100-YEARS-AGO: TRAGEDY OF SALFORD EX- SOLDIER ON BLACKPOOL NORTH PIER
This story from the pages of The Salford City Reporter, October 1920 tells the story of a Salford man whose actions were truly heart-breaking and you have to find pity for him.
On a Tuesday evening on the North Pier, Blackpool, a man named as William ***** residing in the Broughton area of Salford, (I haven't given his full name and address for personal reasons) approached a pier attendant and told him the following.
"I have dropped my five week old baby son, into the sea"
A quick look into the empty baby pram confirmed that, what he had said, was true.
Eye witnesses say that his behaviour beforehand was strange and the empty baby pram confirmed their suspicions.
When asked why he had done this, he replied,
"There were 5,000 of them that went out, and only 50 came back"
Whilst telling this he was groaning and holding his head as if in agony, which added to the scene of confusion and horror.
The police were summoned and he was taken to the Blackpool Central Station for questioning, a search for the missing child was carried out. to no avail.
Inspector Seed and Detective McKenna were put in charge of the case, they brought the man's wife to the station to see if she could shed any light on this tragedy.
She told them that her husband had suffered from shell shock in The Great War and was being treated for depression at a local hospital and that they had come to Blackpool for a few days in the hope that the rest and change would do him good.
Dr R. H. Dunderdale was called to give him a psychiatric examination and as a result he was declared insane and removed to a mental institution.
He was not brought up before a court and it was expected that owing to his condition, no charge would be made against him.
Despite a careful search the infant's body had not been recovered from the sea, it was stated that the high tide was a t 5.30pm yesterday the time of the tragedy, and at 7pm there was a strong current running out to sea and the body would have been quickly carried away.
A further search of the beach was carried out the next day extending to Bispham but still no sign of the body.
I looked through several weeks' editions of the Salford paper and there was no story of the body being found, a tragic tale.
The poor man must have seen some terrible sights in the army to drive him insane. many thousands of men suffered from shell shock and it's hard to believe but for a while the army considered soldiers suffering from this lacked moral fibre, i.e they were cowards.
The poor wife must have been dealt a hammer blow in losing a child in such an awful way, would she ever recover?
Without doubt the saddest story I have ever come across in the years of writing these stories.
By Tony Flynn
A rather sad and cautionary tale from the pages of the Salford City Reporter from October 1920 which gives an insight into the way that habitual drunkards were treated at the time and how times have changed.
Violet Whittle a 40 year old woman of no fixed abode appeared at Salford Magistrates Court, charged with being drunk and disorderly on Chapel Street, Salford the night before.
It would appear that Violet was no stranger to the court and was "fond" of a drink as they say.
Superintendent Clarke told the Magistrate that Violet was last before the court on September 16th (less than a month ago) and had been fined £1 for drunkenness and that within the last twelve months had been arrested for the same offence, seven times, giving her a total of 34 criminal convictions.
The previous evening when arrested on Chapel Street she was abusive to the arresting officer, P,C, Nolan. and in the cells she behaved, "in a disgraceful way", then added.
"If she cannot conduct herself properly when sober, I can imagine what she will be like in drink"
The newspaper reported that Violet has, "stood erect and attentive" when the above was read out to the court, the suddenly burst into tears and shouted out,
"I'm cast down!, I'm broken hearted, I only came out of prison yesterday, I don't have a dogs chance, the police are always locking me up"
The Magistrates Clerk tried to reason with her and explained it was because she always went back on the drink.
Poor Violet answered, "I would be better off dead, for I'm always in prison".
Superintendent Clarke then told the court that Violet had been sent to the Langho Inebriates Reformatory in 1906, but had not seemed to have cured her..
Langho Inebriates Reformatory opened in 1904 and housed some 300 women, was situated, seven miles from Blackburn, it later became a hospital for people with learning disabilities and closed in 1992, and have heard some terrible stories about the way the early patients were treated.
Having heard all the evidence, the Magistrates, Alderman Mather and Mr F. P. Nathan in their wisdom saw fit to send Violet to prison for one month with hard labour added for good measure.
How on earth is sending her to prison going to help this poor woman, who by her own admission stated she would be better off dead than in prison, she did need medical help and I'm certain the harsh regime in Strangeways prison didn't extend to this.
By Tony Flynn
The Height and Bolton Road areas of Salford were subjected to a fortnight's rampage of burglary, arson and theft which only ended when two youths aged 15 and 16 appeared at Salford Magistrates Court in October 1920 and the full story unfolded.
Mrs Lewthtwaite owned a supper bar on Broad Street, Salford and on the previous Thursday evening at 10pm, she was in the kitchen of her house, when she heard a loud bang and glass breaking, she saw Cecil Wilkinson drop into her yard.
Her son ran out and apprehended him, only to be told that he was looking for his ball, he then saw another boy nearby, who ran away when approached, the police were sent for and Wilkinson was taken into custody for questioning.
Wilkinson soon told the police the name of his accomplice, Arthur Smith and he was soon arrested and brought into custody.
Superintendent Clarke questioned the boys and they readily admitted that, they intended breaking into the barbers shop next door to the supper bar and were looking for money to steal.
However once they started confessing they couldn't stop and told an astonished Superintendent Clarke a long list of their misdemeanours, they had carried out in the past fortnight.
At the Magistrates Court he applied to have the boys remanded in custody for a week whilst further cases might be investigated, the remand was granted and both boys. despite their age where remanded to Strangeways prison.
One week later the two boys, Cecil Wilkinson of, Saxby Street and Arthur Smith of Bolton Road, Pendleton stood in the dock and a remarkable catalogue of their crimes was read out.
Breaking and entering, 34 Acresfield Road and stealing foodstuffs to the value of £1, 18 shillings and ninepence.
Setting fire to The Olympia Picture Palace, West Street, stealing 10 shillings and a quantity of chocolate. damaging seventeen seats and a piano.
Damaging and spoling five motor cars, a planing machine and a band saw at Messr Thomas Carters Motor Works, Trafford Road.
Setting fire to St Thomas's School, Broughton Road, Salford.
Breaking and entering Messr Lancaster and Tonge's offices, Withington Street, Salford stealing £3 19 shilling and 7 pence, and a box of cigarettes.
Breaking and entering the schoolroom on King Street, the Height and stealing 11 pence.
Breaking and entering into St Anne's School, Brindleheath, damaging six panes of glass, two pairs of curtains and lengths of woodwork.
Breaking and entering Halton Bank School, Bolton Road damaging five electric globes, 38 pound of flour and a water pipe.
The boys pleaded guilty to all these charges.
Superintendent Clarke told the Court that there had been, "a fifteen day scare" as shops, homes, businesses and schools were targeted, in addition over £1,000 worth of damage had been caused by arson and wilful damage.
He asked the Magistrate Mr P. W. Atkin that the boys be sent to the Assizes for sentencing considering the severity of the offences and then dropped the bombshell that at the premises of Messr Thomas Carters Motor Works, Trafford Road, the boys had hung, the workshop cat and killed it.
The boys were defended by Mr Howard Flint, who asked the Magistrate if the boys could not be dealt with on this day by the court, adding that they were both from respectable families and had been influenced by reading "trashy cheap, literature"
The Magistrate turned down his plea for a trial at the Magistrate Court and added that there was no reason why they should be cruel to a cat.
The boys were sent to the Asizes for trial and here is the cliff hanger, I have no idea how they went on there, considering the amount of damage and mayhem they caused I am certain they would be sent to prison and it would that their act of cruelty to a cat ensured they would face the wrath of an Assize Judge.
By Tony Flynn
Another story of love and romance from the pages of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal, October 1920, when love breaks down...
John Henry Robinson who lived at Barlow Street, Patricroft appeared at Eccles Magistrates Court, charged with assaulting May Jackson in her home at Blears Buildings, Eccles and smashing crockery belonging to her mother, Margaret Jackson.
Margaret Jackson told the Magistrate that Mr Robinson had been "walking out" with her daughter until three months ago and on the night of September 27th he called at the house to see, May.
She went to bed but was woken by screams and heard Robinson, cry out,
"I have got you now and I will do you in!"
He allegedly ripped the blouse off her back and threw her over the table smashing the plates, cups and saucers, laid out.
A passing neighbour, Emma Woodhall heard the commotion and rushed in to help, she grabbed hold of Robinson who had forced May to the floor and was twisting her arm and managed to separate them.
Robinson took to the witness box and gave a completely different story.
He claimed he had called at the house to chat with May, when Margaret Jackson burst into the room and threw a glass at his head, and as for the smashed crockery, he said that he had bought it for them, so it was his, furthermore he had spent between £300 - £400 on the pair of them and this was the way they treated him.
Getting into the swing of it, Robinson claimed that May and her sister had been seeing other men behind his back and on one occasion he had been, "brutally assaulted" by the men and had his wallet, containing £7 stolen from him.
With a final flourish he told the Magistrate that the two women should have been in the dock, not him.
However the Magistrate didn't share his views, and he was fined 10 shillings for the assault and five shillings for the damaged crockery, and warned about his future conduct.
Reading between the lines it would appear that Mr Robinson was being strung along by May and her family, showering money and gifts on them. and was better off without them, an unrequited love indeed.