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.

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