Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Sad Case of Miriam Jones

The court reporters described 17 year old Miriam Jones as a girl of medium height, tolerably good looking with a fresh complexion and fashionably pinned up hair. They also noted the Radnorshire patois when she spoke, admitting the attempted murder of her infant daughter Mary Jane.

Miriam, a servant girl in Llanbister, had fallen pregnant at the age of 15. The father of the child, who she had unsuccessfully sought to summons for maintenance on three occasions, being her employer, a 25 year old married farmer.

For the last seven months Miriam had paid a local child minder two shillings a week, from her paltry wage of £7 a year, to care for the infant. Now in May 1887 she collected Mary Jane, informing the elderly carer, Miss Elton, that she was taking the 17 month old child to her own mother in Merthyr Tydfil.

Instead, when Miriam arrived in Troedyrhiw she hurried with the infant to an old mine shaft, dropping her in. By pure chance Mary Jane was discovered crying later that night, lying, unharmed, at a depth of 54 feet on the body of a dead sheep. Miriam had already taken the train back to Penybont for the Mop Hiring Fair, where, failing to find a new place, she walked the 14 miles back to the farm where she was currently employed. However, Miriam was known in Troedyrhiw and a witness had seen her walking towards the shaft with the child. The Merthyr police soon arrived in Llanbister to take the girl back to a town that was seething for her blood.

Although Miriam admitted that she had wanted to kill the child, sympathy for her had grown as details of her plight became known. The judge at her trial refused to accept her plea and appointed a lawyer who argued that Miriam had merely left the child to be discovered; although this was hard to credit given the depth of the shaft and its distance from the path. The jury found her guilty but recommended mercy. Miriam was given 8 years in jail, yet so much had the public mood swung behind her that a protest meeting was held in Merthyr condemning the harshness of the sentence.

What happened to Miriam on her release? She seems to have found employment in the house of a Gloucestershire vicar. Little Mary Jane was cared for by a Merthyr couple, although the Merthyr Guardians were adamant that Radnorshire should foot the bill.


boi or bont said...

Who was the married cad from Llanbister.
Are his family still there ?

radnorian said...

I'm sure they are ...

ed-jones said...

I was pleased to find your blog on the sad case of Miriam Jones, which I found while researching my grandfather's history, born 1899 and who was a miner from Troedyrhiw, but no relation to poor Miriam. I was wondering what evidence you have to support your claim she found employment with a vicar in Gloucestershire?

radnorian said...

I believe I found her in a subsequent census, haven't got a ref to hand though.

A lot about her case in contemporary newspapers