Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Sad Tale

WDL came from what was described as a respectable and well-connected Radnorshire family. Maybe it was this that landed the young clerk his job as a relieving officer with the Builth Poor Law Union in the early 1870s. Of course the Builth Union included the Colwyn District of Radnorshire, all except for WDL's home parish of Glascwm which was hived off to the Kington Union.

Young WDL, he was in his early twenties, married and proceeded to father a sizeable family. Yet somewhere along the way he started to go off the rails. At that time next of kin were expected to make a financial contribution towards the keep of their relatives in the newly built Builth workhouse . It was part of WDL's job to collect such funds. Unfortunately the money handed over by the likes of Mr Powell of Disserth, Mr Williams of Crossgates and Mr Worthing of Llanyre ended up in WDL's pocket rather than the coffers of the Union.

Worse was to come when WDL cashed a cheque for £50 at Builth's National Provincial Bank, money meant for distribution to the poor. Instead the relieving officer took to his heels, with Sergeant Flye and Constable Meade in hot pursuit. A month later he was apprehended on the streets of London. Sentence, at the Breconshire Sessions, 12 months imprisonment.

Unfortunately this was not the last time WDL's name appeared in the press. A year after being released he was back before the Breconshire courts charged with embezzling his employer, a local brewer. WDL conducted his own defence and so ably that the jury found him not guilty. This despite more that a dozen recent convictions for drunkenness, assaulting the police and damaging railway carriages. Leaving the Court a free man WDL was immediately rearrested on another charge.

This new charge was heard before the Cardiff police court, WDL - described as living at Pendre Villa, Builth - having borrowed £34 from a Cardiff moneylender, Solomon Blaiberg, by forging his father's signature on a promissory note. His father, by now living in Hundred House, explained to the court that he could not infact sign his name.

A few months later WDL was before the Bristol Quarter Session accused of stealing books from a local hotel. Again he defended himself and such was his eloquence in the face of overwhelming evidence that the jury found him not guilty. The judge somehow failed to notice this detail and sent the delinquent to jail. The next day his honour, having been made aware of his mistake, was forced to bring the newly shorn prisoner back from prison to be released.

WDL's unfortunate wife, together with her young family, had by this time been dispatched to Builth workhouse, where she was to spend the next 30 years or more, firstly as an inmate and then as an employee. What happened to WDL? By 1891 his wife was describing herself as a widow. Who knows, he may indeed have been dead.

No comments: