Friday, 3 June 2016

Samuel and his wife Daisy Varney – Neglect of a Child

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Samuel and his wife Daisy (Varney) were in trouble with the authorities according to a report in The Pioneer. They were taken to court in February 1916 for ‘wilfully neglecting’ their four year old. Edith. The child was found to be ‘undersized and emaciated, pallid and ill looking’ her hair swarming with vermin, unwashed and matted with eczema on her scalp; her body unwashed and she weighed only 18lbs (about 8Kg). The home surroundings were generally said to be wretched and squalid. However, the other children appeared to be reasonably well cared for and nourished.

From the 1911 census and birth records there might have been eight children in all, with a baby of a few months and two other children younger than Edith. It is possible that the eldest children – Daisy aged 19 and Ivy Lily aged 17 were not living in the family home by 1916. The next two oldest children had been registered at Deansfield School – Winifred aged nine and Alfred Samuel age five. Daisy and Samuel lived at 17 Martin Bower Road, a Class 3 house. Samuel was employed at the Arsenal, giving his employment on the Deansfield School register as a stoker. He claimed in court to be earning £3 a week of which he gave his wife £2 10s (£2. 50) a week so presumably his wife paid the rent (about 10/- a week) out of this money. A key witness was a neighbour Florence Howlett from No15 who said she considered the mother to be to blame. Samuel also seemed to point the finger of blame stating that when Edith developed ‘dirty habits’ his wife put the child in a
room on her own away from the other children.

Both parents were punished; Daisy was sent to prison for six weeks without hard labour, the newspaper account clearly labelling her as ‘unrepentant ‘. This is because she insisted that the child was quite alright and needed to be punished. Samuel however was bound over under the Probation Act. We can only hope that in the long term the family did not suffer from the separation and that Edith regained her health.

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