Evidence Taken Before A Commission Appointed By His Honour The Lieutenant Governor In Council, To Investigate The Management Of Mount Hope Asylum For The Insane.

Wednesday, May 9, 1877.




D. Farrell, Esq., was then sworn and made the following statement: —



[Concerning the organization of fire protection for the Hospital, he wrote the following letter]

Hon. Robert Robertson,

Commr. of Mines and Works,

“Sir,--About five months ago I called your attention to the utter inefficiency of the fire service at the Hospital for the Insane.

“The water supply with an overflowing lake is entirely inadequate to the wants of the institution, and there must therefore, in my opinion be some serious defect in the works.

“The taps in the male wards from which the hose is supplied, at a trial made on Saturday last, were not then and have never been in the remembrance of any of the employees, in working order. One I found filled with lime and soap to keep it from leaking, and all the others without handles. In the centre building one only could be turned, and in the female wards several were under lock, and one key, and that key in the possession of the engineer, who is frequently compelled to be away, and besides resides in the detached building.

“There were no spanners, and the attendants have never been exercised as firemen, so as to acquire a knowledge how to perform, in case of accident, this most essential duty. It is true some six or eight additional lengths of hose have been procured, which have never been, as far as I could learn, attached. Therefore isolated and far removed from help as the Hospital is, I have in consequence endeavored, from time to time, since my first visit to impress upon the Superintendent the necessity of thoroughly organizing the fire department, and as his last quarterly report might lead you to think that this has been done, and that ‘they were ready for any emergency,’ I feel it my duty to bring this matter once more to your notice.

I have the honor to remain, &c., &c.,


Visiting Com




[About the quality of food, Farrell states] My report (Nov. 10th) goes on to say :—

“ The butter delivered to-day is not a good article, it has been badly repacked, as it was originally purchased piece by piece in some country store, and not suitable for table use. The molasses is burnt, and is quite black, and the sugar, one barrel of which is only fit for refining, while two others are a low grade of Muscovado.

“ The supplies for the Hospital were contracted for to be of the best quality, and I must say the staple articles, which I have from time to time examined since I first visited the institution, have not been by any means of that character.”

The butter was of different kinds and colors in the same tub, not even blended together. I took the molasses and sugar to the Custom House, and showed them to Mr. Paw. He said one barrel was only fit for refining, and the other was No. 13. I said to Mr. Downey, on one occasion, “These stores are not as they ought to be,” but he said, “ look at the price paid for them.” I said, “neither you nor I have anything to do with that.” He began to argue the matter, he told me that Mr. Robertson said, that if they came any way near the mark at all, not to be giving trouble. I saw evidently that there were some outside influences at work, so far as I could judge with regard to those supplies, and I said in my report, “ the supplies for the Hospital were contracted for to be of the best quality, etc ” (see above).

Mr. Dustan, Mr. Ross and myself, came down in consequence of those supplies that I had condemned, and, I think, Mr. Robertson was with us. He was down at all events, and he examined them. Some of them were taken away, and some supplied in the wards. It should not have been done. Downey explained that he had no other to put in the ward. It was not the habit of any of the Commissioners to write on the very day they came down. I frequently did it the next time I came down. Mr. Dustan told me to leave a space for him, and he afterwards wrote in the following report, which was inserted in the book after I had written my next following report. It bears date Nov. 13, 1876:

“The Commissioners of the Hospital, and the Hon. Mr. Robertson, Commissioner of Mines and Works, met at the Hospital to-day for the purpose of examining the supplies in store last furnished by the contractor, reported by Mr. Farrell to be of inferior quality, and not according to contract. Visited the stores and found the molasses as Mr. Farrell stated, and ordered them to be returned to the contractor. The sugar, butter and tea had already been returned, and goods of better quality got in their place. The goods in store to-day, beef, butter, tea and sugar are of excellent quality, though the sugar is not yet of the ‘best quality’ of Muscovado sugar.”

(Signed.) Geo. G. DUSTAN.




I am very sorry to have to refer to the condition of the beds. In passing through the wards I noticed occasionally that washing was going on in the bath tubs. It is contrary to the rules that anything should be washed in the wards. […] In four of the wards I found the beds in a very bad condition, so bad in some of the wards, so saturated, that the color of the straw was quite dark from the length of time that it must been in this state. The under part of the beds was wet also, and as for the ticks, if they had been thrown into the middle of the street, you could not have got a colored person to take them away – they were so bad. I declare that most solemnly on my oath, as a commissioner visiting that institution.


Q. Of course all the beds were not in that state? How many?

A. I would not swear exactly. I would not swear that there were less than twenty wet. There may have been seven or eight in a very bad condition, that is as regards wet. In fact there was one in particular to which I called Dr. Fraser’s attention that had a white mildew growing on the bottom of the tick. I had to use my stick, as you would use a fork, to turn up the straw, it was so solid and matted together. I called it a pile of manure.

Q. What time of day was this?

A. Late in the afternoon.

Q. Were they then made up?

A. The coverlets were all over them. They were supposed to be made up for the night.

Now I will read what I said in regard to that. After seeing the beds in the state they were, I came down to the doctor. He was in his office. I said, “ Doctor, I have seen the beds, and I never saw anything in such a state. They were wet and filthy, and for the credit of the institution I will not enter it upon my books.” I wrote the following in my report of November 18th in reference to the matter.

“In several of the male wards the beds are entirely composed of straw, and where this is the case I would recommend a more liberal supply of ticks, as those at present in use are in a most dilapidated state.”

That was the only report I made then as regards the state of the beds. It was to me what I never expected to see in an institution anywhere. I came home, and that night I could scarcely sleep. The thought that was uppermost in my mind upon that occasion was the fact that I had a daughter myself who was once in such an establishment, and I could not divest my mind for the life of me of the thought that she might have been treated in the same manner. For some days afterwards I felt in such a manner that I could not get out, and I believe my sickness was brought on, in a great measure, by what I saw. I came down the Thursday following, and got Mr. McNab, the party who was in a great measure to blame, the Supervisor of the male wards, to go through the ward, and Doctor Fraser with him. We made a thorough examination of the beds. Doctor DeWolf, in the meantime, went to the country. My report of that visit reads as follows (Nov. 23, 1876) :

“In the presence this afternoon of the Assistant-Physician (Dr. DeWolf being absent in the country since Monday) and of Mr. John McNab, one of the Supervisors, I had a thorough examination made of the beds in the male wards, and although there has been an improvement in many of them since my last visit, a state of things still exists which I will only remark here, as I have communicated the facts to the Commissioner of Mines and Works, is by no means creditable to the Institution.”

Q. Was that communication in writing?

A. I went to Mr. Robertson and told him what I had seen. I


felt it to be my duty to do so. I went to Mr. Hill afterwards. I also told Mr. Jones and some others, including my son. I told Father Woods in Dartmouth in the presence of Dr. Fraser on the Sunday night following. Dr. Fraser never said that my statement was not in every essential particular true. He never denied it one way or other. Father Woods can be brought forward. I have understood since that there is to be a denial of these facts, but I wish to state in the mean time what was done. What I certainly blame the Government for is this, that they did not send then immediately and have an investigation. I certainly thought the Government was to blame.

Q. Did you bring it to the notice of the Superintendent?

A. Certainly.

Q. Did you on your first visit?

A. He was the first person I saw. I communicated it to him. Five days afterwards I found improvement. The first time I contented myself with opening them up without turning them all out. But the second time I had nearly all the beds turned over, body and bones. There were two knives in one bed and one in another, — a quantity of old bread and meat that was partly eaten, bones, shoes, old socks, pieces of blankets and all that kind of thing mixed in with the straw, and other things under the ticks. Since then the beds have been kept very well indeed. There is only one mattress in the greater part of the wards. Some of the patients have hair mattresses. The bottoms of the bedsteads are boards generally.


The beds must have been in the condition I have described for a long time. They smelled bad. The sheets were discolored, and the blankets some of them wet. The bed clothing in some instances was stained with human filth dried on.

Q. There is a number of patients that wet the bed every night?

A. They should have a clean bed every night as you would do with a cow or a horse.

Q. The filth on them—was it as if pasted on?

A. They were stained with it. That is what I mean by saying that was the case. (To the Chairman.) Mr. McNab is supposed to see to those beds. He is supposed to go through every day and see that the beds are properly made.

Q. Did Mr. McNab report?

A. He denied, in his report, the state of the beds as I have given it to you now. So I saw lately.


Q. Do you think the beds were more than two or three days in that condition?

A. In one case there was a white mildew.

They were made up for the night. I did not see Mr. Dustan between the Saturday and Thursday. I did not see him until after I had visited the Institution a second time. I mentioned the fact to him. He told me afterwards that he went to the Institution and saw Mr. McNab, and that he told him if I had gone an hour later in the morning I would have found a very different state of things from that which I had found. Mr. Dustan stated that before the Committee of the Legislative Council. Now it was in the afternoon that I visited the Institution, and found the beds in the condition I have described.

Source: Commission Appointed by His Honor The Lieutenant Governor In Council To Investigate The Management of Mount Hope Asylum for the Insane, "Evidence given by D. Farrell, Esq.," Evidence Taken Before A Commission Appointed by His Honor The Lieutenant Governor In Council To Investigate The Management of Mount Hope Asylum for the Insane (Halifax: , 1878), 12-13, 23-24, 28-31.

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