Gangland murder in Liverpool

Good day to you all. Sergeant James Mendick here again. It has been a quiet weekend, with just the usual quota of drunks and assorted blackguards causing problems and nothing major to disturb the peace of good Queen Victoria. That gave me time to append pen to paper and write another account of my memoirs. You people who know me will be aware that I have a roving commission that takes me to many parts of the country, indeed many parts of the world, so I make no apologies for jumping from town to tow. This morning’s piece is from Liverpool, that most maritime of Britain’s cities.

The Tithebarn murder is one of the best known incidents of nineteenth century Liverpool crime, and one that echoed around the country as an example of the unruly state of Liverpool.

Bank holidays are rare days of pleasure in the hard lives of working people. They’re ays when families can get together and for one full glorious day enjoy each other’s company; the weather might be good and the pressures of work are eased. However, some people do not rest on those days, policemen, shopkeepers and publicans were among those who had to work, and of course the corner men were always on the prowl. For those of you who do not know, the Liverpool corner men are the youthful blaggards and scoundrels that haunt the street corners and prey on innocent passers-by.

In August 1874 Richard and Alice Morgan were making the best of their day. Richard was a 26 year old porter from Leeds street and the couple had been at the New Ferry Druids Gala on the Wirral. They met Richard’s brother Samuel at Liverpool Landing Stage. Samuel was a carter, so both Morgans were respectable men. As they passed Exchange Station and approached the corner of Lower Milk Street, a group of five corner men approached them. One was named John McGrave, a notorious corner man. He deliberately bumped into Richard.

‘Give us sixpence for a quart of ale,’ McGrave demanded.

Richard Morgan refused, and advised the speaker to get a job so he could pay for his own ale. That was not the reply the corner man wanted, and as Richard walked away, thumped Richard from behind, sending him face first onto the ground. Samuel swung a punch at the nearest of the gang, but they called up their friends and McGrave, Patrick Campbell and Michael Mullen surrounded the Morgans, hunting like wild dogs. The boots were soon crunching into Richard as he lay helpless.

Alice tried to shield her husband and threw herself on the attackers, but one of the corner men kicked her on the side of her head, and the mob continued their assault. Two were kicking and a third unfastened his belt and used the heavy buckle as a weapon, hammering it down on Richard’s head and back. Helpless, Alice could do nothing but scream for help.

A crowd gathered, but instead of helping, some joined in the attack so there were as many as seven corner men kicking and hammering at Richard. They kicked him up and down the street, until about fifteen to twenty minutes later somebody saw a policemen approaching and the warning cry of ‘Nix! Nix!’ [Run, run] they scattered and ran down Lower Milk Street. Samuel, who had been doing his best to help, chased after them but lost them. When he returned Richard was already dying, with a stab wound to the neck and his body battered and bruised. Alice was also injured. Not only had she lost her husband; the blow to her head deprived her of her hearing as well. Among the interested spectators was McGrave, who had doubled back to mingle with the crowd.

The police picked up McGrave, Campbell and Mullen. The jury found them guilty but recommended mercy for nineteen year old Campbell, who not only held a steady job, but who was engaged to marry McGrave’s sister. The judge sentenced all three to death, but Campbell was in fact reprieved and sentenced to life imprisonment instead. McGrave and Mullen were hanged at Kirkdale Jail on 3 January 1875 with McGrave apparently very afraid but Mullen stoic.

So you see, today’s gangs in Glasgow, London and even in cities outside the Empire and not a new phenomenon. There have been gangs infesting the towns and cities for many years. Nothing is new under the sun.


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