Huddersfield Chronicle (29/Aug/1891) - Scraps and Hints

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


Explanations appear only to further confuse proceedings in the Tramway Department subsequent to the late lamentable disaster. The General Secretary of the men's Society, writing in our columns on Saturday, distinctly denied two of the statements made by Alderman Haigh, the Chairman of the Tramways Committee, at the last meeting of the Council. On all occasions the Chairman is supposed to speak with authority and knowledge of the special department of which he is, for the time being, in charge. When, therefore, in reply to questions, Alderman Haigh assured the Council that one of the engine drivers absented himself from work without leave on the 7th inst., presented himself unfit for duty on the 8th, and was discharged in consequence, it was assumed that he spoke with complete knowledge of the facts. Two of these three statements are contradicted point blank, and the contradictions are backed up in such a manner that it is perfectly certain the Chairman of the Tramways Committee was mistaken in what he imagined to be the facts he had to lay before the Council. It may be said that two mistakes like this are not of great importance, but these are simply the last of a long series of blunders, and show that the chairman and his committee are still far from knowing exactly how the department is worked. The incident emphasises most strongly our contention from the first that the powers of dismissal should be retained in the hands of the committee. What was the offence for which Dutton was dismissed? Mr. Whitburn says he is told by the manager that it was not the reason put forward by Alderman Haigh. Apparently, therefore, the chair man and members of the committee are in a state of complete ignorance on the subject. The reason may be a good one, but for the chairman of the committee in charge of the Tramways Department not to know it points strongly to the need of further and more sweeping changes in the mode of management. No body of men could be expected to rest satisfied under these conditions of employment. If an appeal to the committee is not to be allowed there will have to be an appeal to the public, and perchance in that way the halting, half-hearted, and incomplete changes suggested by the committee them selves may be substantially supplemented.

So rarely do we agree with our contemporary that when we find ourselves in that pleasant position it is well to emphasise the fact. Therefore we quote with approval the following sentences, the first from Saturday's and the second from Monday's issues :

  1. It is possible, indeed probable, that the way in which crimes have been worked up by those papers which, like certain pink and buff issues, appear to revel in all the horrible and disgusting details connected with crimes and criminals, has contributed to the spread of a species of mania impelling to the commission of swift and murderous crime.
  2. It is the humanity of the victim, and that humanity is the same and demands the same respect in the case of the servant girl at the Ivy Hotel as in that of the wealthiest and most exalted daughter of Adam's race.

As we are in thorough accord with these sentiments, we regret to find that in the latter day's issue these excellent professions are thrown to the winds, for our contemporary proceeds to pander to the most degraded taste of the population by an elaborate description of the poor servant girl as she lay in her coffin ! It is with considerable hesitation that we quote this description, for nothing — if we except the ghastly "likenesses "— that has appeared "in certain pink and buff issues" equals it. Only to convince our readers that we are not exaggerating, do we give the following example of the way in which this professor of humanitarian principles carries out his own theory :—

In the front room on the right hand side of the doorway, on a bier close to the shaded window, was a neat polished pine coffin, containing all that was mortal of the ill-fated Catherine Dennis. Her face was very livid, but looked bronzed in the light coming through the shades of the window. The face was that of a fine girl for the age, with remarkably good features and forehead, at the top of which the fair brownish hair showed out of the drapery. The eyes, bordered by long, dark lashes, and surmounted by finely-marked arched brows, were partly open. The nose was an almost perfect aquiline, and the lips parted outward showed the two top front teeth. It was a good face, with a sweet, solemn expression upon it ; and that was the face of the girl who on Friday morning was singing merrily at her work, doing her duty in life humbly and cheerfully, but who, only a short time afterwards, lay a bleeding corpse, the victim of fiendish lust.

Such a liberty would not have been taken with "the most exalted daughter of Adam's race," and it was only because the victim was a poor servant girl that our equality-loving contemporary proceeded, in defiance of the canons of good taste, good manners, and right feeling, to give way to the growing custom of the age, and despite his own professions, to assist in the spread "of a species of mania impelling to the commission of swift and murderous crime." If our contemporary feels that the exigencies of modern journalism compel him to fall in with methods and adopt practices fit only for the most contemptible of printed sheets let him at least refrain from adding to his offence by professing that he is "not even as this publican."

A wave of crime of the worst kind would appear to be sweeping through the country, and unfortunately this neighbourhood has not escaped. Whether it is true or not, as some people contend, that the details of a crime often lead to the commital of a similar one it is certain that the tendency of such events is for repetitions to occur. It has been noted in past times in cases of both suicides and murders, and we have now seen a further striking exemplification of the fact. It is to be regretted that the stream of morbid detail, poured out in such copious quantities in the cases at Horsforth and Hull, should be turned in this direction. That "the appetite grows by what it feeds on" is shown by the discreditable proceedings on Saturday and Sunday at Linthwaite. Instead of the Chamber of Death being respected it was turned into a show, and the conditions of the roads and the surroundings of the Ivy Hotel were transformed into the resemblance of the accompaniments of a fair rather than a place of mourning. The crime, and the mysterious circumstances connected with it, have shocked and startled the whole district, but in the case of many people that shock seems to have partaken of the character of a not unpleasant thrill and a desire to take part in the sensational episodes of the case. No other explanation of the scenes of Saturday and Sunday can possibly be offered. The present high state of our civilisation, the advancement of education, the spread of refinement, and the growth of intelligence, of which we are sometimes given to boasting, must all seem a hollow mockery when contrasted with the crowded roads, the gaping crowds, the pushing and jostling and struggling all to see the body of a girl, cruelly done to death. The savage in our nature seems to break out unrestrained upon provocation, and what has so recently occured in our midst shows how far from accomplished is the task of those who devote themselves to educational work. While the crime itself raises feelings of abhorrence against the criminal whoever he may be, and deep sympathy with the victim, and those to whom she belonged, there must also arise a strong disgust at the conduct, of people who made the crime an excuse for an excursion and an exhibition.

After the verdict in Sharpe v. Wakefield the Brewster sessions were this year looked forward to with more than usual interest. On the one side there was a fear that the vested interests of men who have ventured their all in what is still a legitimate and lawful trade would no longer be respected, and on the other a triumph for the policy of confiscation was openly and glee fully anticipated. The results have proved but little different from those of past years, at least so far as our own licencing sessions are concerned. Statistics of drunkenness have not greatly varied either in the borough or county, and from them alone little is to be learnt. In the county Colonel Brooke foreshadowed a policy which simply means that the Licencing Acts are to be carried out with greater strictness than hitherto. Against that no one need complain. The respectable licensee, anxious to conduct his house properly, fears no effective and impartial supervision, and those who are not of this class are better out of the trade. In the borough the remarks of the Mayor will no doubt receive due consideration. It is not to the interest of the licenced victualler to serve people with drink when he knows they have had enough. For his own sake he looks upon such customers as undesirable and his worst enemies. In co-operation with the police his own best interests lie. True it is that every licence holder does not thoroughly see the truth of this, or he would act in accordance with its teachings. The smaller places where little business is done are liable to mismanagement from the temptation to increase their sales at the expence of encouraging drinking. After the warnings that have been given, these people may see that whatever temporary advantage may be gained in this way, no ultimate benefit can result, and therefor a strict compliance with the Mayoral injunction will prove best for them in the long run. In this way, although wholesale confiscation be not resorted to, much good may be the outcome of the new interest taken in all licencing matters.

How easy it is to criticise without a full knowledge of the facts has been demonstrated this week by the comments of a London contemporary over the arrest of the two men charged on suspicion with the Linthwaite murder. According to the London Daily Chronicle all the police had to go upon was "hearsay evidence" and "the mere possession of a small penknife" by one of the men arrested. The evidence was not hearsay, but came to the police in the most direct and circumstantial manner possible. If what was told to the police on Friday night had been upheld, it is not too much to say that the dismissal of Monday morning would have been delayed. It was the breakdown of their evidence, for which the police were not in the smallest degree responsible, that enabled the county magistrates to so soon release the suspected men. It is a matter for regret that the police were led away on a wrong track, but no blame can be attached to them in this matter. Enquiry in the district on Friday evening, and that at the house where the murder was committed, made quite independently of the police, failed to elicit one word about Stockwell. His very existence seems to have been overlooked, and it was only on Saturday morning, when his absence from home on the previous night was noted, that suspicion turned his way. If anyone is to blame it is the witnesses concerned who so unaccountably forgot all about Stockwell, and particularly the one who was the direct cause of the arrest of the discharged men. While we have no wish to screen the police we do say, having full knowledge of the facts, that they acted as at the time appeared the very best, and if wrong information was supplied to them they cannot be blamed for acting upon what seemed to be strong evidence. Had they done otherwise, they would have been blamed for neglect of duty. Indeed, under the circumstances which occurred last Friday evening, it is difficult to see how they could have acted in any other way than they did. It is to be regretted that they were mistaken, and it is to be hoped that the consequences of their error may soon be retrieved.

Probably few, if any, of the inhabitants of Holmfirth would put forward large claims for beauty on the part of the town in which they live. That there is much to be done in this direction before boasting would, we believe, be admitted by everyone. Perhaps that fact accounts for the enthusiasm generated over the proposal to erect a Technical Institute at Holmfirth for that town and the surrounding district. Having made up their minds that they will be independent of Huddersfield in this matter, the people set to work with a will, and helped by a native of the town — Mr. James Marsden, J.P. — who now lives at Wigan, they have succeeded in raising half the amount required. Holmfirth is not an advancing town, as the figures of the last census show, the population having actually decreased by 387 during the last decade. Anything that can add to its attractiveness and assist in developing its resources is, therefore, a matter of great importance to the inhabitants. To a very considerable extent Holmfirth depends upon its trade, and better technical instruction will, it is believed, not merely enable the rising generation to hold what is already possessed, but to improve upon it. We have all heard so much during the last few years about technical education that the public are becoming tired of the subject. But it is difficult to over-rate its importance, and that the people are now pretty well convinced of this fact is shown by the tendency of recent legislation, which formed, indeed, the beginning of the Holmfirth movement. It is to be hoped that the capital of the Holme Valley will soon be in possession of an Institute which will prove a creditable ornament to the town, and that its effects upon the future both of Holmfirth and of the considerable district by which it is surrounded may prove all that its most sanguine promoters are so fully and strongly anticipating. Holmfirth could well do with the prosperity.