Monday, April 18, 2022

John Fowler Smith - A Buckie Loon Does Porridge at Perth and Peterhead

John Fowler Smith was a light-fingered farm servant who first appeared in court in August 1904 charged with a number of thefts. The Aberdeen Daily Journal reported the case in its edition of the 18th August as follows, 

"John Fowler Smith, a farm servant with no fixed place of residence, was examined in chambers in Aberdeen yesterday before Hon. Sheriff-Substitute James Murray of North Inveramsay, in connection with a series of charges. Smith is alleged to have stolen 30s. from the dwelling house on the croft at Hill of Bandode, Midmar, on 1st of September last; a quantity of clothing from a shed at Whinnypark Cottage, Birse, on the 8th or 9th inst., and a jacket from a shed at Marywell Cottage, Birse, and a quantity of clothing from the bleaching green adjoining. The offences were denied and Smith was remitted for further examination".

Frustratingly, the results of this "further examination" do not appear to have been reported in the press. However, on searching the Perth Prison Registers (which have recently been made available through Scotland's People) we find that John Fowler Smith was admitted as a prisoner there nearly two years later, on the 9th May 1906 following a trial for theft by house breaking at Kinross. For this crime he was given a 12 month sentence. He was 25 years of age, with his birthplace listed as Buckie. His height was 5 feet 7 inches, his occupation given as a "labourer" and was in good health with 20 previous convictions.

Although liberated from Perth on the 21st May 1907, Smith found himself back inside the same prison later that year, being incarcerated on the 28th December 1907. On this occasion he had been sentenced to 18 months at Forfar Sherriff Court for theft by housebreaking. The Perth Prison Register further reveals that he was liberated to Bridge of Allan on the 26th June 1909.

Detail from the Perth Prison Register showing the entry for John Fowler Smith, incarcerated on 28th December 1907
(National Records of Scotland: HH21/47/13)

Once again, Smith remained at liberty for only a short spell of time receiving a sentence of five year's penal servitude in September 1909 for a series of thefts from farms in Fife and Perthshire. On this occasion it appears that he served the majority of his sentence at Peterhead prison where he appears as an inmate on the 1911 census.

Detail from the 1911 census return for Peterhead showing John Fowler Smith as an inmate at the prison 

Although the census records that he was single in 1911, it is apparent from his death certificate dated May 24th 1933 that John married a Helen Ann Sievewright at some point after his release from Peterhead and that their address was 610 Holburn Street, Aberdeen. The certificate further reveals that he was an engineman on a trawler at the time of his death and that he died as a result of acute pneumonia. 

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...