Taken from the Liverpool Courier from Friday 2 May 1890
Contributed by Tony Swarbrick
Disgraceful Conduct in the Mersey Tunnel
Yesterday, at Birkenhead Police Court, before Mr. Preston, stipendiary magistrate, Captain Hill, who gave the address of 3, Hamilton street, was summoned for assaulting Mrs Sarah Johnson, 22 Old Chester Road, Tranmere, on the 28th April, in a carriage on the Mersey Railway, whilst the train was proceeding from Liverpool to Birkenhead. The parties were not legally represented, but Mr. Greer, barrister, watched the case on behalf of the Mersey Railway Company.
Mrs. Johnson, wife of William Johnson, stated that on the night of the date mentioned she and a friend named Mrs. Godsell had been to the Shakespeare Theatre, and returned to Birkenhead by the train from James Street. When they got to the latter place the lift had gone, and they ran down the steps to try and catch the train going out at half-past eleven o’clock. When they reached the platform they had just time to jump into a first class compartment, but their tickets were second-class. Defendant and a friend of his were in the carriage, and scarcely had complainant and her companion got in when defendant began to use filthy language to them, at which his friend commenced to laugh. She asked defendant whom he was talking to, but he continued his bad language, and attempted to strike her. She held up her arm to guard her face, whereupon defendant pulled her hat off her head and threw it back in her face. When the train got to Hamilton square witness and her friend got out and complained to the inspector of the defendant’s conduct.
In cross examination by the defendant, complainant denied that when she got into the carriage she said “Come and sit here, dear,” or that she put on a “fascinating smile”. She struck him with her satchel because he was striking at her. When at the top of the stairs at Hamilton square Station she did not ask him to give her a few shillings and she would make it square.
Corroborative evidence was given by Mrs. Elizabeth Godsall, who said such language as the defendant used she had never heard in her life before.
Inspector Kinsey deposed that he was on duty at Hamilton square platform on the night in question, when Mrs. Johnson charged the defendant with insulting her whilst coming through the tunnel. Defendant denied it, and said the lady spoke to him first. The defendant appeared to be excited, and called both ladies abusive names. They then left the station and went up the lift to the top. Defendant had had drink, but he was not intoxicated.
Police constable Shirley stated that about a quarter to twelve on Monday night he was called to Burton’s Restaurant opposite the Mersey Station. The defendant had by this time entered the restaurant and had come on to the balcony over the front door, and was using very offensive language to the complainant and her friend, who were outside.
In cross-examination, witness said he did not see a man there wanting to fight the defendant, nor did he see another man whom the ladies were trying to “get on” to the defendant. A gentleman, who was passing, gave the ladies his card and offered to come as a witness with regard to defendant’s language if required.
The guard of the train was also called, and stated that when the train got to the square one of the ladies complained that the defendant had assaulted her, when the defendant said that she wanted to “pal on” to him, but he would not have it. Defendant appeared to be sober.
In reply to the magistrate, defendant said he had never heard so many falsehoods concocted in so short a time as they had just listened to. He did not say he was on that night exactly sober, but he was not drunk. As soon as the train began to move complainant and her friend began to smile and leer in his direction. He was not in a frame of mind to speak to them, and he merely sneered at the women, upon which Mrs. Johnson said, “Come and sit here, dear.” He replied that he wished to have nothing to do with her. He turned his back on her, upon which she struck him with her satchel over the eye. He told her she might go too far, upon which she used filthy language to him, and called him abusive names. She struck him with her umbrella, and he guarded her blows off with his arm. In her excitement her hat came off, but not from any violence on his part. He thought the complainant, when she got to the station, would have been glad to have run away home after what she had said, and he was very much surprised when she gave him in charge for assaulting her, whereas the assault was all on her part and not on his. He admitted that he might have used offensive language to the complainant, but it was because of being annoyed by her conduct.
Albert M’Lean, defendant’s companion to Hamilton square, said as soon as complainant and her friend got into the compartment they commenced laughing and giggling at Captain Hill and witness. Complainant asked defendant to sit beside her, but he would have nothing to do with her. She became vexed and swore at defendant, and on the latter making some reply she struck him with her satchel, and used very bad language. Defendant was “rather fresh” but not drunk, and he replied to complainant’s abuse, which made her very mad. She also struck defendant with her umbrella.
Inspector Moore, in reply to the magistrate, said so far as he was aware both women were respectable people, against whose character nothing could be said.
Mr. Preston considered defendant’s account of what took place was a most unlikely one. His conduct had been most improper, and he would have to pay a penalty of £5 and costs.
Mr. Greer said the railway company were always anxious to do what was necessary to preserve order on their line, and would have taken up this case had not the complainant done so while they were investigating the matter
Old Liverpool 2009.