The year 1818 was one of famine, fever and poverty. The conditions in the town drove many people to desperate actions in order to survive. Mr Mills, Church Warden, reported to the Belfast Charitable Society about an usual occurrence a few days before in October 1818. The minutes record:

“a rap came to his door and it being opened by his servant a child of about 2 years of age walked in with her name pinned to her back, Mary West.  He states that he applied to the gentlemen appointed by the Parish to take care of foundling children but they refused as it appeared she be older than they are permitted to take.  Resolved that she be admitted at present into the Convalescent House and after that into the Poor House.”

One wonders what personal struggles the parents of Mary West were going through to place them in a position where they felt it was better to leave their daughter with the Church. After a period of time in the Convalescent Home, to make sure Mary did not have relapsing fever, she was admitted to the Poor House.