100-YEARS-AGO: MOUNTED POLICE ARREST POTATO THIEVES IN PENDLEBURY
I came across this story from October 1920 in the pages of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal and was shocked to read of the treatment meted out to these men who appeared at Manchester County Police Court charged with stealing quantities of potatoes from local farmers' fields.
The background to this story is as follows, in October 1920 coal miners went on strike for higher pay, the strike only lasted two weeks but this caused hardship for many families and most of the men who stood in the dock accused of theft were colliers from local pits.
Local farmers had complained to the police that for several nights groups of men had been seen in the early hours of the morning stealing potatoes either from the soil or which had been harvested and awaiting collection in baskets.
The newspaper reported that "scores" of coal miners were in the fields, stealing the crops and at one stage 200 men and boys were seen stealing.
The police were informed and Supt. Keys raised a force of mounted policemen and several dozen policemen who travelled in prison vans were taken to the farms.
They launched a raid on the potato pickers and arrested a dozen men, others scattered leaving half filled sacks and shovels on the ground.
Mounted police along with uniformed policemen patrolled the fields for the next few days to deter any more thefts with a show of force.
Eight men appeared in the dock and a boy aged 11 years of age, they were, George Dale, George Arden, Robert Hodgkiss, Ernest Cullis, Edward Jones, Ernest Vernon, Thomas Atkinson, and Wilson Taylor,
The case of George Dale was heard first, with Mr T. Stuttard The Chairman of the Court and Mr J, Crofton was the Prosecuting Officer.
Crofton alleged that Dale was caught with 56lb of potatoes and that this court case arose from the coal strike and then launched into an astonishing attack on Dale and the other accused by saying that they behaved as if the crop in the ground was theirs was to be taken and eaten and if this kind of behaviour was not stamped out, "the disease would grow and would ultimately lead to, as it has in the past, rioting and the usual accompaniments"
The Chairmen asked him if he was bringing a case of anarchy on the men?
He replied that he wasn't but this is where these things lead to.
Addressing Dale, the Chairman told him that he couldn't behave as the Germans did in Belgium and France and take anything they liked and fined him £5 and 12 shillings Advocate fees and told him he should be happy he wasn't being sent to prison.
Dale asked for a month to pay and was told the decision would come after the trial of the other men.
The other accused were given fines ranging from £1 to 10 shillings plus court costs.
George Dale had his fine reduced from £5 down to £2 in a rare show of leniency and was given a month to pay..
The Chairman then warned the whole district of Pendlebury that if any more men were brought up before him charged with potato theft they would go straight to prison
By Tony Flynn
The newspaper, Salford City Reporter for November 1920 carried the following story and rather sensationally called it, "the remarkable story of the life lead by a young girl"
Ellen Ben Saleh appeared at Salford Magistrates Court charged with the theft of £66 from her mother, a widow who resided at Hancock Street. Pendleton.
Detective Inspector Mitchell told the court that for some time the mother had been saving up and a portion of the money was a gratuity from the army authorities which she received in consequence of the death of her son, the money along with a small amount of gold was kept in a box in the kitchen of the house.
When it was discovered missing the police were informed, Detective Sergeant McNee made enquiries and questioned the girl who denied all knowledge of the theft, however the next day she absconded and nothing was heard from her, until her husband returned from the sea and he took her to the police station.
Initially she told the police she had nothing to with the theft, then admitted it and said,
"I might as well tell you all about it, I stole the money whilst mother was out and I gave it all to a man who I know"
She then broke into tears and sobbing asked for another chance.
Detective Inspector Mitchell then took to the stand and gave a detailed account of the last few months of the girl's life and pretty damning it was too.
He said the girl's mother had tried to shield her but she seemed beyond control and had been going out with a man who lived in a lodging house, who threatened her if she didn't give him money and he thought that the stolen money was divided between the two of them.
Seven months ago she had met Ben Saleh in a public house and after only a few days she asked him to marry her, shortly after the marriage Saleh returned to a ship at Salford Docks and went on a six month voyage and only returned on the day when he surrendered his wife to the police.
She had worked in cafe's in Manchester and as a barmaid in pubs on Cross Lane but had been associating with "loose women" and had got into debt and had stole the money to pay them off, he then added that Ben Saleh was going to leave Salford for ever as soon as this court case was over.
He finally added,
"She is a thoroughly bad girl, she is crying now, but no doubt the first thing she will do after leaving this courtroom will be to ask me for a cigarette"
The Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr P. W. Atkin, promptly sentenced her to four months imprisonment with hard labour.
The newspaper reported that the poor girl, fainted and had to be carried from the dock and owing to her cries the following court case was halted until she was placed in the prison cells below the court.
To sum up the girl not only lost her liberty but her husband who no doubt had seen a glimpse of the life he faced if he stayed with her and sailed out of Salford.
Hopefully she saw the errors of her ways and kept out of the pubs on Cross Lane and led a hard working, sober life, but I somehow doubt it.
By Tony Flynn
Cross Lane in Salford was once a busy, bustling thoroughfare with 18 pubs, three music halls, an Army Barracks, an open market, shops galore and one of the largest open cattle markets in the country, hard to believe if you drive or walk along it today.
November 1920 and Emily Johnson was helping out at her Grandmother's tripe shop at 26 Cross Lane, James Smith and Samuel Royle came into the shop and ordered some pigs trotters, they stood at the counter and began to eat them, as Emily came out of the kitchen area, she saw Smith leaning over the counter, he asked for some trotters and was served with them.
Just then a young boy came into the shop to tell her that the coal delivery had arrived and she had to go in to the back so that they could drop the coal in the yard which she did.
Coming back into the shop she was horrified to see Smith behind the counter tampering with the cash drawer, she rushed to the shop door and asked a passer-by to call the police as she was being robbed, they tried to push her aside but she blocked the doorway.
They then ran through the kitchen into the yard pursued by Emily, who managed to drag Smith to the ground, after a struggle he managed to escape, with Royle opening the back door for them to get away.
However this isn't the end of the story you may be pleased to hear.
By a simple twist of fate (courtesy of Bob Dylan) the two men were arrested a few days later for attempting to steal a half hundred weight of currants from a parked lorry on Oldfield Road but were seen by a Mrs Ogden who raised the alarm and gave the police such a good description they were arrested the same day and taken to the local police station.
Who was in the police station? none other than the coal delivery boy who recognised the two men who had stolen the six shillings from the tripe shop and they were charged with this offence as well as the attempted theft of the currants.
They appeared before Mr. C. C. Goodwin at Salford Magistrates Court and it was revealed that both men had numerous convictions for theft.
Detective Sgt, Needham told the court that. Smith was
"One of the worst characters in Salford, and never does anything but look for trouble and hasn't worked for two and a half years since leaving the army and lives on his pension of £2, five shilling a week"
This seemed to strike a chord with the Magistrate who said that this matter of his pension would be investigated and then gave them both six months imprisonment with hard labour.
A harsh sentence, possibly but these two chaps do appear to be petty criminals with not a care in the world, no idea if Smith's army pension was stopped, be the final slap in the face for him if it was.
I came across this story from November, 1920 in the pages of the Salford City Reporter and tells of the misfortunes of the doziest thief in Salford.
Thomas Callaghan, 30 was a seaman from Liverpool appeared at Salford Magistrates Court charged with attempting to cheat or defraud by false pretences, James Clark, which seems a clear cut. case.
Callaghan was on Trafford Road close to the dock gates, when he approached Mr Clark and asked if he was interested in buying a ring from him, for £1 and going as far to say that the ring came from a jewellers shop that he had burgled in Liverpool, and that he had a few more to sell.
He gave Clark the ring to examine, who looked at it underneath a street lamp to ascertain if it was genuine, only to be told, "be careful there could be a policeman about"
Clark said he was interested but only had ten shillings on him but if Callaghan would come home with him, he would give him the full amount, to which he agreed.
As they walked along Trafford Road, Callaghan was unceremoniously bundled into the Trafford Road, Police Station by Clarke who then revealed his identity as, Dock Police, Superintendent Clarke,,
I can just imagine the look on Callaghan's face as he realised what a clanger he had dropped.
The ring was examined by a local jeweller and found to be a cheap brass and glass copy, a further cheap, brass signet ring was found on Callaghan when he was searched, not looking good for him, is it?
He appeared at the Magistrates Court the next day after a night spent in the cells, no doubt kicking himself, silly.
To his credit he pleaded guilty and said the rings were one's he wore himself, then added that he thought Superintendent Clark was an old shipmate and that it was meant as a joke.
This was met with laughter from the Magistrates bench, but it didn't last long.
They sentenced the hapless, trickster to three months in prison with hard labour.