100 YEARS AGO: JOSHUA BATTY THE SALFORD ENIGMA
I have been trawling through the pages of the local newspapers for many, many years now, mainly for research material which would be used in my local history books, also I would select stories from 100 years ago to illustrate articles for SalfordOnline.
The stories selected are often humorous, sometimes hearting breaking, yet they all give an insight into what life was like in our great City of Salford, however I kept coming across one man's name, which would crop up fairly regularly, and always at The Magistrates Court, his name was Joshua Batty.
Batty aged 40, who lived in Birley Street, Pendleton, wasn't one of the regular drunks or brawlers who so often featured, his appearances were always politically motivated, his "offences" included, chalking messages on walls and pavements, in which he would insult the local authorities, the police, councillors, clergy and the Government, he was once arrested for going into the pulpit at Salford Cathedral when there was a Mass in progress and began denouncing the church and it's wealth.
The following story is about, yet another of his appearances at Salford Magistrates Court in August 1921 where he appeared charged with begging outside the War Pensions Committee's premises on Strawberry Road, Pendleton.
Detective Sergeant McNee told the court that following "complaints" and having cautioned, Batty the previous day, he and Detective Squires kept observation on him for 20 minutes, during this time they saw Batty approach men leaving the building and ask them for money, some gave and others refused, McNee then told the court that after speaking to a disabled ex-serviceman and what he told him, (which was not disclosed in court) they arrested him on a charge of begging and he was taken to Pendleton police station.
When searched they found a list of names and the amount of money given, written next to it, the amount came to, three shillings and three pence, and Batty had only three shillings on him, when asked where the missing threepence was, he told them he had bought himself a packet of Woodbine cigarettes, he was then charged with begging to which he replied, "Fair enough".
By keeping a list of names of the people who had given him money doesn't strike me as being the actions of a street beggar, was he collecting for something else? and the fact the bought himself a packet of cigarettes is hardly a crime, was it mentioned in court as an attempt to discredit, Batty?
Batty who was no stranger to the courts, took to the stand and asked Detective Sergeant McNee, if it was true that he had spoken to him the previous day but not for begging, but for obstructing the pavement, to which he agreed.
Then Batty asked him if he would read out to the court an appeal he held in his hand which referred to a local public official, strangely enough, the Stipendiary Magistrate. Mr. Atkin read the appeal and wouldn't make the contents public, was it too inflammatory or possibly down right libellous?
McNee then read out to the court, a list of Batty's previous convictions which started out with by saying, "Batty appears to have discovered the secret of of living without working"
Batty's convictions dated back to 1906 and included, 12 months in Strangeways for smashing the windows at Lewis's store, Manchester, incitement to riot, chalking on pavements, obstructing the footpath and in 1916 he was Court Martialled from the army for, "Conduct prejudicial to military discipline"
The with a final blow he said to the Magistrate, "I appeal to your worship to assist us in controlling this man who has got to the end of his tether"
The case was adjourned for the day and Batty was granted bail.
The next day the attacks on Batty continued, with Superintendent Clarke by saying that Batty had a bank account and that the bank manager a Mr Bracewell had been summoned to give evidence about the amount of money he had in the account, Bracewell said that Batty did have a joint bank account but there was little money in it.
Batty, quite rightly got to his feet and objected to this evidence saying that he was being charged with begging and this evidence had nothing to do with this case.
Possibly exasperated with the court case, The Stipendiary Magistrate. Mr. Atkin asked Batty if he would stop begging for money outside the War Pensions Committee's offices and demanded a straight answer.
Batty replied that there was no reason why he should not, but gave his word and said he would keep to it.
The case was dismissed and Batty walked free from the courtroom.
In my opinion it does seem that Batty was a thorn in the side of the authorities, and looking at his criminal offences, he would appear to be a political activist of some degree, perhaps his days in the British Army had affected him in more ways than one, I can only guess.
I fully intend to do more research into this chap's life as I find him to be a fascinating character, and if you have any anecdotes about Joshua Batty, please contact me on here.