22 November 2015

Grave matters: 'No way to run a laundry'

In a room above a laundry in Lower Cathedral Road
A lurid story of sex and drugs is ready to unfold.

Shock, horror, scandal – four found in a bed.
Three women are alive but the Chinaman is dead!

Had they smoked opium? Speculation raced!
Is that why the women are so yellow faced?

Three English lasses, brassy and bold,
And a Chinaman from Birmingham, or so we are told.

Western Mail photo, 22 November 1922: ‘The laundry in Lower Cathedral-road’

If they had smoked opium, where is the pipe?
Or is this yet another case of newspaper hype?

Now the story changes: they drank it in their tea.
But where is the opium? That’s the mystery!

Western Mail photo, 22 November 1922: ‘Removing the girl victims from the laundry in the ambulance’

The women have been drugged, of that, there is no doubt.
Now we need to wake them up to get the story out.

“First, take them outside. Lay them on the ground.
Next, strip them naked, walk them all around.

Pummel them, push them. Don’t let them rest.”
Are they up to questioning? That will be the test.

Western Mail, photo: Arthur E. Smith, 23 November 1922: ‘Rosetta Paul and Florence Paul, two of the three girls who were found unconscious at the Chinese Laundry in Lower Cathedral-road, Cardiff.’

Treatment continues; all is touch and go,
And even when they’re better, their brains are very slow.

Doctors and policemen try communication
But the girls can’t – or won’t! – explain the situation.

And what of the Chinaman? Little Yee Sing.
Was he really part of an opium ring?

His friends say “No.” A policeman does too.
“He said he was afraid.” But of what? Of who?

Western Mail photo, 23 November 1922: ‘Yee Sing’

A search reveals four bottles full of Chinese swill
Tests show opium but not enough to kill.

An inquest is held: it shows disease in Yee Sing’s heart.
Was it that or opium that caused him to depart?

Western Mail photos, 28 November 1922: [left] ‘Our photograph shows Chinese and a white girl mourner (on the right) at the graveside.’ [right] ‘The Rev. W. Harris, of Clive-street Baptist Church, conducted the short service at the graveside.’

We will never really know what happened in that room,
Neither how three women were so drugged, nor Yee Sing met his doom.

The Chinaman is buried in the cemetery at Cathays
To lie in peace beneath the trees the rest of his days.

Yee Sing's grave at Cathays Cemetery

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