Thomas McGregor was tried for housebreaking alongside an accomplice, David Burns, at the Circuit Court in Aberdeen on the 19th April 1871. The 1871 census for Scotland was conducted a little over two weeks earlier, on Sunday 2nd April. A search of the census returns covering Stonehaven lists both men as "prisoners" awaiting their trial at the prison on the High Street, along with nine other prisoners. Thomas, aged 28 and born in Dundee, is listed as a "seaman" while his partner-in-crime, David Burns, is described as a "hawker of hardware". The Stonehaven Journal reported the trial in its edition of the 20th April 1871 - the range of items that the pair stole is mind-boggling, including hymn books, silver cutlery, brandy and a bible:
Thomas McGregor and David Burns, from the prison of Stonehaven, were charged with several acts of housebreaking, individually and while in each other's company. On the 4th March McGregor had entered the dwelling house on the Guestrow, occupied by Colin McKenzie, railway porter, and had stolen therefrom, a silver watch and chain, the property of Neil McKinnon, hawker, resident with said Colin McKenzie. On the 24th February, both prisoners, while in company with each other, broke into the Craigness Cottage, in the parish of Fetteresso, by means of pressing against the kitchen door till they had forcibly destroyed the lock, and having thus obtained entrance, stole the following articles therefrom, the property of Henry Thurburn, now residing at Kingslangley, Watford, Hertfordshire, England - a pair of trousers or knickerbockers, a vest, a coat or jacket, two pairs of stockings, four pairs of socks, a pair of boots, three volumes of "Good Words", a Bible, a hymn book, an inkstand, a blotter or pad, a photograph of Elgin Cathedral, a screwdriver, eight knives, and eight forks, the property of the said Henry Thurburn. On the 2nd March, the prisoners, in company, broke into the dwelling house known as Muchalls Cottage, parish of Fetteresso, the property of the representatives of the late Dr. Keith, by means of breaking a pane of glass in a bedroom, and having entered, by the aperture thus made, fraudulently possessed themselves of 18 silver desert spoons, 12 desert forks, 12 dinner forks, 12 silver teaspoons, a silver ladle, silver sugar-tongs, 4 silver egg spoons, a pound of tea, a bottle half-filled with whisky, a bottle filled with raspberry vinegar, and a pint bottle filled with brandy, the property of Mr. Keith. McGregor pled guilty of the first charge, and the third charge, minus the housebreaking. He pled not guilty of the others. Burns pled guilty as libelled. The pleas were accepted. McGregor was sentenced to seven years, and Burns, whose first conviction it was, to five years, penal servitude.
It is likely, although we don't know for certain, that Thomas served his sentence at H.M. General Prison, Perth. When he was released in 1877, we know from the Register of Returned Convicts for Aberdeen (see the image at foot of the page) that he lived for a short while at 45 Guestrow. This was the address of the Victoria Lodging House, now known as Provost Skene's House, where a number of individuals featured in this blog, such as Ann McGovern, also stayed immediately following their discharge from prison.
Thomas didn't hang around in Aberdeen for long: the day after he initially reported to the police on January 28th 1877, he is noted as "Gone to Dundee to obtain a ship". You will recall that the 1871 census recorded that he was a seaman by occupation, so perhaps Thomas swapped a life of crime for an honest living on the seas?
His tattoos, which are recorded as distinguishing marks in the register, certainly fit with the stereotypical markings of a sailor: "Bracelet and female figure on right arm. Ship, flag, anchor, heart and diamond on left arm. Ship, anchor and flag on breast. Blue mark on left leg. Lump on right shoulder blade".