Thursday, September 16, 2021

George Anderson - "He had a pedlar's certificate and went about the streets carrying shoelaces..."

Newspaper reports between 1902 and 1904 suggest that George Anderson was of no fixed abode and was well known to the police in Aberdeen. As with John Cormack, the subject of the previous blog, George's main transgression was the general whiff of shiftiness that emanated from him. As The Aberdeen Daily Journal of Tuesday 25th November 1902 reported, 

"George Anderson, labourer, from the police cells, being a reputed thief, adhered to a former plea of not guilty to having, on the 12th, 16th and 21st November, been found in a washing-house in Greyfriars Buildings, Gallowgate, with intent to commit theft. Detective Smith deponed that accused had been convicted on 27th May 1901, of the theft of a hat and jacket, and on 8th March 1902, of articles of underclothing. He had a pedlar's certificate, and went about the street carrying shoelaces. Some men were in the habit of making a pretence of selling shoelaces, while in reality they were looking about for an opportunity of committing theft. Detective Innes corroborated. Constable John Fyvie said that he saw accused in a wash-house in a back passage of an entry in Greyfriars Buildings. When accused saw witness he endeavoured to make his escape by a window. Several witnesses said they had seen accused hanging about the close during the daytime. The magistrate sent Anderson to prison for seven days".

Almost two years later, on 20th September 1904, George appears in the court report of The Aberdeen Daily Journal once again,

"Before Sheriff Begg and a jury, in the Aberdeen Courthouse yesterday, a young man named George Anderson, vagrant, was tried on a charge of having on the 6th August, in the shop at 11 Palmerston Road, Aberdeen, occupied by Alfred Sutton, grocer, pulled open a money drawer or till in the counter of the shop, and put his hand into the till with intent to steal. Accused pleaded not guilty, and Mr. Charles Diack, solicitor, appeared on his behalf.

The first witness called was Mrs. Sutton, who stated that on the date in question she was keeping the shop in the absence of her husband. She was in the back room, and on looking round saw the accused leaning over the counter. He had the till out, and there was 3s 6d in it at the time. She heard the jingling of the money. She ran past him and shut the front door, and accused him of having his hand in the till, but he denied it, saying - "Not me missus; not me". He opened the door and ran out and witness ran after him. She held onto him, and was assisted by Charles Farman, trawl fisherman, until the arrival of the police. The accused had been drinking.

The  Sheriff said unfortunately for accused, there were a great many previous convictions against him...His lordship did not think he could do less than impose a sentence of six months' imprisonment, and accused had better not come back again, because if he went on in his career of crime he would certainly land in the High Court and get a sentence of penal servitude".

Friday, September 3, 2021

John Cormack - "A Wick Man's Suspicious Habits"

If The Aberdeen Journal of the 30th November 1899 is to be believed, John Cormack was arrested and imprisoned for little more than acting in a shifty manner at Aberdeen railway station. Under the headline "A Wick Man's Suspicious Habits", the newspaper reported that,

"Yesterday, in Aberdeen Police Court, before Baillie Lyon, John Cormack (46), carpenter, a native of Wick, was charged with having, on the 27th, 28th and 29th inst., frequented the railway station with intent to commit felony. Accused denied the charge. From the evidence led, it appears accused, who had only been recently liberated from prison, went about idle, and made no effort to get work. At the railway station on the dates mentioned he was seen mixing among the passengers in a suspicious manner, and whenever he observed the city police detectives he made off. Accused stated to the magistrate that he had a wife and five children in Wick, and that he did not commit and had no intention of committing any evil. The Baillie sent Cormack to prison for 60 days".

Subsequent newspaper reports suggest that John Cormack had something of a reputation in the city and that the police had good reason to view his shiftiness with suspicion. Under the title, "A Lounger Sent to Prison", The Aberdeen Weekly Journal of the 29th August 1900 reported that, 

"Yesterday, before Sheriff Burnet, in Aberdeen Sheriff Court, John Cormack, a ship carpenter to trade, but of no fixed residence - a person well-known to the police, with a number of previous convictions for theft against his name - was charged with having, at the dwelling house at 14 Castle Terrace, Aberdeen, pretended to Mrs. Muldoon, wife of a private watchman, that he had just arrived from Wick by steamer, and had got work with John Lewis and Son, and, by this means, induced her to give him board and lodgings from the 26th to the 30th July, to the value of 7s 6d, for which he did not pay, and for which he had no intention of paying. He was also charged with having loitered about the Reclaimed Ground at the Inches, and the Green with the intention to commit felony"

Later on in the proceedings, three policemen are asked to comment on John Cormack's personality: what follows is something of a character assassination, 

"Detectives Gibb and Dey and Inspector Goodall had known Cormack for years, and stated that the man simply lived by his wits. He hardly ever worked, and when he did occasionally venture to take off his coat, he had to be dismissed for stealing. When not in prison, Cormack lounges about public places, such as the Free Library, the Fish Market, and the Green, or in the vicinity of any show that might visit the town. On one occasion he was detected in the reading-room of the Free Library with a considerable amount of plundered articles which he had transferred from other people's pockets to his own. He had been seen to pay particular attention to the pockets of ladies marketing at the Green, and when Sanger's Circus was in Aberdeen the detectives noticed that he was invariably to be found where the crowd was thickest".

Cormack was once again sentenced to 60 days in prison with hard labour. 

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...