
Mary Frost stated that she was the wife of the deceased, who was a shoemaker, living in Liscard, aged 70 years. He had not been very well during the last three weeks; he complained of plain and uneasiness about the heart. He, however, continued to attend to his work until twelve o'clock on Thursday. He seemed tolerably well up to a few minutes of his death. Between eight and nine o'clock he took his tea, and as he was sitting in his chair about nine o'clock he was taken suddenly ill. She became alarmed, and called in several neighbours, but deceased got rapidly worse, and died in about ten minutes. During the last eight weeks he had been very badly off for work, and earned so little that he was obliged to Mr McNerney for relief. About a week ago he went that officer at Wallasey. He returned home and informed her that the relief he wanted was refused; that he told the officer of the great distress he was in, but he refused to do anything more for him than the offer of an order for the workhouse, which he refused, as he did not wasn't’t to break up his home. On the day deceased died he had some soup, and with his tea at night a little dry bread. The soup was supplied by Mr. Tobin. During the last week deceased only earned 1s. 10d., and that was all he had to maintain his family, consisting of three children. They occupied one apartment, for which they paid 2s. per week. She believed deceased's death was caused more from want of food than anything else.
Several questions were put to the witness by the jury, and the answers given went to show how severely the deceased and his family had suffered for several weeks before relief was applied for.
The Coroner, summing up the case, said that if the jury credited Mrs. Frost's statement, which she appeared to have given very fairly, he feared that, although disease of the heart might have had something to do with the suddenness of the death, poverty and destitution had materially contributed to the fatal result; if, therefore, they coincided with him in this view, their verdict would probably be that the deceased's death was the result of natural causes, accelerated by want of the ordinary necessaries of life. He (coroner) could not conclude without venturing on one or two remarks on the conduct of Mr. McNerney, who, as they all knew, had a very large and populous district, and whose duties during the recent inclement season must have been especially arduous; and this might in some measure account for his not having visited the family of the deceased after the application had been made. Relieving officers, when applied to by an able-bodied man, cannot give relief either in money or in kind, but they can offer the workhouses; but when a man arrives at the age of 70 years, he no longer can be considered in a legal sense able-bodied; but the relieving officer has still a discretionary power either of offering the workhouse or giving immediate pecuniary assistance.
Mr. McNerney was a person of great experience in all matters pertaining to his office, and had the reputation of having performed his difficult duties in a very satisfactory manner, and he (the coroner) much regretted that he had not in this instance given the poor fellow an order to procure for himself and his starving children a few shillings worth of food, and visited the case and reported it at the next meeting of the guardians, who doubtless would have sanctioned the continuance of the temporary relief, by means of which the man's life might have been preserved to his family, He thought the offer of the workhouse to a man of 70 who had a trade in his hands and a wife and three children to maintain a very harsh course, and such as no board of guardians would sanction.
The jury, after some deliberation, returned the following verdict: - "That the deceased John Frost died from natural causes, accelerated by want of the necessaries of life; and they regret Mr. McNerney did not afford immediate relief."Liverpool Mercury
Tuesday, 5th February, 1867
The Late Death From Destitution At Wallasey
THE EDITORS IF THE LIVERPOOL MERCURY.
Gentlemen - I was much surprised on reading in your journal of this morning the report of an inquest held at Liscard on Friday night, which to some extent censured my mode of treating a man named Frost. If the whole facts of that case had been known to the jury, I am satisfied neither coroner nor jury would have considered me in any way blameable in the matter. The man Frost had lived many years in Seacombe, and had long been known as an intemperate character. Some time ago he married a young woman, now 36 years of age, and she has three children. On the 24th if January Frost applied to me for relief, in consequence of being out of work, and I then gave him an order for the workhouse. He gave me his address in Seacombe, as appears on the face of the order. On going to his house the same night I found that neither he nor his family lived at the address he gave me, and I now find he had for some time back been living in St. Alban's Road, Liscard. I attend every week a place near his residence in Liscard, viz., at the Post Office, but instead of walking only a few yards to make the application, he for some reason chose to walk about two miles to Seacombe. Knowing the character of the family, I did not consider the case one for relief out of the house, and therefore gave the order. When I called at the address given and found that Frost did not reside there, I naturally came to the conclusion that some imposition had been attempted to be practised upon me.
Allow me to add that I am much obliged to the coroner for the general fairness and justice of his observations regarding the manner in which I discharge my duties. Trusting that you will grant me space for the insertion of this letter in vindication of myself, I am, yours, &c.
M. McNerney, Relieving Officer,
Hampton House, Birkenhead, Feb. 4, 1867.