Information about the poor persons who were removed from England and Scotland to Ireland

A resolution had been carried in the House of Commons on 2nd July 1878 "that the laws under which the destitute poor receiving relief from the poor-rate are subject to removal in England and Scotland in their operation inflict hardship, and require consideration with a view to their amendment." In England, a man receiving poor relief could obtain "settlement" and, therefore, could not be removed from the parish, if he had been born in that parish or if he had lived there for three years. In Scotland, however, five years' residence was necessary to qualify for settlement. There was no law of settlement or removal in Ireland.

Although the law of removal caused much hardship, provoked endless litigation and prevented the migration of the poor in search of better conditions of employment, it was feared that its abolition would result in increased vagrancy. Three main modifications of the law of removal were suggested by the witnesses:

  1. One year's residence or birth in a particular parish should be the only condition of settlement.
  2. Rather than removing a pauper to the parish of his settlement, chargeability orders should be issued to make that parish responsible for his relief.
  3. The county rate, which was only chargeable for lunatics and the burial of bodies washed on shore, should be made chargeable in other cases.


Sir John McNeill, Chairman of the Board of Supervision for the Relief of the Poor in Scotland, gave evidence of the Board's methods of finding a place of settlement for those claiming relief from a Scottish parish (pp. 210-234).

The Scottish system of poor administration was centred on the 882 Scottish parishes. There were two kinds of poor removal, parish to parish or from Scotland to another country England, Ireland or the Isle of Man. Those liable to removal were people applying for relief to a parish who were not born in Scotland or Scottish residents. Residence was defined as living for five or more years in one parish without claiming relief or begging. Women could acquire residence by marriage and a period of continuous non-residence of four years would mean the loss of resident status.

In Scotland, 13,283 Irish paupers were not removable because they had acquired a settlement, while 17,622 more were liable to removal on production of a J.P.'s warrant and a certificate of health (p. 212).

The Committee recommended that the law of removal should be abolished in England, and in Scotland the law should be gradually assimilated to that of England and that the five years' residential settlement should be reduced to one year.

The law of removal had caused particular hardship in Scotland where many Irish paupers had settled, especially in the years following the potato famine. It was claimed that many Irish families had been sent back to their native land after residing in Scotland for a number of years.

John Skelton, Secretary to the Board of Supervision in Scotland (pp. 44-57), explained the law concerning removal in Scotland, which was based on the Poor Law (Scotland) Act, 1845 and the Poor Removal Act, 1862. No man was removable until he actually claimed poor relief, either for himself or his family. No poor relief was given to the able-bodied in Scotland. The only exception to this rule was the case of a pauper who had an insane wife. It was illegal to split up a family by removing only certain members of it.

A number of inspectors of the poor in various parishes in Glasgow and Edinburgh, gave evidence to the Committee, including statistics of in-door and out-door relief in their parishes, the proportion of Irish paupers and their removal. On the whole, they objected to the abolition of the law of removal as they feared this would cause an influx of Irish poor into Scotland.


Select Committee on Poor Removal


Certificate by a regular Medical Practitioner

I hereby declare on soul and conscience, that the health of aforesaid, is such as to admit of---------- removal, as craved, either by land or water


Place and date--------

Deposition of the said  that.*-----------------------------being solemnly sworn, deposes

The Pauper*

To Inspector of the poor for the Parish of-------------------- and to the guardian of the (Union or Parish) of.

Order for Removal to-----------------place and date.

I -----------------------Sherriff--------------of the County of--------------------

Having considered the foregoing petition and certificate, and the depositions of the said------------and having examined into the state of health of the said---pauper-----and find that the said--Name----------is of the reputed age of-----------and find that the said was born in ------------or that the said last resided for the last three years in-------------find that the said--Name----------has now become and is now chargeable to the Parochial board of the Parish of-----------and that the said----------has not acquired or retained a settlement in Scotland, find that the said---------would not suffer bodily or mental injury by being removed and conveyed to, and being delivered to safely at the Workhouse at-----------------and I do order you the said Inspector of the poor to cause the said persons to be safely conveyed and delivered , and you the said guardians of -------------to receive the said persons


This part of the order must be altered if the Sheriff or Magistrates shall not be able to ascertain upon the evidence before them, the place of birth, or such continued residence, in which case the statute enacts that the sheriff or magistrates shall order the pauper to be removed to the port, union or parish in England or Ireland, as the case may be which shall in the judgment of the sheriff or magistrates, under the circumstances of the case, be most expedient