The fate of the illegitimate child?

Often, when I’m giving public talks on my work with the collection I refer to a letter which has deeply affected me. Basically, the letter concerns a 15 year old girl, the eldest of three children living with their widowed father. The girl becomes pregnant under circumstances that elicit some exitement from the neighbours, but, within 7 hours of the baby being born it is dead and buried whith no regisration of it’s birth or death and no form of investigation. The subtext I have taken fromthis is that the baby is illegitimate (either the child of her father or someone else) and that it was murdered on birth.

But I couldn’t help wonder whether my 21st century soap opera addled brain was applying an excessively dramatic interpretation to this story than was in fact the case. But, a few days ago I was, I wouldn’t say pleased, but fascinated to read further communication from Lord Penrhyn to the rector of Llanfairfechan about the matter. The rector sets out the legal obligation of a man of cloth in relation to a still born child, but Lord Penrhyn replies that regardless of legal duty surely there is a moral obligation to investigate the deaths of these children, and that the system as it stood was open to corruption; covering up the abuse, ill-treatment and even murder of children. The original letter suggested that incidents such as these were common, and it really saddens me to wonder how many illegitimate children were killed at birth, and how on earth that would have affected the mother.

Here are both the letters, I hope you find them as interesting as I do. A box list of what I’ve been working on these past few days will follow shortly.


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