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The Asylum Controversy iti…


The Asylum Controversy iti North Wales. CONFERENCE AT CONWAY. Upon the suggestion of the Commissioners in Lunacy, a Conference ot Visitors of the North Wales Counties Lunatic Asylum and of Delegates appointed by the several County Councils of Anglesea, Carnarvon, Denbigh, Merioneth, and Flint, was held, on July 31st, at the Gulid Hall, Conway, to discuss the Carnarvon Council's propàsal that it should separate from the counties in union, and establish a District Asylum in pre- ference to contributions towards the enlargement of the institution at Denbigh. Mr P. P. Pennant (Flintshire), Chairman of the Asylum Committee, who was unanimously voted to the chair (upon the motion of Councillor Dr R. Arthur-Prichard, Mayor of Conway), briefly summarised the history of the union of the five counties for Asylum purposes, and pointed out that present accomod- ation was for 500 patients, whilst there were on the books 592 pauper lunatics. The over-plus had to be boarded out, and the question was an urgent one. The present meeting was in consequence of the Carnarvon Council having sent the Lunacy Commissioners a final disapproval of any enlarge- ment at Denbigh. In default of an amicable understanding on the part of each of the five constituent County Councils, the whole matter would lapse into the hands of the Secretary of State, advised by the Lunacy Commissioners. It was very seldom that the Lunacy Commissioners got a chance of saying what a Lunatic Asylum should be, and any Asylum they planned would undoubtedly be a very perfect one, but it would also be a very costly one, built regardless of financial economy and the interests of the rate- payers. Personally, he thought that, in the interests alike of the insane and of the ratepayers, the enlargement of the existing Asylum was the preferable scheme. Tnere was a complaint from the western Delegates that he thought might be remedied, namely, that the management lapsed into the hands of the Vale of Clwyd represen- tatives, because of the inconvenience and expense that attendance at Denbigh entailed upon those from a distance. He suggested that each year two out of the four quarterly meetings should be held in the Western part of their district, and the other two at Denbigh. Mr S. Moss, Chairman of the Denbigh Council, having asked why Carnarvonshire had receded from its expressed concurrrence in the enlarge- mentpolicy, the chairman said that Carnarvonshire was perfectly within its right in reconsidering the question, as the Lunacy Commissioners had suggested the desirability of reconsideration (with a view to erecting a second Asylum). Mr D. P. Williams (ex-Chairman of the Carnarvon Council) said that the Denbigh Visiting Commissioners had suggested that there should be a second Asylum, as Denbigh was very in- convenient to several parts of the united district, especially those places distant more than a day's journey. In Carnarvonshire there was a very strong feeling, and the Council had unanimously voted, for a more accessible Asylum. As it was, it was within the speaker's knowledge that there had been many instances where (because of the inaccessibility of the present Asylum) persons in the earlier stages of mental affliction had been kept at home until their malady became chronic and no longer amenable to treatment. Carnarvon- shire thought that this was not principally a financial question, but a question of the best interests of a very unfortunate class of the community, the insane. Mr W. A. Darbishire (Bangor), at the desire of the Conference, then spoke on behalf of Carnar- vonshire, said that the estimated cost of the enlargement proposals had now become £ 76,000 (and of this amount Carnarvonshire would have to find £ 22,000), and under the circumstances he considered that it was all the more desirable that the money should be spent in Carnarvonshire rather than at a distance. But he considered that that estimate was too low. Alternatively, he had estimated that, were Carnarvonshire to erect a District Asylum at a cost of £ 60,000, the profit on paying patients (at 14s per week) would reduce the cost of each Carnarvonshire pauper patient to about 4s per week instead of over 7s. He thought also that they ought to adopt modern methods of Asylum management instead of the old-time method in operation at Denbigh. Mr D. P. Williams and Mr T. C. Lewis (Chairman of the Carnarvon Council) complained of the over-representation of the other counties in union, in proportion to population, the latter saying that Carnarvonshire's population was nearly one-third of that of the five counties in union. The Rev J. Spinther James (LIandudno) laid stress upon the fact that from some parts of Carnarvonshire patients had to change trains four times before reaching Denbigh, whereas at the commencement of the Denbigh Asylum (in 1846) travelling in Wales was otherwise than by railway. The cost of taking patients to Denbigh, was also a consideration. In answer to questions, the Chairman said that the union could be dissolved upon a resolution being passed by an absolute majority of the Visiting Committee, but the four remaining counties could again unite only by ommitting the voluntary subscribers from a share in the manage- ment. Mr Lumley (Ruthin) opposed Carnarvonshire's contentions, warmly, and at considerable length, and protested against Carnarvonshire's argument that patients would be benefitted by visits from their relatives. While Mr Lumley was speaking, the approach of members' train-times was noticed, and a motion for limitting the time allowed to speakers was moved, put, and lost. Mr Lumley, proceeding, entered upon a lengthy criticism of the speeches, but was continually interrupted, the Anglesea delegates threatening to leave. The next two speakers were Anglesea delegates, namely, Mr D. W. Jones (Menai Bridge), who wished to see the union kept intact and Dr Williams (Holyhead), who waxed enthusi tsti.Q. upon the advantageous site of the Denbigh Asylum, and hoped that Anglesea ratepayers would not be such idiots as to vote for their county to spend £ 13,000 outside the present union rather than £ 3000 within it. Dr Easterby (St. Asaph), seeing that members were leaving by ones and twos, then moved that the Conference oppose the dissolution of the existing union, and that the enlargement be carried out. This having been seconded, Colonel West (Bangor) said that it was no use voting on a resolution that could bind nobody, and other Carnarvonshire representatives protested against any such resolution being put, as the meeting was simply a Conference. However, the protests were disregarded, and, seeing this, the Carnarvonshire representatives, twelve in number, walked out in a body, and took no part in the division. All the other delegates voted, and the meeting ended somewhat abruptly, the resolution being declared carried unanimously. The Liverpool Mercury says The question will again be discussed by the Board of Visitors. In the meantime, the Commissioners have suspended further action in examining and report- ing upon the sketch-plans of the proposed enlargement."

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