Tag Archives: History

Sinks of Sin

Good day once more, good people.

It is Sergeant Mendick here, with some more snippets of crime. Now, every city has its bad areas and places best avoided and today I will tell you about one in Dundee. When seamen were ashore in Dundee many headed toward the public houses, but a considerable number ended up in the disreputable lodging houses, many of which doubled as brothels and were often dens of thieves. In the early years of the century, Couttie’s Wynd was one of the most notorious areas for these establishments. Couttie’s Wynd is a dark, narrow gulley that extends from the Seagate to the High Street. One of the public houses in this street was owned by James Davidson, known commonly as Humphie. At the end of October 1825 the master of a visiting ship was ill-judged enough to enter Humphie’s House and whatever happened there he also met Susan Frazer, notorious as a prostitute and thief.  When he realised he had somehow lost all his money he complained to the police and both Frazer and Davidson were arrested. While Davidson was set free, Frazer admitted to picking the captain’s pocket and sent on to a higher court and eventually a long spell in the jail.

couttie's wynd

Couttie’s Wynd

Couttie’s Wynd was too narrow a street to attract many respectable people and for much of the century it remained a place of prostitution and drunkenness. In September 1861 Frederick Leverdowitz the master of the barque Lavinia of  Libau visited one of the houses and came out minus a gold watch and chain and £90 in cash, which was a huge sum at the time. The police arrested three suspects, Catherine Grant, Catherine Hughes and her husband John Hughes. Catherine Grant, officially a millworker, was sent to jail for sixty days while the husband and wife team were eventually given longer sentences.

Janet Cassels was one of the most notorious bad women in Dundee in the 1820s. She was a known prostitute who haunted the low lodging houses of Couttie’s Wynd but on the 12th September 1827 she excelled herself. Cassels was in a brothel run by a woman called Elizabeth Muat and took a dislike to a prostitute named Jean Adam. When she saw Adam at the other side of a glass door Cassels lifted a table knife and thrust it right through the glass, stabbing Adam in the arm and the face just below the eye.

When the case appeared before the sheriff later in the year, Cassels was as respectable looking as possible and declared:

“I am not guilty, please your lordship.”

Although the sheriff took the unusual course of being judge and defender, he still found Cassel guilty and told her she was lucky she was not at a higher court on a much more serious charge. Immediately Cassel’s politeness ended and she reverted to type:

“Go to hell you bugger; I hope to God I’ll be tried before the Lords next time and not before yon old damned sheriff.”

Those words were only the beginning of a tirade that continued as the sheriff sentenced her to two years banishment from Forfarshire, with the warning that if she returned she would be put in prison and sustained only on bread and water for two months. The messenger, Patrick Mackay, was given the unenviable task of taking her by post chaise out of the county and into Perthshire.

The very next day at twelve o’ clock the watchman at the Witchknowe arrested her and she was put into jail.  Rather than sorrow, she declared she preferred to be in prison in Dundee that exist outside the county. She was released in January 1828 but a week later was arrested again and returned to her former lodging. The same thing happened again, and again, as she held true to her promise not to leave the town.

So when in Dundee, good people, best to avoid Couttie’s Wynd although I have been told that it has cleaned up its act a little.

As a matter of interest, one of my cases is on offer this week at only 99 pence!

See more at:

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The crime of employment

Good day once again from Sergeant Mendick.

Today I am not going to dwell on any specific crime, or type of crime. Instead I am going to talk about changes in types of crime that come through employment, or lack of it. As some of you may know, I am a detective with Scotland Yard, and have something of a roving commission. Although based in London, I have worked in Manchester, with my adventures there chronicled in The Darkest Walk, and in Dundee, as related in A Burden Shared. Now both these great cities, and every other in which I have worked, share some common experiences.

Both have pockets of bitter poverty, and both areas of affluence.Both have problems with drink and violence, and both have gangs of young street-Arabs roaming around looking for what they can thieve. There is wife-beating when a drunken brute staggers home and takes out his frustrations on his dearly-beloved, and husband beating when the wife spends her time studying the contents of a bottle rather than looking after the house, and proves her love by smashing a poker over her husband’s head. There is the occasional murder,usually as the result of a matrimonial dispute or drunken rampage, and there are carefully planned robberies where a cracksman uses all his skill to break into a jewellery shop, a mansion house or even a bank.

However, the vast majority of crimes are not like that. Most people within the Queen’s peace will never experience a murder in their family, or have an expert pick their lock. What they might see is the casual, pointless crime that most blights the country. There are two types: simple theft or drunken violence. Although both are common throughout the year, the experienced policeman knows which will be most prevalent according to the number of men and women employed in the area.

When unemployment scars the streets, the doors of factories and mills are closed and groups of sullen men stand idle on street corners, when haggard-faced women huddle their children close to them and search the gutters for scraps of left-overs, then theft will rise. That is a fact known to every policeman on the beat and the best of them will turn Nelson’s eye to the odd disappearing loaf of bread or pound of potatoes. People have to eat. Who with any common humanity, who with even the slightest hint of Christianity would arrest a woman who steals to feed her family, or a man who poaches a rabbit or a salmon from a landowner who boats of his thousands of fat acres. Why, I have known policemen, hard, cynical, long-service men who think nothing of arresting a habitual thief and sending him for transportation, drop a penny or a pound of cheese into the lap of an honest woman down on her luck. Christian charity is good for the soul.

There are other crimes associated with unemployment. Many a poor woman, desperate to feed her children, has resorted to vice to make a few pennies. That course could lead to the dangers of disease, or violence if unscrupulous men lure her into a dark alley for rape, or these evil predatory women encourage her to join their stable. Truly that is a temptation it is better to fight.

On the other hand, when jobs are plentiful and wages rise, then such simple theft eases. Fat-bellied children mock the very uniforms that keep the streets safe and mill and factory workers can demand another half-penny an hour in their pay, knowing that their masters can ill-afford to turn them down with order-books full and customers aware of other operating mills. When that happens, men and women earn full wages, but not all is spent sensibly. Rather than saving for the next rainy day, working men and women often choose to dash into the nearest gin-palace or squalid shebeen where kill-me-deadly whisky can be purchased. Drinking leads to all sorts of temptation, from immorality between unmarried people to sudden flare-ups of violence.

At time of full employment, drunken violence escalates in the streets of every town and city in the land.

So be warned, young people and old who are reading my memoirs, there is never a time when crime is quiet. Unemployment brings theft and employment encourages drinking and violence. Best keep clear of both. Have a safe day now.

Sergeant James Mendick

http://www.malcolmarchibald.com

 

 

 

 

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.

http://www.malcolmarchibald.com