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EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT THE ROYAL COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY
INTO THE "OUTBREAK OF DISEASE ON THE BERAR"

Sophia Perrin sworn and deposed-
I am a married woman and an immigrant by the ship "Berar". My husband and seven children were with me on board. We came from Rotherhithe and went into the depot at Blackwall where we remained for three weeks before sailing. During the last two or three days the depot was very full. I saw the C..... family at the depot. The matron at the depot had put us into a smaller room that we might be more comfortable, but when a number of other immigrants came into the depot some were put into our room, and amongst them the C......s. A child of theirs was evidently ill, and although the room was so crowded and we wanted the windows open Mrs C...... objected and said she was afraid of her child's life as it was very ill. Upon the depot master seeing the child he said it was very ill and Mrs C....... must see the Doctor in the morning about it. I saw the child lying wrapt up in a shawl on the table. Although several people present expressed an opinion that the child was not fit to go in the ship Mrs C...... said it only had a cold and would be well the next day. I noticed the child looking very pale but did not see any eruption. The mother was so very abusive that I avoided her and so I did not get a chance of seeing her child more closely. We all embarked next morning, including the C....... family, without a doctor arriving to see this child. At Gravesend on the 17th October we were inspected by the government inspectors our own surgeon superintendant being with them. I considered the inspection a minute one- every one being stopped and spoken to by the inspecting officers. Mrs C....... passed the inspection immediately after me. I heard our Doctor say to Mrs C...... "sit down with your child" and she sat down at the side of the deck. He then said to Dr Humphries "Look at this child it isn't fit to go". Dr Humphries looked at the child and examined its legs and neck and said "It is only a rash and it will be all right in a few days". Our doctor then seemed satisfied and the child was passed on. A day or two after we got to sea the child took worse. In a block of six berths on the opposite side of the ship to ours were the C.......s, the Leppards, the Meachams, the Sharmans; a man named Hurley and his child also slept in the same block. Immediately alongside it were the Blakes and Fosters. As far as I know it was in this block that the disease first broke out. All the children in the block took it one after the other. The Sharmans lost one child, the Meachams one, Fosters one, C........s one, the Blakes I think, two. The disease spread from there through the ship. I have seen the doctor clasp his hands and heard him say to Mr Leppard "all this trouble and trouble we are going to have, has come from the C........". My youngest child was taken ill about a month after we started. I took it to the Doctor who told me that it had got the fever and said to me "Mrs Perrin you may thank the C.......s for this". The Doctor was very attentive. I was nursing the child at the time and he gave me stout. He never refused me anything that I asked for, if he had it. I believe that saved my child as it enabled me to nurse it. I kept my child separate from my other children and constantly supplied it with fresh clothing, having a plentiful supply of old clothes on board for the purpose. All the rags that I used with the child I threw overboard immediately after using them. When the sickness was so much about the 'tween decks were disinfected every morning with carbolic acid after being scrubbed. This duty was thoroughly done by the constable of the mess. The Doctor seemed particularly fond of children and was attentive and kind in his manner. We had plenty of water, but I know the condenser was defective and had to work night and day to keep up the supply. I know that in all cases that came within my observation the bedding of those that died as well as the clothes they died in was thrown overboard. I have seen the things taken from children that died, dropped into a pail and then thrown overboard. I saw Mr Lepper(d) performing this duty and he generally acted as the Doctor's assistant on board.

Sophia Perrin

Charles Perrin sworn and deposed-
I was an immigrant by the ship "Berar" from London. I was present the day my wife was examined by this Commission and heard what she said. I can corroborate the substance of what she said. I don't think the ship was in a fit state to take on passengers when we were sent on board. It was very dirty and wet. The hatchways were open for taking on cargo and the rain poured into the 'tween decks which were consequently wet for nearly three weeks after. I firmly believe this intensified the disease which was on board. From all that I saw the Doctor's attention was continually taken up with his duties. I signed a testimonial given to the Doctor signed by all the married people with the exception of about five. I felt the short supply of water on board and examined the condenser. The condenser itself may have been new, but the boiler was deficient, being old and patched. this was the cause of its breaking down. If it had been worked for three or four hours before sailing, the defective state of the boiler must have been discovered. All boilers ought to be so tested.

Charles Thomas Perrin

Transcribed by Nick Perrin from the
National Archive Reference IM5/4/16 No 158