Just as an example, a very poignant description of how bad things really were at Cotton’s orphanage was given in evidence by a Dr. John Francis McVeagh at the Petty Sessions held in Robertstown on Tuesday October 27th 1891. The reporter for the next Saturday’s Kildare Observer reports:
Dr. McVeagh said he visited the Orphanage on October 18th.1891. He found the rooms in a most filthy condition. In the kitchen he saw a little baby named Thomas Collins, aged about eight weeks in a painful state of dirt, its little body all excoriated, clad in filthy rags and apparently dying from inattention and cold. He saw Mary Hurley, aged three months, in a similar filthy condition; with insufficient clothing; Minnie Burnett dirty, nine months, and insufficiently clad and fed. He next saw a batch of children among whom were Ellen Carson aged two years, Charlie Quillett, aged two, Patience Walker, aged four, Thomas Whitney, aged five, Thomas Warren, aged five; Benjamin Wallace, aged six, Henry Norton, aged four; and Elizabeth Winter aged four. He found these children in a most wretched state from improper food and clothing and from uncleanliness. Some of their underclothing, little that it was, was most filthy; their little limbs attenuated and the colour of their bodies mostly anaemic for want of red blood; their growth stunted, and no appearance of muscular activity. Several had blotches on their skin that appeared like burned holes from want of proper food. The sanitary conditions in the house and surroundings were the most appalling he had ever witnessed. The sleeping apartments were most wretched and filthy, several broken panes of glass, no fire, the beds dirty and two cots were dirty with stale and very filthy hay in them for beds. The air was foul throughout the house, all the little children shivering with the cold, and in a state of terrorism, afraid to speak. The wretched hole called the bathroom was most filthy. The kitchen was in a wretched state, with a small fire around which a few shivering children were trying to warm themselves. The force pump, which supplied the inmates with water, was bedded in a mass of gutter and ordure.