My 2nd great aunt, Margaret Keenan was just 18 years old when she died on 19 September 1886. She was the 7th child of Irish immigrants, Patrick Keenan and Agnes Haughey and the closest in age to my great grandmother, Ellen Keenan. Ellen was my mother’s paternal grandmother.
Margaret was born in the Parish of Cambusnethan on 16 March 1868. She appears on both the 1871 and 1881 census records living with her family in Newmains. The next record I found for her was her death record which shows she died within her family home at 14 Furnace Row, Newmains. Her mother, Agnes was present at the time of death and it was she who registered the death using an X as her mark in lieu of a signature.
It is the word “pauper” on the record written where her occupation should be recorded that caught my eye. Being recorded as a pauper meant that she had to have applied for poor relief at some point.
The poor relief applications for Cambusnethan Parish are held at the Lanarkshire Heritage Centre in Motherwell. On request, the very helpful staff will bring you the original registers which often contain information not available elsewhere. It is a real privilege to be able to view these original registers but for those unable to visit the centre, the records are also now indexed and available to view on Ancestry.
In the case of Margaret, I discovered that she applied for poor relief at 230pm on 7 April 1885. I would imagine that for a 17 year old girl bring interviewed by the poor house inspector would have been a very daunting prospect.
On the register Margaret is recorded as single with no dependants. Her occupation is given as bleachfield worker and her religion as Roman Catholic.
Per the normal procedure, a home visit was carried out by the inspector who visited 14 Furnace Row at 1115am on 8 April.
I wonder if having a poorhouse inspector visiting your home would have been a cause for shame. Had the family tried to provide for Margaret until they could no longer manage? The record shows that in her early teens she had been forced to leave home and work in the textile industry in Paisley as a bleachfield worker; chemical bleaching of linen and cotton. Originally the bleachfields were literal open fields where the materials were stretched out for bleaching but in Margaret’s time they were enclosed or partially enclosed areas within the confines of the mill.
From the record I can see that my great granny was also involved in this type of work. I lived in Paisley for 10 years and had no idea of a family connection. The mills of course, have gone or have been converted into flats. I think most people will be familiar with the Paisley Pattern.
The inspector assessed Margaret as wholly disabled due to strumous disease. I had no idea what that might be but an online search showed it to be scrofula; a disease with glandular swelling, probably a form of tuberculosis. It’s sad to think that this disease was recorded in 1885 and was eventually to be the cause of her death over a year later. She was so young to suffer like that.
The decision from the inspector was to provide Margaret with 2/6. Payments of 1/6 were to continue but at some point she was admitted to Motherwell Poorhouse. I’m relieved at least that she did not die there but was at home with her family.