Irish Small Gang
The Irish Small Gang were a notorious group of "Irish ruffians" active in the town from the mid-1860s to early 1870s who terrorised locals and attacked the police.
The exploits of the gang are examined in Beerhouses, Brothels and Bobbies: Policing by Consent in Victorian Huddersfield (2016) by David Taylor.
According to Superintendent Hannan, "the members of this gang had bound themselves to oath to stone the police" and "to attack indiscriminately" people in the street, and were ruffians for hire "employed by interested parties to kick up rows in certain low public-houses in the town."
Reported members of the gang included:
- brothers John McCabe (1846-1899?) and James McCabe (1845-1867)
- Bernard Dunn (c.1848-1905?)
- James, John and Thomas Gannon
- William Parker
For some time past a number of young men in this neighbourhood have associated themselves under the cognomen of "the small gang," whose special object is to become the lords of their locality by "small ganging" (literally, inflicting corporeal punishment on all who may in any way obstruct their unruly doings. Actuated by idle motives of notoriety they have obstructed themselves upon private and public life with perfect impunity.
Newspaper Reports of the Irish Small Gang
The earliest reference found to the McCabe brothers throwing stones is in May 1855, but it was not until 1864 that the name "Small Gang" was used in the local press.
In December 1864, "three youths of desperate character" — Bernard Dunn, Michael Giblin and Michael [sic?] McCabe — were charged with "stoning the police" and found guilty. When an officer had attempted to apprehend McCabe, the three accused had climbed onto a roof with a hammer and thrown smashed roofing tiles at the police and members of the public below, seriously injuring one of the officers.  It seems highly unlikely that it was Michael McCabe, the father of John and James, who was involved and more likely it was James.
A week later, James Haigh, innkeeper at the Black Horse on Upperhead Row, was charged with "not maintaining good order and rule in his house" and allowing "drunken and disorderly conduct therein." It was reported that Police Constable Beaumont had visited the property on 27 December and "found it in a shocking state of uproar" with members of the Irish Small Gang "throwing glasses and pitchers about to a dangerous extent."
The following week, several charges were heard against members of the gang. Peter Dunn, Patrick Carney and John Gannon were charged with "robbery with violence" against Thomas Duffy of Lockwood's Yard, Upperhead Row, but the magistrates dismissed the case for lack of evidence. Gannon was then charged with assaulting John White and evidence was given that a policeman had attempted to arrest Gannon following the assault, but was attacked by other members of the gang. Fortunately other officers were soon on the scene and Gannon was taken in custody. Found guilty, Gannon was sentenced to one month at the Wakefield House of Correction. Next, Gannon, Thomas Giblin and Patrick Carney were charged with assaulting George Wood but the case was dismissed when Wood failed make an appearance. Patrick Hopkin and Patricky Kelly where then charged with attempting to rob Mary Gallaghan — Hopkin was sent to Wakefield for one month and Kelly for two weeks. Finally, Thomas Giblin was charged with drunkeness and attacking officers who tried to arrest him — he was found guilty and fined 5 shillings or ten days at Wakefield.
In early March 1865, James Carney, Patrick Carney, Michael Haley, Joe Carney, Michael Maguire, John Gannon, John McCabe and James McCabe were brought up in front of the magistrates for "being riotous and disorderly in the house of Thomas Crowther, beer-seller, of Castlegate". During the same session, Patrick Carney and John William Kingsley were also charged with assaulting Hezekiah Taylor, innkeeper of Castlegate.
On 19 March, John McCabe was charged and found guilty of "disorderly conduct" at the Red Lion Inn on Castlegate after a group of around eight men entered the inn and assaulted the landlord, his wife and his father-in-law.
The following month, James McCabe was found guilty of "unlawfully entering the house of James Aspinall" on 25 February and assaulting his wife and behaving in "a most riotous way".
June 1865 saw Bernard Dunn being found guilty for assaulting Martin Scanlon (fined 14 shillings or 14 days imprisonment), Patrick Hopkins for assaulting Mrs. Marshall and Mrs. Whitehead at the Duke of York at Shorehead (fined £1 or 14 days), and finally James Priestley for assaulting Mary Kay at the Unicorn beerhouse on Kirkgate (two months imprisonment).
Such now was their notoriety that Police Sergeant Moore reportedly told his men to bring in any members of the Small Gang on sight after reports that they had been smashing windows on Upperhead Row on a Sunday evening in August. Police Constable John Sedgwick saw Bernard Dunn walking down Manchester Street and approached him. Dunn was carrying a pair of shoes and, when Sedgwick told him "You are wanted at our office, Dunn", he swung the boots into the officer's face. When the case came before the magistrates, they dismissed the case as "the police had no right to take men into custody unless they had done something wrong."
The following month, John McCabe — "The King of the Small Gang" — was sentenced to one month at Wakefield for throwing a large stone at a policeman. Superintendent Hannan told the magistrates that the gang now "had a ferocious bull dog to assist them in their dastardly behaviour, but by the continued efforts of two or three officers, the dog had been seized."
By October 1856, a group of young teenagers were also calling themselves "The Small Gang" and seemingly mimicking the Irish gang's exploits. John Ward, aged 12, was charged with throwing stones at members of the public and found guilty. Meanwhile, William Parker of the Irish gang was found guilty of assaulting John Wade (fined £3 2s. or two months) and Thomas Bradley for assaulting Thomas Quinn (14 days imprisonment). Meanwhile, Patrick Doyle, John French and Edward Flannagn were found guilty of assaulting Hannah Hopwood of the Brown Cow, Castlegate.
November saw Joseph Carney, a "Sergeant of the Small Gang", being found guilty in his absence for drunkenness.
In January 1866, Superintendent Hannan reported on the "formidable" gang's most recent exploits, including Mrs. Eddell being knocked down and having her keys stolen. He was also of the opinion that members of the public were becoming too scared to report crimes by the Small Gang. In their absence — "They care nothing about a summons" — Martin French and James McCabe were fined 40s. and costs (or two months with hard labour) for assaulting three "apparently respectable" men exiting the Wheat Sheaf. The following month, William Parker was charged with "stealing a plum pudding, the property of John Dunn, Marble Masons' Arms, Upperhead Row" and fined 8s. 6d.
April 1866 saw "notorious character" John McCabe found guilty of "fighting and breaking the peace" on the night of 12 April. Superintendent Hannan told the Bench that McCabe was "one of the worst characters in the West Riding" with seven previous convictions. As the accused had run away, his mother was in court and she remarked, "Shure an he's no thafe, and shure you only cotched him at this when he was rescuing a poor boy from a bateing by a dhrunken man."
In June, William Parkin was found guilty of assaulting John Haigh, a "young man residing in Cross Church Street", and giving him a black eye.
Patrick Broderick was charged with "violently assaulting" Sam Dyson in February 1867, a wood turner of Back Ramsden Street. Broderick had previously been found guilty of stabbing his own brother and was sentenced to prison for one month.
In April, John McCabe was out on bail when two officers attempted to arrest him at his home. Whilst Police Constable Standish waiting by the cellar door, in case McCabe tried to escape that way, Constable Ianson entered the house. As Ianson entered the bed chamber, McCabe threw a chamber pot at the officer whilst his mother, Mary McCabe, pushed him onto the bed and the pair attempted to strangle him. Standish charged in and managed to cuff John, whilst Mary rushed downstairs to get a knife, swearing she would "run them [both] through". Whilst the officers tried to drag McCabe out the house, several more members of the gang appeared and started fighting them, pushing them out into the street. A large mob gathered and the police officers, fearing for their lives, managed to drag McCabe through a cellar door until other officers arrive. Mrs. McCabe was then arrested and placed in a cell, "where for some hours her language was disgusting in the extreme." In court, McCabe was sentenced to two months with hard labour, which the accused seem to regard as being lenient.
With McCabe locked up, the gang's activities appear to lessened and it seems he went into hiding when released.
In January 1868, John Ward was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Swallow Street. By June, a "Female Small Gang" was apparently in existence and Caroline Cassidy of Swallow Street, who associated with the McCabe family, was charged with verbally abusing Margaret Makin. As Cassidy had not been in front of the Bench before, the case was dismissed.
John McCabe had seemingly relocated to Brighouse and found work as a mill hand. On the evening of 6 March 1869, Police Sergeant Beevers was assaulted after attempting to break up a fight outside the Granby beerhouse. After being knocked to the ground, the officer was rendered "almost insensible" after a being hit on the head by a stone. McCabe, Philip McHugh, Michael Gibbling and Peter Roddy where charged, with the first three being found guilty and sent to prison for two months. The Halifax Courier noted that McCabe was "a bad fellow, and had been 11 times previously convicted" although he had apparently told the court, "that might be true, but [I am] innocent of the present charge."
In October 1869, Bernard Dunn and John Ward were charged with "being suspected persons, and wandering abroad with intent to commit a felony." Dunn was sentenced to three months at the Wakefield House of Correction.
John McCabe was sentenced to two months' imprisonment with hard labour in January 1870 for assaulting Police Constable E. Ford. Ford had been in the process of arresting a Michael Ward for assault when they were surrounding by a gang led by McCabe, who released Ward. The Bench were informed that McCabe had thirteen prior convictions. Ward was also later sentenced to two months.
At the West Riding Spring Sessions in May 1870, William Brannan received 18 months for stealing lead from the Wharf Inn, Aspley. Shortly afterwards, several members of the gang had gone to the Angel Inn where they stole a bottle of gin and a bottle of whiskey. Inspector White was informed and, acting on information, entered a house in the Spread Eagle Yard where he found McCabe, Bernard Dunn and Frederick Harper, together with three women of ill-repute. McCabe rushed at the Inspector with a poker and the fight spilled out onto the street, where George Edward Robertson of Paddock came to the Inspector's aid. Police Constable Lynch arrived on the scene and, misunderstanding who was actually attacking the Inspector in the melee, managed to knock Robertson unconscious. As more officers arrived, Harper and McCabe were arrested. As for Bernard Dunn, he was found still in the house "in a helpless state of drunkenness" and wheeled senseless to the police station in hardcart. Given the seriousness of the events and his many previous convictions, McCabe was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. Dunn received 18 months' hard labour whilst Harper was given two months' hard labour.
In McCabe's absence, other members of the gang viciously attacked Patrick Cunningham of Linthwaite in June 1871, leaving him unconscious and laying in a pool of his own blood. The following month, gang-member Thomas Gannon was arrested after being found fighting outside the Wheat Sheaf Inn on Upperhead Row. As the police took him away, the large crowd who had been watching the fight turned on the two police constables and attacked them, allowing Gannon to escape. One of the officers was dragged for 30 yards down High Street and "kicked all the way". Gannon was re-apprehended and fined by the magistrates whilst Thomas Alvey was sent to prison for three months for assaulting the officers.
William Parker was charged with stealing property valued at £4 from wood turner David Haigh of Manchester Street in April 1872.
August 1873 saw Michael Carrol sentence to seven years' penal servitude for theft and receiving stolen property.
In December 1873, William Parker was committed for trial for stealing pork pies, although the Chronicle named him as an ex-member of the Small Gang.
At a Town Council meeting in November 1874, Alderman Mellor referred to the "Small Gang" in the past tense, and praised Chief Constable Withers for his efforts in breaking up the gang.
Notes and References
- "The Operations of the 'Irish Small Gang'" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Jan/1865).
- "Sheepridge: The Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Jan/1851).
- "Stoning the Police" in Huddersfield Chronicle (31/Dec/1864).
- "Disorderly Beerhouse: Alarming Immorality" in Huddersfield Chronicle (07/Jan/1865).
- "The Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Mar/1865).
- "The Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (25/Mar/1865).
- "Surrender of a Leader of the Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Apr/1865).
- "Magistrates in Petty Sessions" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Jun/1865).
- "Wrongful Apprehension of the Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (26/Aug/1865).
- "The Police Stoned by the King of the Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (16/Sep/1865).
- "Magistrates in Petty Sessions" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Oct/1865).
- "A Sergeant of the Small Gang in Disgrace" in Huddersfield Chronicle (25/Nov/1865).
- "The Small Gang Again" in Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Jan/1866).
- "A Costly Plum Pudding" in Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Feb/1866).
- "A Notorious Character" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Apr/1866).
- "Audacious Assault by one of the Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (16/Jun/1866).
- "A Member of the Small Gang, But Not a Fenian" in Huddersfield Chronicle (16/Feb/1867).
- "Violent Attack on the Police by the Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Apr/1867).
- "A Notorious Youth" in Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Jan/1868).
- "A Member of the Female Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (27/Jun/1868).
- "The Outrage on a Police Sergeant" in Halifax Courier (20/Mar/1869).
- "Imprisonment of Notorious Characters" in Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Oct/1869).
- "Assault Upon the Police by One of the Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Jan/1870).
- "A Prisoner Running Away with the Handcuffs" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/Jan/1870).
- Huddersfield Chronicle (21/May/1870).
- "Encounter Between the Police and the Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (28/May/1870).
- "The Small Gang Amongst the Spirits" in Huddersfield Chronicle (02/Jul/1870).
- "Foul Attack by Members of the Small Gang" in Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Jun/1871). Although initial reports stated if was feared that Cunningham might die from his injuries, he survived and is listed in the 1881 Census, having recently married Sarah Hoyle.
- "A Midnight Disturbance" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Jul/1871).
- "Stealing a Watch Guard" in Huddersfield Chronicle (27/Apr/1872).
- "Wakefield Intermediate Sessions" in Huddersfield Chronicle (23/Aug/1873).
- "Robbery from the Person" in Huddersfield Chronicle (23/Dec/1873).
- "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Nov/1874).