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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Lunatic Asylums

Lunatic Asylums.

The care of the insane in the Colony is under the Inspectorship of Dr. Duncan McGregor, who is also Inspector of Hospitals. The proportion of lunatics shows a continuous increase, which is accounted for by the inclusion of all persons who are congenitally deficient in mind, and a large number of aged people who are merely suffering from senile decay. There are seven public asylums in the Colony, at Auckland, Porirua, Wellington, Nelson, Hokitika, Christchurch, and Seacliff, in which there were, on the 31st of December, 1894, a total of 2168 patients, of whom 528 were provided for in Wellington. It may be noted that the native-born colonists bear a very page 170 small proportion to the total number of lunatics, there being 647 born in England, 559 in Ireland, 318 in Scotland, and 294 in New Zealand out of the total. The patients are in most cases occupied in some sort of useful employment, there being only sixty-eight out of the 528 in the Wellington Asylum incapable of some kind of work. This helps to keep down the expenditure, which amounts to a sum of £47,948 per annum, or an average of £23 16s. 4d. per patient. The total cost of buildings in the Colony up till December, 1894, was £363,131, the Seacliff establishment being the most extensive, having cost £119,717, while the Porirua Asylum, not yet completed, has, up to the present, cost £47,333, and the old one £20,839. The Porirua establishment has a farm attached to it, and under a most efficient staff and splendid organisation, the welfare of the poor creatures confined there is all that could be desired. It is to be regretted that, owing to faulty work being permitted in the building, an otherwise perfect institution should be permeable to the weather from certain quarters. When completed, by the addition of two wings, the building will accommodate five hundred patients.

Dr. Duncan MacGregor, M.A., M.B., C.M., Edinburgh University, has held the position of Inspector of Asylums and Hospitals for the Colony since 1886. Dr. MacGregor was born in Perthshire, Scotland, and was educated in arts at Aberdeen, and in Dr. Duncan MacGregor medicine at Edinburgh. While studying at Aberdeen, he gained a scholarship in classic and philosophy, open to graduates of two years' standing, and subsequently won, in Glasgow, the Ferguson Scholarship for Mental Science, open to the whole of the Scotch Universities. Dr. MacGregor gained his M.A. degree in 1867, and three years later his medical diplomas. In 1871 he came out to New Zealand, per ship “Wild Deer,” from Greenock to Port Chalmers under appointment to the Otago University as Professor of Mental Science, a position which he held till accepting his present office. In 1873 he became Inspector of Lunatic Asylums for Otago Provincial District. As Medical Officer of the Otago Lunatic Asylum—the largest in New Zealand—Dr. MacGregor served from 1876 to 1882. In 1886 he took charge of the Hospitals and Asylums of the Colony under the new Act of 1885, and has been in charge to the present time. In 1870 Dr. MacGregor was married to Miss Johnston, daughter of Mr. John Johnston, of the firm of Kay and Johnston, Lamp Manufacturers, of Edinburgh. Dr. MacGregor's family consists of four daughters and one son.

Mrs. Grace Neill, Assistant Inspector of Hospitals, Asylums, and Charitable Aid for the Colony, was born in Edinburgh, and is the daughter of au Argyleshire landed proprietor. From her early days she took interest in the well-being of the labouring classes, having had the opportunity of listening to the addresses of the celebrated Joseph Arch. Before leaving England for the colonies, Mrs. Neill gained considerable experience in hospital work. She had the management of a large institution in Manchester, and in London she also engaged in the same work. In both these large cities she was engaged in the consideration of social and sanitary questions, and in the winter of 1885–6 she worked among the poor at Battersea. After this Mrs. Neill decided to visit Australia, and spent several years in Queensland, where she engaged in journalistic pursuits, on the staff of the Brisbane Daily Telegraph, and other papers for some time. Her ability soon attracted the notice of the Government, who page 171 appointed her a member of the Royal Commission set up in 1891 to enquire into the conditions of labour in shops and factories. The report presented to the Queensland Legislature shows what a large share she took in its investigations and deliberations. Subsequently Mrs. Neill was retained to enquire into the distribution of charitable aid, and the conditions of the women and children of the necessitous unemployed. While resident in Brisbane the subject of this notice was elected to a seat on the Committee of the School of Arts and Technical College. In 1893 she came to Wellington, bearing high credentials from members of Australian Ministries. The Government were about to appoint a woman to the position of Inspector of Factories, and Mrs. Neill entered the Civil Service in that capacity soon after her arrival. Her previous journalistic experience, together with her knowledge of English, French, and German labour literature, and her ability as an accomplished writer, fitted her to aid Mr. Tregear in the editorship of the departmental Journal of Labour. In March, 1894, Mrs. Neill was gazetted Inspector of Factories, and thus became the first woman inspector in New Zealand. About six months later she was appointed an official visitor to the Mount View and Porirua Lunatic Asylums. Mrs. Neill was appointed in May, 1895, Assistant Inspector of Hospitals, Asylums, and Charitable Aid; she is the first woman to occupy such a position in the British Dominions. Her appointment has been fully justified, and there is little doubt that the example will be copied in this respect as it has already been in the matter of the Female Franchise.

Mr. David Souter, Clerk and Accountant of the Lunacy and Charitable Department, was born on the 11th of August, 1852, at Douglas, Isle of Man. Arriving in the Colony with his parents in December, 1863, he was educated at St. Michael's Church of England School, and at Christ's College, Christchurch. At the latter institution he gained the Buller and Reay scholarships. In March, 1872, he passed both the Junior and Senior Civil Service examinations, being second on the list in the Junior and fourth in the Senior. Mr. Souter entered the Postal Department at the same time, and remained for several years, when he resigned to accept a more remunerative engagement in a business house. In January, 1890, he re-entered the Government service as a clerk in the Lunacy and Charitable Department, and on the promotion of the head clerk to the chief clerkship in the Colonial Secretary's Office, was appointed to fill his place. In 1877 Mr. Souter was married to Miss Hughes, daughter of the late Mr. Robert Hughes, of Christchurch—one of the early settlers in Canterbury. His family numbers eight, four sons and four daughters.