Under the “Poor Law Amendment Act, Scotland” (1845) responsibility for Poor Relief was taken from the Parishes of the Kirk of Scotland, and vested in new Parochial Boards, whose territories largely coincided with the old parishes. Locally, the Marnoch Parochial Board, with members elected by local people, was set up to be in charge of poor relief with powers to raise taxes to give paupers outdoor relief, as money or goods. Day-to-day administration was in the hands of the Inspector of the Poor for the parish.
The parochial boards built poorhouses for those categories of paupers who did not receive ‘outdoor relief’, normally in the form of small weekly sums of money. During the second half of the century government increasingly found it convenient to give added powers to parochial boards, such as the registration of births, deaths and marriages, and in particular public health.
A major change took place in 1894 when parochial boards were replaced by elected parish councils. The Marnoch Parish Council had five representatives of the burgh and eight from the landward area. Henry Wilson as Inspector of the Poor was responsible for deciding which of a wide range of unfortunates – old, chronically or temporarily ill, “congenital idiots” and so on – should receive how much money for how long, and who should be lodged in a poorhouse.
The Banffshire Journal reported in 1896 how kindness was shown to the poor at the festive season, as it was each year:
On New Year’s Day eighty poor people in Aberchirder were each presented with ½ lb of excellent tea, generously provided by Provost George, Superior of the Burgh. On the same day the aged and infirm poor who are kept in the Parish Council Lodging House were supplied with a good dinner by Dr Whitton. Others also have been doing many kind acts to the poor.
Figures from the Parish Councils for the late 1890s give some idea of the scale of its operations:
1897 Contract for supply of best Wallsend coals – William Robertson, Banff at 20s2d per ton
1898 Contract for supply of pauper coffins – Alex.McHardy, Aberchirder at 11s each.
1900 Roll of paupers – 77, of whom Ordinary Poor 38, Orphan Poor 2, Lunatics boarded out 6, Lunatics in Asylum 11.