The Poor Law and Health: A Survey of Parochial Medical Aid in Glasgow, 1845–1900
In the afternoon of 15 December 1846, a group of thirty-three Glasgow businessmen met in the Town’s Hospital in the city. These sober men of affairs did not look like pioneers, yet as the first members of the City Parochial Board to be elected under the terms of the Poor Law Amendment (Scotland) Act of 1845 they were in a very real sense breaking new ground in Scottish social administration.1 The Act had only been passed after considerable controversy and several of the new members themselves disliked the new legislation. At their second meeting, at which the real work of administering poor relief was set in motion, the Board listened to one of their number recalling the depths to which poor relief in Glasgow had sunk by 1845, with over a thousand of the poor, including the infirm, the aged, prostitutes and small children, besieging the kirk door and clamouring for relief until late at night. The members were urged to assess outdoor relief at the lowest point at which human existence could be supported in order to turn away the undeserving and reawaken the instinct of self-respect in the poor, so preserving as much of the spirit of the old Scottish Poor Law as possible while administering the new.
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