West Yorkshire Archives

Madness Monday – Watson Emmott Dawson (1877-1944)

Madness Monday is a daily blogging prompt used by many genealogy bloggers to help them post content on their sites.

To participate in Madness Monday simply create a post with the main focus being an ancestor who either suffered some form of mental illness or an ancestor who might be hard to locate and drives you mad.

Watson Emmott Dawson is my 1st cousin 3x removed.  Our common ancestors are my 4x great grandparents John Dawson and Ann Watson.

Watson was born in Cowling, West Yorkshire, on 24 June 1887 to parents Thomas Dawson and Jane Emmott.

I have written about Watson before – Military Monday and Madness Monday. He also gets a brief mention in Tombstone Tuesday and Sunday’s Obituary.

I recently came across these articles in the Burnley Express of 23 January 1915 and the Burnley News of 17 February 1915.

Burnley Express

Burnley Express - 23 January 1915CAUGHT IN HUT – At the Colne Police Court, on Thursday, a farm labourer named Watson Dawson, of Cowling, was charged with breaking into the shooting box used as a warehouse and stealing a bottle of whisky, the property of Mr W F J Green-Emmott, JP. – Mr A Bracewell defended. – Martin Ogden, gamekeeper, said that on the 13th December he went to the shooting box and heard a noise. After waiting a few minutes he saw accused come creeping through the window. Prisoner said, “I have got a bottlee of whisky here it is.” Witness lighted a candle, and accompanied by accused, they re-entered the shooting box and found that the cupboard door had been broken, the lock having been sprung off. There was another bottle of whisky inside, and a quantity of the contents had been consumed. – Cross examined by Mr Bracewell, witness admitted that he had been on very friendly terms with accused. On the very day of the offence Dawson had his tea at his (witness’s) house. Dawson’s family had offered to make reparation for the damage done. He knew that accused had been in an institution for the mentally deficient. In his application for bail, Mr Bracewell said that Dawson was a member of a very highly respectable family. A few years ago accused had the misfortune to meet with a serious injury, and this had resulted in his having been sent to an asylum. – Dawson was committed to take his trial at the Preston Quarter Sessions, bail being allowed.

Burnley News

Burnley News - 17 February 1915THEFT AT COLNE

FARM LABOURER BOUND OVER

REMARKABLE STORY OF A PASSION FOR WANDERING

A remarkable story was told at Preston Sessions, on Monday, in a case in which Watson Dawson (27), farm labourer, pleaded guilty to stealing a bottle of whisky from a shooting hut at Colne, on December 13th.

Mr Yates, prosecuting, said accused was seen by a keeper climbing out of the window of a shooting hut on the moor. He had a bottle of whisky in his pocket.

Mr Hodgson said Dawson was the son of respectable parents, and up to six years ago had never caused them a moment’s anxiety. He was then employed in a cotton mill. He was always extremely fond of shooting, and spent much of his time on the common moor, over which there was free shooting of grouse. One day he was found lying unconscious on the moor, and it was thought that he had been sun-struck. He had to be taken to the Menstone Asylum, and the medical superintendent there said he had had a violent blow on the head. It was now believed that somebody who had shot at a bird at the same time as Dawson had quarrelled with him as to whom the bird belonged, and that in the quarrel Dawson had been struck on the head with the butt end of a gun. The result of this injury was such that his parents were advised that he must live an open-air life. They took a farm at Cowling, and defendant and the whole family worked there.

Defendant also developed a passion for wandering, and about the same time every year he wandered away with the clothing he was then wearing, and without a word of warning to anybody. He would stay away for a month or two and then come back. His parents had been warned by the medical superintendent at the asylum that he was likely to develop these wandering fits. During these journeys he had wandered away to Ireland and even to France, and apparently supported himself by casual employment. He left home early in December in his usual way, and was lost sight of until he was seen by the keeper getting out of the window of this hut on the moor, which was close to his own home, where plenty of food and shelter awaited him. The keeper, who knew defendant well, took him to his own house and gave him some tea. Dawson then left to go home, as the keeper thought, but he was not seen again until December 31st when he returned home in a bad state of health.

The Chairman said he was sorry to see defendant there in this trouble. He would be bound over to come up for judgment if called upon.

These newspaper stories provide some background to why he might have been in the West Riding Mental Hospital in 1939 (High Royds / Menston) – see Madness Monday post mentioned above.

I’ve also located Watson in the Lunacy Patients Admission Register on ancestry.co.uk. The image below shows that he was admitted to Menston on 19 August 1908 and released on 26 April 1909.

UK Lunacy Patients Admission Registers 1846-1912.png

I am now on the hunt for any patient records that may exist for the West Riding Mental Hospital. I know that some records are available at the West Yorkshire Archives just up the road from where I live. However because the records I am interested in are less than 100 years old then there will need to be a Freedom of Information request to the relevant NHS Trust. I will also need to demonstrate my relationship to Watson and my right to access the records. Does being a 1st cousin 3x removed qualify me as having a right to access the records? At the moment I don’t know the answer to that question.

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