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Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger, No.1770, Sunday, February 28, 1830


On Wednesday Dr. Somerville, of Mill-street, and the persons, who announced themselves to be the stewards and managers of a tailors' Benefit Society, appeared for the purpose of obtaining his interference to rescue a poor man named Walsh, a broken down tailor, from the unnecessary restraint under which he is obliged to be kept, on the ground of his being a lunatic.

The wretched condition of the poor man having been described by the witnesses, a warrant was granted, and on Thursday a man named Quigley was brought in custody when the following evidence was produced:—

Robert Mason stated, that he belonged to a Benefit Society, of which Walsh was also a member. About a month ago, witness went to the residence of Quigley, for the purpose of seeing Walsh, and reporting to the club the condition in which he found him. He found the unfortunate man in a most miserable state, tied down to the bed with cords, and with nothing to cover him but a counterpane. Witness asked him some questions, but he seemed to be paralysed, and could not speak. Mrs. Quigley, the prisoner's wife, and a young man, were in the room. The week following witness called again to visit him, accompanied by a person called Thomas Hay, and found him sitting in a chair in a very weak and wretched condition. He appeared to be very much reduced in person, and his wrists exhibited considerable laceration from the pressure and friction of the cords with which be had been tied to the bed. The poor fellow seemed to be quite harmless and inoffensive.

Gardiner the officer, who executed the warrant, said, the bed on which the poor creature was stretched was wet and filthy, and the marks of the cords by which he had been tied down were visible on his wrists.

Dr. Somerville said, that such treatment was both improper and unnecessary. The lunatic had been labouring for some time under a disease of the brain, which at intervals rendered him unconscious. By care and attention, added to proper medical treatment, a possibility, however, existed of his ultimate recovery; but the condition in which the defendant had kept him was enough to kill him. Nothing could equal the dirty state both of the room and bed.

The defendant said he claimed the custody of the lunatic by virtue of a relationship which existed between him and his (the defendant's) wife, who was his second cousin, and the closest relation he had in England, although he knew he had got a sister and a nephew living in Dublin. He was aware that Walsh had become entitled to a large sum of money, and he frequently promised to leave the whole amount to his wife, in consequence of her great attention to him.

Mr. Halls observed, that the motive by which the defendant had been influenced was sufficiently apparent by the admission he had just made.

Gardiner, the officer, here produced a quantity of cord, which he found in the room where Walsh was confined. "These cords," the officer added, "are the same that had been used on the legs and arms of the lunatic."

Mr. Halls said, unless you can satisfactorily prove to me that you have in your possession a medical certificate, or an order of the Court of Chancery, to empower you to have taken into your exclusive care the lunatic in question, I shall be bound to treat you as a person guilty of a misdemeanour.

The defendant admitted, that he had neither certificate nor order to produce, but said that he considered he was justified in what he did, the lunatic having no nearer relation in London than his (the defendant's) wife.

Mr. Halls then said, that in the absence of documents required by the Act of Parliament, he should call upon the defendant to find bail, himself in 40l. and two sureties in 20l. each, for his appearance at the sessions; and further that he give 24 hours' notice of bail.

The parties were then bound over to prosecute the defendant, who was removed in custody.

Gardiner, the officer, was then sent to bring the lunatic to the office; and soon after he returned, bringing with him the unfortunate man, whose appearance fully collaborated the account given by the witnesses. He was worn and emaciated in the extreme, and appeared to have suffered from ill-usage and want of proper necessaries. By direction of the Magistrates, he was handed over to the care of Dr. Somerville, who undertook to see that he was properly disposed of, in compliance with the authority contained in the power of attorney, and of the wishes of his sister.

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