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History With Flynn

The following story from February 1919 shows that way back then begging was still a problem, with many of the so called beggars, men who had served for their King and Country and returned home to a “make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in.” as promised by David Lloyd George, sadly not the case.

William Wilson, 65 of no fixed abode appeared at Salford Quarter Sessions charged with being, "An incorrigible rogue and begging".

P.C Charles of the Manchester City Police told the court that he was present at the City Court in June 1918 when Wilson was convicted of being a "rogue and vagabond - begging" and received a three months prison sentence.

Next up to put the boot of authority in was D.C. Ernest Smith who said he was present on November 11th when Wilson was convicted of being a "rogue and vagabond and went to the Salford Sessions, which meant that he had spent three months in prison awaiting trial.

Fair play to William Wilson for taking the stand and defending his good name from these alleged slanderous statements from our Boys in Blue.

Wilson stated that the description of him as a "rogue and vagabond" was never mentioned in his first trial, also his desperate circumstances led him to beg as he lost his small 27  years income.

He could not get regular employment as he was unwell, while a Doctor could relieve him, he could not cure him, only an operation could do that.

Wilson then went on this amazing yet bonkers rant, which is printed word for word it's that good.



"I have had three months in prison waiting for this trial and I should say that it is hard labour without being convicted, I think it's not fair, I have always been convicted of before, simply for begging.

"Of course false pretences were once brought up against me, but that charge was denied.

"I have done my best to get employment as a Preacher, but I have had rare opportunities of preaching. I am not fitted for anything else, despite offering my services to large firms, but they would not accept them, however they have helped me with money.

"If the Magistrates maintain that I am illegal in begging, how is it that that Magistrates themselves such as Sir William Stephens (Ex Mayor of Salford) and Mr William Windsor give me money, i have had help from a Barrister as well.

"How is it that such Gentlemen as they have helped me with money if it is illegal to beg? I maintain strongly that I have not broken the Law.

"The convicting Magistrates have misinterpreted the the Law which I have not broken, in fact the Mr Brierley the City Stipendary dismissed the case on three occasions and said that it was not illegal to beg as I was going fro office to office, and that it was only illegal to beg in the street.

"Therefore I have not broken the Law at all, if I have then the Law wants amending, and I intend to God willing, in any case to protest to the Home Secretary, Edward Short.


That last out burst brought laughter from the Bench, after the  laughter had subsided Mr A.M. Langdon the Salford Recorder, showed that he had no sense of humour by stating.


"I am only here to administer the Law and you are sentenced to three months imprisonment"

Blimey you have to feel some sympathy for Wilson, if not only for that rousing speech which Clarence Darrow would have been proud of,.... look him up.

He probably was a bit of a pest mithering people for money, but at least he seemed to do it in style and he would have made a Preacher of some repute I don't doubt, I would have gone to hear his sermons, I'll bet they were fun though.

Tony Flynn


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