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.

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