Western Times

Gipsy Neglect

Friday, 11th November 1904

That the N.S.P.C.C. does its best to look after the welfare of the rising generation, was proved by the case of which came before Torquay County Justices, on Tuesday, when gipsies named Gully and Beatrice Small, were convicted for exposing five children in such a manner as to cause injury to their health.

In opening the case, Mr. Isidore Carter said that the children concerned were Lena, 14 years; Richard, 11 years; Joe, 7 years; Ben, 4 years; and an infant, two years of age. The defendants got their living by selling clothes pegs, made from wood obtained from the hedge rows. They had no caravan, and no place to sleep in, except three tents made from sticks and covered with old carpets.

Inspector Browne, of the N.S.P.C.C., describing his visit to the encampment at Fluder Lane, near Edginswell, said the children were crouching beside the hedge in the misty rain, the ground being sodden with recent rains. Joseph and Ben moved, but Richard, he found, was practically an idiot, his flesh was dirty and his head full of vermin. He was stockingless and only wore one boot.

Jospeh had no shirt nor stocking on, and Ben was in a like state, and had a very sore face. The babys face was sore, and all were more or less wet through, the one redeeming feature being that they were fairly well nourished. No one was in charge of the children, the parents having left at 11 that morning. At 9pm the same day, witness, accompanied by Dr. Cook, visited the camp again. All the children were lying huddled together in one tent, one (Joe) being nude. The idiot boy was lying on a sack. Their covering was part of an old bag and a piece of blanket. The rain blew in upon the slumberers, and the tent itself was no protection from the weather. The parents had not returned. At 11.15pm, the father and mother arrived on the scene. Witness found the man asleep by the side of the hedge. Going to the childrens tent, he found the baby gone. A few minutes later he saw the female carrying the infant almost nude in her arms. She was drunk, and could hardly speak. She literally fell in upon the other children, and said that if he wanted to do any good, he must take away the idiot and put it into hospital.

P.C. Phillipps and P.C. Lang corroborated.

Mr. Thomas Codner said he owned the ground on which the camp stood. He visited the tents and saw the family exposed as stated. He added that it was enough to kill them.

Dr. Thomas D. Cook said that the exposure of the little ones was dangerous to their health.

Mr. Mountford, baker, said that the defendants purchased bread daily from him.

The female defendant, sworn, said that she had had 13 children, and had never had a days sickness with any of them, although they were born and bred in the tents.

After consideration of the facts before them, the Bench sentenced defendants to two months hard labour each.

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Extracted From:
Western Times - Friday, 11th November 1904
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  • Beatrice Small
  • Ben Small
  • Gully Small
  • Joseph Small
  • Lena Small
  • Richard Small