Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler has been at it again with his forensic searches of the newspaper archives, and his continued research into the Harrison dynasty. This idiosyncratic piece had us both laughing, but there does seem to be a question of arrogance with the chap.
I particularly enjoyed the dialogue, and the accusation of ‘unparliamentary language’.
Whilst whimsical, this does tell a tale, and it’s an interesting taste of the times. As ever, huge thanks to Peter for all he does, and his relentless scouring of the archives on our behalf.
Brownhills Cyclists beware! The following story of August 1890 reached all corners of Britain (maybe the Empire), being widely reported, to a greater or lesser extent, in numerous newspapers…
Colonel John Harrison was the elder brother, by 10 years, of Captain WB Harrison. In 1890, although one of address was still Norton Hall, he seems to have spent time down in Croydon. In 1895 he purchased Berry Hill House, London Road, Lichfield.
At the Croydon Petty Sessions, on Saturday, before Sir Thomas Edridge, in the Chair, and other magistrates, Colonel John Harrison, of Norton House, Upper Addiscombe Road, Croydon was summoned for assaulting George Francis Mills, a gentleman residing at Streatham Common, by causing his dog to knock the complainant off his cycle. Mr John S Streeter, solicitor, appeared for the defendant, who pleaded not guilty.
Mr Mills stated that at 6:20pm, on Thursday the 31st, he was riding his bicycle along the roadway on Mitcham Common, when he saw the Colonel coming towards him in a dogcart. The defendant was behind another vehicle and was about to drive over to the witness’s side of the road, when he, the complainant, violently rang his bell, and by a very ‘narrow squeak’ avoided the dogcart. The defendant then shouted to a large collie dog, which was barking and running after the trap, ‘Go for him boy!’ or something to that effect.
Col Harrison: ‘That’s a lie.’
Sir Thomas Edridge: ‘That is a very improper remark, and a very unparliamentary language to use here.’
Complainant went on to say that, as soon as he could right himself, he remounted the road after the defendant, who continued driving in the direction of Croydon. Eventually he overtook him and asked for his card, whereupon the accused called him a scoundrel and refused to give it to him. Witness told him that his conduct was un-English. The Colonel then attempted to drive away, and threatening to run over him if he did not get out of his way; in fact, he had to go upon the Common to avoid him.
When Witness found it was not safe to ride in front he kept behind, and followed him into Croydon. A policeman then came up and stopped the defendant, who caused the officer’s helmet to fall off. Witness then obtained the Colonel’s name and address, and applied for a summons.
Cross examined: He said he had never seen the Colonel before. He felt that Colonel Harrison was annoyed as the bicycle bell was rung so loudly. He did suggest to the magistrates that a gentleman of the defendant’s standing and position set his dog on him, a perfect stranger, without any provocation. The dog did not jump up as a dog would on its own account. He did fall off the bicycle.
Colonel Harrison: ‘He fell off his bicycle because he was very drunk!’
Mr Streeter: ‘As a magistrate yourself, Colonel, I would ask you to conduct yourself properly here.’
Complainant, in reply to further questions, said that if the dog had not flown at him he would not have fallen off the machine. He did loose his temper when the dependent incited the dog to come at him. He accused the Colonel of un-gentlemanly, un-English and un-soldierly conduct, and the Colonel “exhausted and East end vocabulary” on him. He also said, “I am a Justice of the Peace and I say you are a scoundrel.” He did not threaten the defendant in any why. When they arrived at Croydon the Colonel patted his dogs, he had two in his trap, saying “I love my dogs, and you are a d……:.d scoundrel.” The dog did not jump playfully, it jumped up at the invitation of the defendant.
Colonel Harrison: ‘That it is a deliberate lie.’
The Chairman: ‘We must take some steps stop this conduct, if it is continued.’
After some further evidence had been given, Sir Thomas Edridge said that if the parties could settle the case between themselves the Bench would be delighted. The complainant suggested that the defendant should tender an apology and send 5 pounds to the Croydon General Hospital.
Col Harrison: “I’ll see it in d……..d first.”
Police constable 231W deposed to attempting to stop the Colonel, who tried to drive away, his horse’s head knocked the witnesses’ helmet off. Mr Mills was perfectly sober, but, like the Colonel, was very excited.
Doctor Hetley, one of the magistrates, pointed out that the defendant had said that the complainant was very drunk.
Complainant: ‘I have been a teatotaler for years.’
Mr Streeter, in addressing the Bench, said that his case was that the Colonel’s dog had jumped on the complainant in play, and that both gentlemen becoming excited at the event, each used strong language to the other. He hoped that the magistrates would not believe that a gentleman of his client’s position, he had been a magistrate for the county of Stafford for 25 years, and a deputy-lieutenant for 18, would, without any provocation whatsoever, set his dog at a stranger in that dangerous manner. As a warm-headed soldier the defendant did not like to be called names, and of course, the complainant did not like the dog jumping on him.
Sir Thomas Edridge said that the majority of the magistrates were against the defendant, who would have to pay a fine of a guinea and 9s costs.
(From the Surrey Mirror the story continues…)
Reference was made to the case in the House of Commons on Tuesday when Mr Cobb asked the Home Secretary whether his attention had been called to the report on Monday of the proceedings at the Croydon Petty Sessions on Saturday last, from which it appears that Colonel John Harrison, Justice of the Peace and Deputy lieutenant of the county of Stafford, was charged and convicted of an assault upon a gentleman name Mills, living at Streatham Common, and that Colonel Harrison conducted himself in such a manner in court and used such language that the Chairman of the Bench felt obliged to rebuke him several times, and whether he would draw the attention of the Lord Chancellor to the conduct of Colonel Harrison.
Mr Matthews said he had seen the report, from which it appeared that the gentleman named appeared to have lost his temper, and used strong language in Court. As the same sources of information were open to the Lord Chancellor as to himself, he did not feel called upon to direct his attention to the case!