A Mystery Solved

It’s always wonderful to have a nagging mystery solved, isn’t it? Especially one that you didn’t even know existed until the start of the year. Let me explain…

Quite a few months ago, a Google search my on paternal grandfather’s name brought up a brief newspaper story from 1943. He’d been arrested for stealing from the mill where he was an assistant manager.

Frustratingly, though, there was nothing to indicate what had happened after that. I emailed West Yorkshire Archives, but lockdown meant they didn’t have access to the records.

Finally, though, they were able to discover the disposition of his case, and it was a much lighter sentence that I’d expected.

After his arrest in October, he was committed and bailed from Bradford City Court. He was charged with stealing 99 pounds of cloth, 46 cleaning clothes and other articles belonging to his employer, Allied Industrial Services. At a guess, 99 pounds was the figure used to stop if being a much higher crime – they might not have had enough proof.

On December 31, my grandfather was up before the magistrate, Frank Beverly, and pleaded guilty. That, too, might have been arranged beforehand, in exchange for a lenient sentence.

He was bound over on his own recognisance, fined £5, had to be of good behaviour, and could be called back to real sentencing anytime in the next two years if he caused any problem – what we’d call a suspended sentence. Additionally, he was ordered to pay £10 costs.

With that, he disappeared off the legal landscape, and died in 1963. He would have lost a job that paid an extremely good salary for the time, and with a criminal record it would probably have been hard to find another.

It wasn’t the first time he’d done it – he evidently had a relative by marriage store some cloth he’d taken in her cellar. Her payment was enough of it to make several garments – this was a time when clothing and fabric were heavily rationed.

And that, really, makes the very light sentence a surprise. He was obviously involved in the black market, yet there was no rush to make an example of him. Why? I’ll never know.

Of course, this was a man of questionable judgement. Supposedly, in 1921 he won a mill in Dublin in a card game and moved his family over there from Leeds. That year was the height of the Irish-English conflict, when feelings ran high over there in the wake of the violence by the Black and Tans. The Nicksons were back in Leeds inside a year. What happened to the mill? I don’t know.

That’s the conclusion of that story, one I’d never heard a whisper about before spotting that clipping. See, the Internet can be a great tool.

Meanwhile, how would you like me to supply your Christmas books? Well, five of them, anyway. Simply go to last week’s blog, right here, answer the question and you’re in with a chance. But November 30 is the closing date…

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