Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Margaret Hutcheson or Stewart - A Case of Forgery and Uttering at Peterhead, Mintlaw and Fraserburgh

Forgery and uttering are two distinct crimes: forgery creates a falsified document while uttering is the act of knowingly passing on or using the forged document. On the 16th September 1873 Margaret Hutcheson or Stewart, together with her accomplice Donald Stewart (there's no evidence that they were married), were tried at the Circuit Court in Aberdeen for having, at Peterhead railway station, forged or caused to be forged, a bank deposit receipt for £94 in the name of Catherine Hay, Little Ythsie, Tarves. The Aberdeen Press and Journal of 17th September 1873 reported that, 

"Further [they are charged with] uttering the same, as genuine, to John Farquhar, agent to the Town & County Bank, Mintlaw. Likewise on the 3rd April in the house of Alexander Morrice, crofter, Lonmay, the prisoners having erased the endorsation on the receipt that they failed to get cashed, did one or other of them, cause Alexander Grant, grandson of the crofter, to forge and adhibit the indorsation "Kethren Hay"; further, with uttering the same and obtaining £50 of cash from James Margets, accountant, Town & County Bank, Fraserburgh, the said prisoner, Margaret Hutcheson or Stewart, adhibiting her mark as the signature of the said Catherine Rae or Hay".

Margaret and Donald pleaded not guilty. Under cross examination in court it became clear how they came by the bank deposit receipt,

"From the evidence it appeared that Mrs. Catherine Hay had received from her father the deposit receipt at Ellon, and on going to her own house at Ythsie, had taken some money out of her purse, but left the deposit receipt in it. In a few days after she lost the purse. The accused were in the locality about the time the purse and receipt were lost, and on the 29th March, they showed the receipt to a lad, Matthews, at the station of Peterhead, and asked him to endorse it, which he did, with the name of Mrs. Hay, Little Ythsie. He then, at Stewart's request, presented the receipt to the agent of the Town & County Bank, at Mintlaw, who, however, being suspicious of the person presenting it refused to cash the document and erased what had been written by Matthews".

The report of the trial reveals that after they had eventually managed to obtain cash by presenting the receipt at the bank in Fraserburgh, Margaret and Donald had purchased a horse and cart for £24. However, they were apprehended soon thereafter and at the trial were each handed a sentence of five years' penal servitude.

Margaret was discharged from prison on licence on the 15th January 1877, at which point her details were recorded in the Register of Returned Convicts for Aberdeen (see image below). She was 28 years old, 5 feet 4 inches tall, with a fresh complexion, dark hair and dark blue eyes. She is also noted as having a burn mark on her right wrist and that she was freckled.

Immediately after her release she is recorded as living at 1 Albion Street, Aberdeen, which was the same address as Samuel Craik Cumming who has previously featured in this blog. This suggests that this address may have been a lodging house of some description. Margaret did not stay there for long, however, and on the 25th January 1877 the register records that she has "Gone to Peterhead".

Monday, October 19, 2020

Samuel Craik Cumming - From Prison to Poorhouse by way of Fraserburgh, Aberdeen and New Deer

One of the advantages of an individual having a slightly unusual middle name is that it makes locating them in the newspapers, census returns and statutory registers that bit easier. Samuel Cumming had the distinctive middle name of "Craik". The North British Agriculturalist newspaper of 14th September 1870 contains a report of Samuel's appearance at the Aberdeen Circuit Court, on the 9th September 1870 which, incidentally, was the same day as the trial of David Todd who has previously featured in this blog:

Samuel Craik Cumming, from the prison of Aberdeen, was charged with stealing from different places in the parishes of Fraserburgh, Longside and Lonmay, three articles of wearing apparel on the nights between the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th February last. The offences were aggravated by six previous convictions before the Sheriff Courts of Aberdeen, Peterhead and Forfar, ranging from June 1846 to July 1860. Panel pleaded guilty and was sentenced by the Lord Justice Clerk to seven years' penal servitude.

Samuel Cumming was evidently no stranger to a court of law or the inside of a prison. Indeed, he appears on the 1861 census aged 50 as an inmate at H.M. General Prison, Perth, where his usual occupation is given as that of a "Labourer" and his place of birth as Fraserburgh. The census also notes that he is married. 

His trial of September 1870, reported above, saw Samuel incarcerated once more, until his release on licence on 31st July 1876. It is at this point that his mugshot and details appear in the Register of Returned Convicts for Aberdeen (see image at foot of page). Unfortunately the adhesive used to paste the mugshot into the register has, over time, bled through the paper leaving dark lines on the image. 

During the remainder of 1876 and until July 1877, Samuel lives at various addresses in Aberdeen including Harriet Street, 44 Gallowgate, and 1 Albion Street. Albion Street (also known as the 'Bool Road' because it led to the bowling green at the Queen's Links) no longer exists, but followed the approximate line of the present day Beach Boulevard. 

Map Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland
Ordnance Survey
Aberdeenshire LXXV.11 (Old Machar, Greyfriars, St Clements, East, West, North & South)
Published 1869

On July 13th 1876 Samuel is noted in the Register of Returned Convicts as having gone "To Fraserburgh". We know from the 1870 trial papers (now held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh) that Samuel was of "no fixed abode" at that stage in his life and was doubtless resorting to crime in order to feed and clothe himself.

By the time of the 1881 census, Samuel's circumstances appear to have improved somewhat as he is listed as a lodger at a farm on the lands of Auchoch, New Deer. By this point he is aged 70, a widower, and his occupation is that of a stonebreaker.

We can't be certain how much longer he lived at the farm, but by the time of his death from 'dropsy' or heart disease in May 1883, Samuel was a resident at the poorhouse in Maud.


Friday, October 2, 2020

Peter Reilly - "I'll be in hell before the half of that time - at least I hope so".

When Peter Reilly (alias Pat Reilly or John Brown) was discharged from prison on licence in June 1876 he lived at an address in Farquhar's Court, Aberdeen. This small court no longer exists but it used to be situated just off the north side of the Netherkirkgate. His entry in the Register of Returned Convicts for Aberdeen (see the image at the foot of the page) shows that he subsequently resided at 1 Virginia Street and also spent some time in Dundee before returning to Farquhar's Court the following year.

Together with the details of where he lived, Peter Reilly's entry in the Register of Returned Convicts also contains a revealing note about his state of health: under the "marks" heading it mentions that he was, "Pockmarked, wants one upper front tooth. Scrofulous marks on each side of neck". This last sentence indicates that Peter Reilly had suffered from tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands, otherwise known as scrofula. Symptoms of the disease can include the growth of large, unsightly "cold abscesses" on the neck with the overlying skin taking on a bluish-purple appearance. The incidence of scrofula was fairly common, as indicated by an appendix to the First Annual Report of the Commissioners Appointed Under the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1877, which provides figures between 1869-1878 for inmates treated for various diseases at H.M. General Prison, Perth, where Peter Reilly almost certainly spent part of his sentence. In 1871, for example, eight of the prisoners were treated for scrofula, one of which may well have been Peter Reilly himself.

The Register of Returned Convicts also shows that Reilly had been sentenced in September 1868 at Stirling. This little nugget of information enabled the report of his trial to be located in The Alloa Advertiser of 12th September 1868 which reads as follows:

"Peter Reilly was charged with theft by housebreaking, inasmuch as on the 17th January last he broke into the shop on High Street, Tillicoultry, occupied by Mr John Green, draper, and stole therefrom a money till, 2s. in copper, 3 bank pass books, 30 yards of woollen cloth, and other pieces of woollen and tweed cloth. He pleaded not guilty; but after trial the charge was found proven by the jury, and the prisoner was sentenced by the court to ten years' penal servitude. The prisoner, on receiving sentence, caused some sensation in court by telling his Lordship, "I'll be in hell before half of that time - at least I hope so".


Thomas Jackson or Johnston - A Theft at Braemar Followed by Escape From Forfar

According to The Weekly News  of Saturday November 21st 1885, Thomas Jackson (alias Johnston) was a joiner by trade who came originally from...