THE PLEASURES OF THE GRAVE.
Some revelations have been made at a recent meeting of the Macclesfield Board of Guardians respecting the lavish expenditure indulged in by poor people on the occasion of their friends’ funerals. It would appear that for a period of about two years the local board of Guardians had been administering relief to an old married couple named John and Elizabeth McManus to the extent of 4s per week. On July 26th the husband died, upon which the widow made preparations for a costly funeral, having in view the sum of £15 which she was to receive as insurance money consequent upon his death. The smartest hearse and mourning coaches were ordered, the coffin was of the most solid character, and the relatives were all supplied with new mourning attire. In addition to this quantities of beer, wine and spirits were bought. On the very day of McManus’ burial the widow died, having previously ordered that similar preparations for her burial should be made as in the case of her husband. Charlotte McManus, a daughter-in-law, who is likewise a recipient of parish relief to the amount of 5s per week, after John McManus had been interred in the cemetery, set to work to bury her mother-in-law “decently.” She drew the whole £30, and Mr Heathcote, one of the Board’s relieving officers, said she spent £22 of it on the funeral, leaving only a balance of £7 odd.
The Board of Guardians were highly indignant at this gross extravagance on the part of persons who had been receiving parish relief, and ordered Charlotte M’Manus to produce vouchers of the expenditure. These included, among a hundred other items:—Butter and cream, 2s 9l; two weeks’ charing, 10s; plain, spice, and currant bread, 4s 11d; three dresses, 17s 6d; jacket, 3s 6d; trimmings, 6s 3d; 1lb tea, 2s 4d; bottles of pickles, 1s 6d; 4 lbs lump sugar, 10d; ¼ lb best tobacco, Is; 7lb cheese, 4s 8d; crape, 9s 8d. All this and more was for Mrs M’Manus’ funeral. For John M’Manus there was a spice loaf, Is 6d; two currant loaves, 2s; 2 ½ lb butter 1s 9d; three pairs stockings, 3s 6d; three pairs gloves, 3s 5d; collars, 3d; tie, 6 1/2d; ½-pint sherry, 1s. July 27th—Liquor, 4s; August 3rd—Liquor, 4s; August 4th—Liquor, 8s; August 5th —Four gallons ale, 6s 8d; cashmere, 12 s; lining, 4s; crape, 5s 4d; jacket, £1 1s; cashmere, 15s 5d; tobacco and pipes, 2s; two pairs women’s kid shoes, 9s 10d; one pair lace shoes, 8s 11d; one pair slippers, 2 6d; boy’s tweed suit, 10s 9d; boy’s black suit, 19s 9d; boy’s hat, 1s 9d. For Mrs McManus, best polished oak coffin, lined with flannel and wadding bed, shroud, and furnishing funeral £2 10s 1d; best hearse and Clarence, £1 15s; driver’s money, 1s 6d; cemetery expenses, 12s 6d; fittings for hearse and coffin; total, £4 19s. The sum of £4 19s was also spent in providing a coffin and hearse for McManus. Refreshments were not forgotten. In the case of John McManus’s funeral, liquor was set down at 23s 8d; bread and butter, 6s 3d; bread and cheese, 5s 3d; and another dubious item, which is vaguely treated under the head of “nourishment,” 5s.
The Press Supplement [Christchurch NZ] 23 October 1886: p. 1
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.