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. 

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