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Old news detailing sports, crime, violence and suffering in Victorian Wigan. All stories taken from The Wigan Observer And District Advertiser, 1860. Material kindly loaned by Paul Byrne.


Friday, December 7, 1860.

STEALING A JACKET.
   David Morgan was charged with stealing a jacket, the property of Thomas Roberts. The prosecutor, who is a labourer, was working at the Queen's Arms, Queen-street, on Tuesday, and having finished his work he stayed to get some beer, being in the room where the prisoner and some other men were. Prosecutor became intoxicated, and by some means got his jacket off, which the prisoner took up and went out of the house and pledged. - The prisoner said the prosecutor pulled off his coat to fight, when he (prisoner) took it up and said, "Tommy, this will take a ticket;" to which the prosecutor replied, "Well, take it off then," and the jacket was accordingly pledged. - In answer to the Bench the prosecutor said that to his knowledge he never gave the prisoner authority to pledge the jacket, but as he could not swear positively that he had not, the prisoner was discharged, the Bench telling him that they thought he had taken an undue advantage of the prosecutor's intoxication, and had had a narrow escape of going to prison.



Friday, December 14, 1860.

FOUND DROWNED.
   On Wednesday, the 12th inst., the body of a man named Thomas Bradley was found in a pond in the Gullett, Aspull. The deceased, who was a journeyman shoemaker, left home some time ago to go to Bolton, and as he did not return when expected, it was supposed he was remaining in that town with his friends. A hat was found floating on the pond some days before search was made for the body, which, when it was discovered, had been in the water several days. It is supposed that the deceased was returning home and that he fell into the pond during the late foggy weather. We have also been informed that the deceased was drinking at the Jolly Carter's public house on the Thursday night previous, and that on leaving there he went to a neighbour's 200 yards from the public house, and asked for a pipe of tobacco. This they gave him, and it is supposed that on his return he fell into the pond, which is situated between the Jolly Carter's and the house named.



Friday, December 14, 1860.

STEALING A PIGEON.
   On Monday, at the Moot Hall, James Brown was charged with stealing a pigeon, the property of Richard Mayers, Hallgate, who stated that the bird was safe in its cote at half-past nine on Friday night, but when he went to look for it at five o'clock on Saturday morning it was gone. Information was given to the police, and it was ascertained that the prisoner had sold the pigeon to a pigeon merchant. He pleaded not guilty, and said he had caught the pigeon, but the bench did not believe him, and sent him to prison for 14 days.



Friday, December 14, 1860.

DEATH FROM LOCK-JAW.
   On Tuesday last, an inquest was held before the borough coroner, at the Wigan Workhouse, on the body of Bridget North, of Hallgate, single woman, twenty-three years of age, who met with her death under the following circumstances: - The deceased was employed at the mill worked by the Executors of J. Rylands as "lap tenter," and on Friday, the 23rd of November, while following her occupation, one of her hands was suddenly drawn between two bobbins and crushed. Mr. Winnard, surgeon, was called in, and dressed the wound, but the injury the poor woman had sustained proved so serious that lock-jaw supervened, and caused her death on Friday last, at the workhouse, to which place she had been removed. - The jury returned a verdict of "Died from tetanus, or lock-jaw."



Friday, December 14, 1860.

A FILTHY FELLOW DESERVEDLY PUNISHED.
   At the Moot Hall, on Monday, Joseph Willan, who was stated to be a married man with two children, was charged under the Vagrancy Act with wilfully exposing his person and insulting females. - From information given to the police as to the repeated disgraceful conduct of a man who perambulated the footpath and land in Faggy-lane between the two railways, Police-constable Whalley was, on Sunday morning last, placed to watch the neighbourhood, and he remained on duty from ten o'clock till twelve, during which time he saw the prisoner conducting himself with the grossest indecency on the approach of females, and hiding himself from sight if a man made his appearance. A young woman passing about a quarter past twelve was called after by him and grossly insulted, when Whalley took the fellow into custody. - For the defendant it was attempted to be shown that inasmuch as he was employed on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, and was in the habit of passing backwards and forwards frequently in the locality, the acts spoken to could not have been wilful, but accidental. - The bench, however, said the case was clearly proved, and after commenting in strong terms upon the prisoner's conduct, said they should not be doing their duty to society if they did not punish him severely. Had it not been for the appeal made to them on behalf of his wife and children, they would have given him the full penalty of the law - three months' imprisonment. - The prisoner was then committed to hard labour for two months.



Friday, December 21, 1860.

FATAL ACCIDENT AT HAIGH FOUNDRY.
   On Thursday afternoon the borough coroner held an inquest at the Saracen's Head, Wigan-lane, on the body of a young man, 26 years of age, named Michael Mooney, whose death resulted from injuries sustained at Haigh Foundry. The deceased, it appears, was a labourer at the foundry, and went to his work at midnight on Sunday. About three o'clock on Monday morning he was engaged, along with some fellow workmen, in moving a casting about two tons in weight, several pins or levers being placed under it, when it slipped, and one of the levers was jerked upwards suddenly, striking the deceased a severe blow under the chin and felling him to the ground. He was picked up in a speechless state and conveyed home, and Mr. Daglish, surgeon, called in. The poor fellow, however, lingered till Tuesday evening, and then died. - The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death."



Friday, December 21, 1860.

UNLICENSED SLAUGHTER HOUSE.
   Before the borough magistrates, on Monday, Henry Cooper was charged with keeping an unlicensed slaughter house. - Inspector Coates said he visited the defendant's house in Collier's-row, Millgate, on Wednesday night last, about half-past seven, and in the cellar found one hung up and another dressing. - Mr. Lamb: One what? Cat, dog, or what? - The Inspector: Calf, sir. He kills calves and such like for sausage makers. - Defendant said the place had once been licensed as a slaughter house. He was trying to get an honest living. - The bench inflicted a fine of 10s. and costs.



Saturday, December 22, 1860.

FATAL COLLIERY EXPLOSION.
   On Friday last, an inquest was held at the Bridge Inn, Ince, before C. E. Driffield, Edq., on the body of William Jenkinson, who died on the previous Wednesday from injuries received by an explosion of fire-damp at the Laneside Four-feet Mine of the Ince Hall Coal and Cannel Company, on the 30th of November. The deceased, it appears, was fireman at the above mentioned pit, and on the date last named he was taking a collier, named Henry Rudd, and a drawer, named Richard Lewis, to a working place, carrying a naked candle, when the gas ignited and exploded, burning all three severely. Jenkinson received the most injury, and lingered till last week, when he died as mentioned above. He leaves a wife and four children, a fifth dying before his interment, and it was buried with him on Sunday last. - The jury returned a verdict of "Died through his own neglect." We are happy to state that Rudd and Lewis are recovering.



Saturday, December 22, 1860.

ACCIDENT.
   On Monday evening last, about five o'clock, as William Darbyshire, a boy seven years of age, and the son of William Darbyshire, shopkeeper, of Queen-street, was playing near his father's house, he was knocked down and run over by a cab belonging to Mr. Alker, of the Victoria Hotel. His knee, back, and head were hurt, but under the care of Mr. Wright, surgeon, he is now rapidly recovering. The boy was run over about four years ago, and since that time he has partially lost his hearing, and it is supposed that his deafness caused him on the present occasion not to notice the approach of the vehicle.


Saturday, December 22, 1860.

ROBBERY, AT SHEVINGTON.
   John Massey, a middle-aged man, was charged with robbing the house of James Barton, at Shevington, on the 6th inst. The prosecutor had made up his premises as usual, but in the morning he discovered that a robbery had been committed. Suspicion began to gather round the prisoner, and a watch was set upon his house to prevent his escape. The property stolen consisted of bacon, butter and about 6 10s. chiefly in small silver coin. On the prisoner's house (which is situate at Orrell) being searched, the bacon and two firkings containing butter, with some amount of silver, were found there. When the officers arrested the prisoner he made a most violent resistance, and in a German clock a pistol was found. - The jury found the prisoner guilty. A previous conviction against him, under the name of John Hindley (when he was sentenced to four years' penal servitude), was proved and he was sentenced to twelve years' penal servitude. In consequence of the heroic conduct of John Dean, in the capture of the prisoner, the Judge awarded to him the sum of three guineas.



Friday, December 28, 1860.

SINGULAR CASE OF CONCEALMENT OF SEX.
   On Wednesday last, died in Rigby's-yard, Scholes, aged 97, a woman whose name is believed to be Betty Lavin, and whose history, if the facts connected with the same could be discovered, would, we have little doubt, prove as eventful as those of many greater and more favoured mortals. For about fifty years Betty has resided in Wigan, and, strange to say, during the whole of that period she has been known as John Murphy, having appropriated the garb and assumed the habits of a man, in so complete a fashion that as far as we can at present learn, none have discovered the cheat or even had their suspicions aroused. During her residence in Wigan, she has followed the occupation of a hawker and cadger, and as such has become known to a large circle of customers; she has also been on the relieving officers' books for the last twelve months, and having been ill, she has been visited during that period by Mr. Heaton, union surgeon. To all these she has been known as none other than John Murphy; and what is still more singular, she did not, previous to her decease, inform any person of the deceit she had so long practised. As John Murphy she lived - as John Murphy she died - and as John Murphy her death was registered by the surgeon; and it has only been at the last moment, when the final offices, previous to interment, were being performed, that it was discovered that in an assumed habit, and under a ficticious name, she must have lived for so many years. She has resided in the house where she died for several years, and has regularly slept underneath the stairs for that period, whether from fear of discovery or not cannot of course be stated. On her becoming ill the necessity of removing to some more convenient resting place than this was frequently shown to her, but she obstinately refused to change her quarters. At last it became absolutely requisite that she should be removed, and she had then to be taken by force to a "settle" or "squab" in the house, on which she was lain until her death. As she has left no explanation of her reason for thus disguising herself, and as no one else is believed to be capable of affording any information on the subject, the reasons which induced her to act thus strangely will, in all probability, remain for ever unknown, though some one of the many conjectures which will soon be afloat may slightly approach the truth. The success which has attended the cheat is certainly most remarkable, and what will very likely be thought still more strange will be the fact that the surgeon has visited her for twelve months, and has never known her to be other than a man. Undoubtedly the manners and dress of "the lean and slippered pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side," may be more easily assumed by a woman of like age, than disguises where the actor or the character taken is more youthful; still when the length of time over which this drama has extended is remembered, the case will be considered as inferior in interest to very few of the many which have been brought to light within the past few years.



Friday, December 28, 1860.

THE WORKHOUSE DINNER.
   The inmates of the Workhouse were supplied with their usual Christmas treat, good roast beef and plum pudding, with a moderate supply of ale to those who desired it, on Tuesday last, under the superintendence of the governor, and in the presence of several visitors.


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