Thursday, 31 May 2012

William James Ball and the Glamorgan Asylum 1910 - Part 1

On 12 September 1910, William James was admitted for a third time to the Glamorgan Asylum for "Recent Mania". He was still living at 2 St. George's Terrace, Reynoldston with his wife, Mary.

His physical health was noted as "fairly strong", but doctors noted an incomplete inguinual hernia. William told his doctor that he was very low and depressed. It was noted that William talked incessantly about placing a two hundred weight on his stomach and "he sees in the Echo [newspaper] that is wife is dead". However, Mary was very much alive. He also complained of the Post Office doing him out a large sum of money due to him and that people want to get rid of him to get his money.

The notes of 13 September 1910 indicated that William was "moderately nourished", his hair grey, irides light blue, pupils normal, breathing harsh and expiration prolonged. Again, it was noted that his knee jerked in an exaggerated fashion. His general state was described as restless, garrilous, and incoherent. He still maintained that people were out to get his money and land and he was going into parliament soon, along with exalted ideas of himself and his power.

To be continued...

Cheers, K.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

William James Ball and the Glamorgan Asylum, 1907

On 2 July 1907, William James Ball was re-admitted to the Glamorgan Asylum. Now aged 49, his readmission was labelled "chronic mania". William had continued to reside at 2 St. George's Terrace, Reynoldston, Gower, with wife, Mary.

The doctor noted that William talked incessantly, "rambling on about the salvation of the world, the devil, his departed friends, removing mountains in the sea, his own posessions of great wealth and property, his elevation to the Bench, and his taking Stouthall or Cyfarthfa Castle to reside in."

His physical exam revealed that he was "fairly nourished". His hair was grey, irises light blue, but the left pupil was larger than the right. Both eyes were regular and reacted normally. It was noted that William frequently mistook the attendant to be his cousin. He was restless and unable to sleep. He talked of how he was closely related to royalty, and how he would distribute his great wealth "for the good of widows and orphans."

His medical notes from mid July to mid October describe his unchanged state of restlessness and agitation. However, on 15 October 1907, it is noted that William is "considerably improved, quiet & makes himself useful, somewhat childish, irresponsible & doesn't seem to trouble much about his position." The entry for 1 Jan 1908 says that he "continues as at last note".

The last entry, dated 15 Feb 1908, states "Was today discharged as Recovered". Presumably, he went home to Reynoldston and his wife Mary.

Cheers, K.

Monday, 28 May 2012

William James Ball and the Glamorgan Asylum, 1902 - part 2

From the time of his admission to the Glamorgan Asylum on 18 November to late December 1902, William's condition showed little improvement. His medical notes throughout the period show him to be quiet, tearful and irritable. One entry notes his state as "peevish", and prone to thoughts of persecution. The doctor's late December entries noted that William felt that he had been systematically persecuted for 6 years by two men, and that his own brother "was wishful of murdering him". As for the episode with the horse prior to his arrival, William defended himself by telling doctors that he horse was his own property, and that he was going to take it to his home in Devon, just to show his people how well off he was and then return it.

The entry for 6 February 1903 states that William's mental and physical health was improving steadily. His feeling of persecution, while still present, were less firmly held. In the mornings, he suffered from cough and breathlessness.

The 4 Mar 1903 entry confirms his continued improvement, and loss of "deluded ideas". On 6 May 1903, the doctor noted that "the satisfactory progress has been fully maintained" and by 13 June 1903, William left the care of the hospital on a four week trial. On 11 July 1903, William James Ball was discharged as "Recovered".

I have always wondered about the conditions under which William was treated. He seems to have gained weight during his stay in the asylum, which would have been a result of his improved physical health.

I read with interest that William's height was 5'2". Dad had told me that his grandfather, Thomas was only 5' tall (Annie Amelia, affectionately known as "Budgie" in the family, was 4' 10"). I am 5' 2" and the shortest in my immediate family. Dad, Bill and Grandad were around 6' in height. Dad always said that I inherited my height from Thomas and Annie - may it was more of a family trait that we had known.

Cheers, K.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

William James Ball and the Glamorgan Asylum, 1902 - part 1

On page 525 of the admission register for the Glamorgan Asylum, a photo of a tired man, weary from emotional and physical exhaustion, appears. Under the admission number 9007, with the notation "acute melancholia", the story of of William James Ball and his many stays at the asylum begins.

William was first admitted to care on 18 Nov 1902. His hometown was recorded as Gower, and his next of kin was listed as Mrs. Mary Ball, Reynoldstone, near Swansea. He was 45 years of age, a retired postman. This episode was noted as a "first attack", with a duration of 4 months, and "not under proper care & control".

The notes state that he was "rambling and incoherent in his talk occasionally; crying without obvious reason; says everyone is against him; that his father and brother wanted to kill him; and that his mother (who is dead), was here last night." He had been in the postal service in Swansea Valley for 30 years, and was known as a "steady man", but had not worked since July. There is a curious story about William leaving Reynoldston five days prior with a horse and his determination to go to Devon "to show the people what he could do". He apparently gave the horse to a Dr. Aurley in Newport, who saw him 3 days before his arrival at the asylum.

His father, William Huxtable Ball, and brother - possible Henry or John, heard of his "doings" and took him to Penarth and had him admitted to the Union, where he was very restless and could hear his mother talking to him. It is noted that he slept little.

William's notes go on to say that he was a native of North Devon and that he was the elder of 6, the rest alive and well. The doctors noted that he was poorly nourished and weak. He was 5' 2" in height and weighed 8 st and 6. His hair was grey, eyes light grey, with pupils equal and active. He appeared normal, except for a 'knee jerk in slight excess'. He was "depressed and emotional" and believed that two men in Gower were persecuting him for years, and that his brother wanted to murder him. His memory for recent events was noted as being not very good.

Photo courtesy of the Glamorgan Archives. Used with permission and many thanks.

To be continued...

Cheers, K.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

William James Ball and the Glamorgan Asylum

A few weeks back I posted information about William James Ball, 1858-1922, eldest son of William Huxtable Ball and Charlotte Balment. His sad and tragic tale ended with his death on 10 January 1922, at the age of 63, in the Glamorgan Lunatic Asylum in Angleton.

With the assistance of the staff of the Glamorgan Archives, I have been able to obtain his asylum admission records. The records detail his 5 admissions to the facility between the years of 1902 and 1921. Photographs of William, taken upon his admission, accompany the medical notes and observations. The records are, needless to say, fascinating, compelling and disheartening as they chronicle the mental, emotional and physical deterioration of an ordinary man - likely no different than an ancestor, close relative, family member or anyone of us.

I will share William's story, but am very cognizant that early 20th century terminology, such as "lunatic" and "imbecile", reflected language and values of that time, not of our contemporary understanding of mental health and wellness. I will not use those terms to describe him personally, but will quote his records accurately as written. I hope that no one will take offence. It is obvious that William suffered from a debilitating mental health issue. What exactly was his modern diagnosis, I will not hazard a guess, as I am not qualified to make those judgements. I only hope that I can retell his story with compassion and sensitivity.

Cheers, K.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

It's a small world...

I've been busily working on the Ball family tree, but my side interest has veered down the Turner branch of the tree - specifically the families related to Annie Amelia Turner, 1878-1947 (wife of Thomas Huxtable Ball, 1875-1941). She immigrated to Canada, along with 3 of her 4 sisters: Sarah Elizabeth, Edith, and Eva. Older sister, Alice, and Edith's twin, William Henry, remained in Wales.

Lately, I've been researching Alice's family. She married a man named Edward Boyle in Cardiff. One of her children was named Alice Victoria Boyle. Alice Victoria married Vivian G. James and it looks like they had several children, including a set of twins, Kenneth and Joan, in 1926.

Recently, I found an obituary online for a January 2012 obituary for a Kenneth James, who was noted as being born in 1926 in Wales, had siblings, and had served in the RAF. He died in Regina, Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, his immediate family was not noted. In my mind, I am putting together all sorts of connections between the James family I am researching and this Kenneth James who lived in Canada. However, as his birthdate was noted in the obituary, I decided to order his birth certificate to compare before making any more assumptions.

The certificate finally arrived on Friday. Much to my disappointment, the birthdates do not match. However, much to my delight, I noted the address of his birth - 14 Plassey Square, Penarth.

View Larger Map

Plassey Square is just around the corner from where my Ball family relations lived on Plassey Street! Had the Ball family known the James or Boyle families? I do not know. What I do know is that it's a very small world.

It's a lovely, sunny and warm Victoria Day long weekend here in Waterloo. I hope everyone is enjoying a bit of the same, wherever you are.

Cheers, K.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mabel Charlotte Ball, 1882-?

Mabel Charlotte Ball was born to William James Ball and Mary Shepherd in the first quarter of 1882 in Gower. Mary's age at the time of Mabel's birth would have been 37-39 years old, given the range of birthdates given for her in the censuses. Mabel was likely born in Reynoldston, where her father was a postman.

Roadside near Reynoldston

Image and copyright - Jeremy Bolwell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Mabel first appears in the 1891 census as a 9 year old scholar (or student), with her parents in Reynoldston, Glamorgan. In 1901, she appears as dressmaker, age 19, living with her parents.

Mabel next appears in the 1911 census, in Penarth, and is living with her grandfather, William Huxtable Ball, at 18 Railway Terrace. She was also living with her aunt Charlotte (Ball) Down, uncle (by marriage) William Down, and cousin, Charlotte Down in the same household. She is listed as dressmaker. At this same time, her father, William James Ball, was living in the Glamorgan Asylum at Angleton, Bridgend. I always wondered if she ever visited with her father in hospital or mother, who still lived in Reynoldston, on her own. What I do know is that Mabel was the informant on her father's death certificate in January 1922.

My research on Mabel Charlotte Ball, regrettably, ends here. I have a few leads to follow and will update the blog on my new findings.

Cheers, K.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Charlotte (Ball) Down - Obituary 17 Apr 1947

There were two short death notices for Charlotte (Ball) Down, which appeared in the Penarth Times of 17 April 1947. The first one read:

DOWN - On 14th April, at 140 Plassey
Street, Penarth, Charlotte, beloved
wife of the late Wm. Down and much
loved mother of Sharley and Will.
Funeral, Friday, 2:30, for Penarth

The second notice read:
The death occurred at her home,
140, Plassey Street, of Mrs. Charlotte
Down, at the age of 78. She had been
in ill health for many years, and was
the wife of the late Mr. William Down,
who was in the employ of the G.W.R.
one daughter, Mrs. Sharley Nichols, and
a son survive. The funeral takes place
on Friday.

The G.W.R. reference for William Down means that he had worked for the Great Western Railway.

I found it curious that William Spickett Ball ('Will' in the first notice), was not mentioned by name in the second notice. Had there been a falling out between brother and sister? Did one notice get put in by one sibling the second by another? I know that William was working as a caretaker at the Penarth Library by this time - so he was around. Or was the omission of his name in the second notice purely an oversight?

Always something to think about. What are your thoughts?

Cheers, K.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Death of Charlotte (Ball) Down in 1947

Charlotte and William Down continued to live in Penarth following the 1911 census. According to the death register of 1933 (second quarter), William Down passed away at age 67. He was survived by wife, Charlotte, step-son William and daughter, Charlotte.

On 14 April 1947, at 140 Plassey Street, Penarth, Charlotte (Ball) Down passed away, at the age of 78. Her death certificate lists Charlotte as the widow of William Down, formerly a railway painter. The cause of death is difficult to make out on the death certificate. It looks like "renalaria", but I haven't been able to locate an appropriate medical term. Given the "renal" prefix, it could possibly be kidney related. The next part of the cause of death reads "by arterior sclerosis", defined as "a chronic disease in which thickening, hardening, and loss of elasticity of the arterial walls result in impaired blood circulation. It develops with aging, and in hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and other conditions," (Antiquus Morbis). The cause of death was certified by Ernest F. Guy, M.D. LG Nicholas, son-in-law, present at death, 140 Plassey Street, Penarth, registered the death on 15 April 1947.

Cheers, K.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Charlotte Ball, motherhood and the 1911 census

Charlotte and William Down welcomed the birth of a baby girl, Charlotte Agnes Down, in the third quarter of 1901. The birth was registered in the Cardiff district.

I've always wondered from where the name Agnes came - and have recently learned that it may have been related to Charlotte's paternal great-great-grandmother, Agnes (Painter) Ball, who died in 1844. However, more research will need to be done to confirm if this is a probable connection. There is also William's side of the family to investigate.

The 1911 census showed little change in the Down/Ball household at 18 Railway Terrace, Penarth. Willian Down had his occupation listed as "Workman", age 44, while William H. Ball, Charlotte's father, was shown as a "Milkman", age 74 and a widower. Charlotte was listed as age 42, married for 12 years. Young Charlotte was student, age 9. William Ball's granddaughter, Mabel C(harlotte) Ball, was living with the family. She was 29 years of age and a dressmaker.

Cheers, K.