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100 YEARS AGO: MINDLESS VANDALISM IN ECCLES AS STREET LAMPS SMASHED

History With Flynn

Vandalism, doesn't it get on your nerves? the number of times we must all have witnessed smashed up phone boxes, broken shop windows, litter bins set on fire etc.

It's a good job that this loutish behaviour didn't go on in the olden days when you could leave your front door open and......Hang on!
 
Take of your rose tinted spectacles and have a read at this story culled from the pages of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal, August 1919.
 
Gerald Openshaw who resided at St Georges Crescent, Salford and Frank Gallop who resided at Gilda Brook Road, Eccles appeared at Eccles Magistrates Court charged with doing wilful damage to public property.
 
James Flitcroft who resided at Monton Road told the Court that he was near his home when he saw a group of young men smashing electric street lamps by throwing bricks at them.
 
Being a good minded citizen he told them to stop, he was met with the casual remark, 
 
"Let the Goverment pay"
 
Flitcroft replied that it was the likes of him and others who would have to pay the bill.
 
Unimpressed by his high moral standards the men sauntered away, laughing and jeering.
 
Flitcroft then made his way to the nearby home of Sergeant Tomlinson and told him what he had seen,  you have to hand it Mr Flitcroft he was keen.
 
The good Sergeant went in to the night and spotted the men stood by a night watchman's fire close to the Blue Bell pub.
 
He told them who he was and that he was investigating the smashing of street lights, they started o joke about it until he reminded them that this was no laughing matter and asked for their names and addresses...I think you know what's coming.
 
Openshaw gave his name as Mr Estills who resided at Broad Street, Pendleton, Gallop point blank refused to give any details, two other men with them also refused to give any details.
 
He let them go and said they would be prosecuted for this offence and contacted by the police.
 
Amazingly enough the next night, Sergeant Tomlinson who was on duty in Monton saw the two men and gripped them, he told them that he had checked their details and they were false, he must have been bluffing surely?
 
Both men then rather meekly gave their correct details and said they were willing to pay the damage done to the street lamps.
 
They were charged with with the offence and bailed to appear at Eccles magistrate the following week and face the wrath of Mr F. Halsall, the Chairman of the Bench.
 
In court it emerged that the two other men involved in this incident one was a Lieutenant West of the Australian Army, an upper crust vandal no doubt, the other culprit had vanished altogether.
 
Mr Angus, the Eccles Borough Electrical Engineer (a grand title)  told the Court that the two accused had called at his home last week and had offered to pay for the damage if they could avoid police proceedings, adding that they were both recently demobilized  from the Army and were simply having a "rag" 
 
Obviously their pleas for help fell on deaf ears and the inscrutable Mr Angus as they both stood in the dock.
 
A witness, Mr Harry Williams who lived on Lansdowne Road, Monton gave evidence and told the court that he saw the two accused and Lieutenant West  smash a lamp in Monton Road by throwing bricks at it, he then saw Gallop climb a lamp-post unscrew the bulb and smash it on the floor, Openshaw then did the same and hurled the bulb into the road.
 
The Magistrate asked Mr Angus if there was damage done around Monton that weekend and was told there  was trouble all over the Borough with vandalism.
 
The Chairman of the Bench, Mr F. Halsall told the men ,
 
"I am surprised that young men in your position should given the trouble of providing false names and addresses, there is too much of this wilful damage going on in the Borough and if any other person is brought up before me they will be severely dealt with"
 
Each man was fined five shilling and sixpence.
 
That is a paltry amount for the offence committed and reading between the lines I think that Openshaw and Gallop came from wealthy families, their home addresses were then and now desirable areas to live, also for them to be associated wit h a Lieutenant from the Australian Army makes me wonder if they weren't officer class.
 
Also calling at the home address of the Borough Electrical Engineer and asking if they could pay to keep them out of the court, surely bribery or some other charge?
 
I wonder how two ordinary Privates from the British Army fresh from France would have fared faced with the same charges, before Mr Halsall?



Tony Flynn



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