For the love of his fellow men

I love the lady’s expression and outfit. A fantastic image from the cusp of wartime. Birmingham Gazette, July 1939 – click for a larger version. Image supplied by Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler.

One quick one that’s turned up since I posted David Oakley’s musings on Temperance, probation and the fight against drunkenness in the early part of last century – Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler has found the above image and short note in the Birmingham Gazette of July, 1939.

The cutting shows Walsall’s first Probation Officer and Court Missionary Mr. Courtney Orchard after receiving his Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) award.

He certainly looks like a formidable gentleman who wouldn’t stand any nonsense.

David had said this of Mr. orchard:

I was very lucky that in my early life I met a ‘court missionary’, he was Courtney Orchard and he served as  Court Missionary at Walsall for a number of years, and became Walsall’s first Probation Officer, when the position was regularised in 1907, making ‘missionaries’ court officials.  I knew Mr. Orchard in his later days, 70 years of age,  or so. But my workmates, who knew him in earlier days, knew him as a fearless man, who could defend himself with his fists, when called upon, when seeking his ‘lost sheep’ amongst the dingy pubs and hostile environment of the day. Those ‘local encounters’ were all too common amongst the populace and would never count as ‘news’.  

Courtney Orchard  wrote a book entitled ‘The Court Missionary’s Story, published about 1930. Not many copies about, these days. Courtney ran the Town Mission in Walsall at the corner of John Street and Stafford Sreet. Due to the fact that I had signed for the football team, ran by Alan Wakeman, former Villa goalkeeper and Leamore kid, under the gentle persuasion of Courtney Orchard, I attended the Sunday evening services and found Mr. Orchard in his later years to be motivated  by the desire that still shaped his life, the love of his fellow men.  Alan was later to become team manager at Walsall Wood F.C.

Thanks to Peter for a great spot – I can see he’s still researching matters around Alfred Merrick and this whole thread and I thank him for his continued, diligent work.

Anything to add? Feel free – please do comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, or tap my shoulder on social media.

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23 Responses to For the love of his fellow men

  1. Nick Pilley says:

    That’s great – ‘local encounters’. I guess he didn’t wear that hat daily!

  2. Pedro says:

    There are numerous mentions of Courtney Orchard in the press, and much could be gleaned from them. When he retired in 1944 it was said that he was Britain’s longest serving police court missioner. However it also says that he had come to Walsall to conduct an evangelistic campaign in 1903 and received an invitation at the last minute of his scheduled stay to remain on police court missioner.

    Does this suggest that he was from another area? If so it would be strange that in his capacity as a police court missioner he would gain a reputation as someone who could defend himself with his fists.

  3. Pedro says:

    H. Courtney Orchard was elected as police court missioner in 1904. Our man William Roberts of the Station Hotel died in 1906.

    In 1904 “Provident Oddfellows’ Friendly Society” held their annual dinner at the Station Hotel “and 80 members sat to a good repast, provided by Mr and Mrs William Roberts….. several letters of apology were read from Captain Harrison, Mr Holland (Coppice side) and Mr Holland, schoolmaster, who is taking a holiday.”

  4. Pedro says:

    Courtney Orchard was born in Culmstock, Devon, and in the 1901 census, at the age of 21, he was still there with his parents. It would follow that, as he arrived in Walsall in 1903 for his evangelical mission, and was appointed as Missioner in 1904, he must have made quite an impression on the establishment!

  5. davidoakley says:

    Quite correct. Pedro. Courtney was a ‘Cliff College ‘ evangelist and came to Walsall in September 1903, on a nine-month evangelistic crusade, based at the Queen Street Wesleyan Church. On June 3rd 1904, his last night in Walsall, whilst taking tea in his lodgings at Wilbraham Road Walsall, before moving to Morecambe Bay to conduct another Mission, and preparing himself for the evening farewell gathering, there was a knock at the door and a member of the Walsall Police Mission was announced. Courtney was told that the Court Missionary had resigned. His work at Queen Street was mentioned and did he want the job ? . What a happy, last- minute chance for Walsall. My cousin, Kathleen Oakley became a Walsall; Probation Officer in the late’40’s/’50’s and told me that Courtney’s name was spoken of with admiration and respect by serving officers.

  6. Pedro says:

    Given that Courtney Orchard was from Culmstock in Devon it may help to gain a little info from that neck of the woods in the 1890s. I presume that he was a Nonconformist as it is reported…“The development and extension of Nonconformity proceeds apace in the Culm Valley. Following closely the erection of a new Wesleyan Chapel, the Baptists have raised a Mission Hall…”

    In 1898, at Exeter, there was a meeting of the Evangelical Free Church Union which may provide an insight into what may be an “aggressive” mission at the time… “Combination could provide a great United mission which could make a public sensation. They did not mean to attack any Church but there were rights that their fathers had fought for and would not give up. There were rights that they did not possess but meant to have.”

    Another speaker added that they did not call themselves Nonconformist as it was a negative term, but Evangelical Churchmen… they met on an occasions like this to band together for defence, for aggression on the power of the enemy, and for all the great objects they had in common.

    One motto suggested for the Union,” Union, cooperation and aggression.”

  7. Pedro says:

    So it looks like Courtney Orchard, living in Culmstock in 1901, being the son of a licensed hawker, and having a trade as a brush and China dealer’s assistant worker, left home at the age of 21, and by way of Cliff College, was sent to the den of iniquity that was Walsall.

    Being in the right place at the right time in 1904 he lands a pretty good job.

    • davidoakley says:

      ‘Pretty good job’ was it, Pedro ? Did you think he dwelt in a posh office, circa 2018, with subordinate’s doing the work ? Let me give Courtney’s account……..”.There is considerable gratuitous advice, floating about at the moment, most of it emanating from those who do no know what they are talking about. ” They have not climbed the winding, rickety staircase, penetrated the dismal, squalid alley, nor breathed the fetid atmosphere of the ‘Doss House’, all of them the breeding grounds of so much of our crime, and they can take it from me, it requires more than the study of books to enable a person to speak authoritatively on the subject “. We’re talking 1900 Walsall, remember ?

      • Pedro says:

        The case for the Defense:

        I was under the impression, maybe wrongly, that conducting a general Evangelical Mission was a vocation and not a job. I assumed that in 1904 the Police Court Missioner would be a paid position. It was from several book sources that I was led to believe that the Missioners were paid agents of the CETS. Further, that in the 1907 Act the Missioners were made official officers of the Court, and later known as Probation Officers.

        Saying that the Court Missioner was a “pretty good job” is not in any way implying that it was an easy job. It would obviously take a very dedicated person. However it would be a position respected in the Community.

        As regards the conditions that the Missioner would encounter I have alluded to these on several articles written for this Blog and others. I have also gone back much further than 1900, when in my humble opinion, conditions were even worse.

        I must confess that I have no idea what a posh office in 2018 would be like.

      • Pedro says:

        It is difficult to obtain a copy of Courtney’s book, but in March 1931 the Birmingham Daily Gazette reviews a book written by Courtney Orchard, and says….

        “To the brave souls he has met in the police court and Slumdon, and the “funny beggars” who have laughed through adversity, is dedicated a book, issued this week, by H Courtney Orchard, who has been for many years the court missionary in Walsall.”

        Amongst the quotes by Courtney, two stand out for me. For the one below it is difficult comment from a present day standpoint, and is in connection with the use of the birch, of which he was against…

        “The sacred ministry of the rod at home, exercised in love and firmness is however a very different thing from the rod as inflicted on children by sentence of a court.”

        The second is in connection with the “Terrors of Drink” where he strongly condemns intoxicating drink as a cause of crime.

        “The terrors of the Western Front to the soldiers could hardly have been greater than the terrors to which thousands of poor children are constantly subjected. How many children every day have to watch parents in drunken fury and orgy smash up every stick of furniture in the home.”

        • davidoakley says:

          Hi Bob,
          I am grateful to Pedro for his later contributions, for, taken with the earlier notes, they give a much more balanced view of Courtney Orchard’s achievements, and, indeed, capture the very essence of Courtney’s life and core beliefs.
          May I take this opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings, between Pedro and myself. My initial comment regarding Courtney and his pugilistic ability was questioned more than once by Pedro, so let me re-state my comment,…….’defend himself with his fists, when called upon’. This was a brutal age. The action of ‘putting up a guard’ with your own fists, without striking a blow, would often deter even a drunken opponent who did not relish ‘getting the worst of it’ in any encounter with a powerfully built man, like Courtney. Many Christians of the time were not the ‘limp-wristed theologians, arguing in the vestry’ but stout-hearted Methodists and other ‘born again’ Christians who worked hard in the mines and other trades, for very little money, but who would defend their own corner, when called upon to do so. Let me give you this illustration from Courtney’s book……”He squared up his fists and made a movement in my direction. “Oh, I said, “Now you are beginning to make me feel at home”, I’ve learned this game in the school of necessity. My previous answers to him did not invite him to expect this attitude, as he moved slowly backwards, stilll brandishing his fists, and I moved slowly forward, after him. Suddenly he swooped and picked something up from within the fender, then meekly murmuring , “I’m going to have a cup of tea, will you have one? After a little talk, this man gave no further trouble afterwards.
          I was pleased to learn that the hard-headed businessmen of Walsall had decided that Courtney deserved an increase in salary, for all his hard work, it would be interesting to know what his original salary was. I was also interested in the salient points made by Pedro, re caning. I still remember the magistrates order for birching or larching, I don’t know what the difference was, but both sounded painful. Pedro never made his choice known, wise man ! but in my own experience I applaud the fact that Courtney was not above corporal punishment in the home, properly administered. ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’ was the byword of that particular age, and even in the 1930’s a cane, hanging over a picture in the living room, was a sufficient deterrent to any wayward child, and queuing for a caning at school was commonplace. My kids are long grown up, so my interest is largely academic, but which way would I go in this modern age ??
          Pedro’s other choice, detailing the difference between ‘terror’ in its different forms is very forceful but sensitive in many ways when recalling the wholesale slaughter of World War One. If we speak of terror of the soldier before the next ‘big push’, we speak of a reasoning terror, in which he sincerely hopes he will be one of the ‘lucky ones’, and will survive. Children are somewhat different, they do not see drunken parents as people who might well love them, in some way, but as wild, violent beasts who after wrecking the furniture, might possibly turn on them as well, and rend them limb from limb. Two forms of extreme terror, and Courtney, having witnessed much of the latter type, cannot really differentiate between the two evils.
          Finally, my thanks to Pedro. There has been a lot of spirited discussion over the years on this magnificent blog, largely due to Pedro’s newspaper and research facilities, quite an expensive undertaking. BrownhillsBob has always been unstinting in his thanks, and I know that many of us would wish to join him. Thanks, mate.

  8. Pedro says:

    While Courtney’s thoughts were turning towards sunny Morecambe, the present incumbent police court missioner, who had been doing a sterling job, was hauled before the Beak. He was alleged to have been involved with a young lady 19 years of age. He really had to resign.

    There was a ready-made replacement in Courtney Orchard, and when Courtney was faced with the dilema of Walsall or Morecambe, he wisely chose Walsall. This was lucky for Walsall, lucky for Courtney, but unlucky for Morecambe. Macktub!

  9. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    there are many aspects of your blog that i admire…this extended discussion. etween Pedro and David is one of them. From a simple request sent in by a reader I have been able to learn so much about Missionaries and Oddfellows that i was completely unaware of.
    Here we have seen two contirubutors discussing and comparing notes etc.. wonderful and very very much appreciated
    My thanks go to both gentlemen, with my best wishes to David up north, somewhere.

  10. Pedro says:

    It may be of interest summarise the Annual Meeting of the Walsall Police Court and Town Temperance Mission as reported in the Walsall Advertiser of 25 March 1905. The first to involve Courtney Orchard the new Court Missioner.

    The late Missioner had resigned in May and Courtney started his new role in June of the previous year, to the complete satisfaction of the committee. He had soon formed a temperance social club, in an old public house in Wolverhampton Street, which was self supporting and had 80 members already.

    The Mission had done excellent work during the year, the young persons Mission had had 26 meetings with average attendance of 120. The Band of Hope had a membership of 140. There are 8 teachers and over 100 scholars in the Sunday school.

    Financial position of Mission is satisfactory. But the committee earnestly ask for a considerable increase of income so they may be able to pay the Missionary a more adequate salary.

    Mr T. Lawley (chairman)…“The appearance of men in the court through drink seemed a common occurrence throughout the county, drink and dishonesty could never be cured by education, however much they might applaud education and feel constrained to promote the education of the people, it was no cure for drunkenness and dishonesty. Dishonesty was not confined to the lower orders… occupying responsible positions, and of high education, have been sent to prison for embezzlement: bank managers, directors of companies, secretaries of Building societies and solicitors showed that however desirable it was felt that the conditions of the working classes should be vastly improved, the only true effectual remedy was the grace of God in the heart.”

    Courtney addressed the meeting and said….“the work was very varied, and it was the duty in the first place of the Court Missioner to reclaim drunkards and make them sober members of society. They had to look after and reach cases of any sort that might come under their notice, particularly those of drunkenness.
    Some of the people who come up there he had hopes of reclaiming, and although he believed there was hope for every man and every woman, in some cases he felt the chance was very remote.”… after the pledge
    had been signed he found on visiting the homes that in many cases there had been a change of life, especially in the case of first offenders.

    “There were several cases that had come under his notice in which young persons had attempted to take his or her own life; and instead of sending them to prison, the magistrates and the Chief Constable had felt there was a possibility of converting them, and they were handed over to the missionary. Several of those were under supervision at the present time…. in conclusion during the last four weeks 29 persons had been converted, which showed conclusively that the mission was doing goodwork….”

  11. Pedro says:

    My views on corporal punishment are not important, this is about Courtney Orchard’s views. Here is a different contemporaneous view from the Walsall Advertiser of February 1900 re corporal punishment.

    “The trouble with most unruly children is with their parents, just as the trouble with most vicious horses is with the grooms and drivers. A child stands on the threshold of the life we live. He knows little and must be forgiven much. If he is stupid, it should not reflect on him but on his parents; they should not apply the “strong directing hand of authority,” but should consider that he comes by his stupidity honestly, and they should pay liberally to have him made brighter by means of proper instruction.

    Corporal punishment for children is growing obsolete and unnecessary; with patient and sympathetic treatment the most unruly of children can be handled, and made to do the reasonable will of an older person. If that will is unreasonable, it is another matter. Children rebel against injustice much sooner than grown people, and their sense of what and their sense of what constitutes injustice is often keener than that of their elders, or else is influenced by the undeveloped condition of their reasoning powers. From earliest infancy, however, the child does reason, and to force upon it the stronger will of an older person, by chastisment or force, can only in rare instances prove to be an educational advantage to the child, while it serves to encourage its monitor in the arts of impatience and the false pride of physical authority.”

    • davidoakley says:

      Anyone could say that, speaking from a lofty public edifice, but what interested me was contained within the statement ” and they should pay liberally to have him made brighter by means of proper instruction ” 1900 ?? Working men ?? Most working men at that time were finding it difficult to keep body and soul together, without ‘paying liberally’ for your son’s education. Perhaps what the writer really meant was, when your son becomes a problem, pack him off to Eton or Rugby public schools, let them have the bother with him, in the meantime, my hands are clean. But wait a minute, didn’t they have ‘beatings’ at those places? Listen to a few modern politicians and learn the difference between saying what that section of the public want to hear and what the politicians actual agenda, is.

  12. Pedro says:

    Going back to the related article on the Blog entitled “Oddfellows local,” and the search for information concerning Alfred Merrick. I was puzzled that Alfred had been subject to strong opposition and personal violence in his work for the Holy Trinity Mission in Clayhanger. I had not come across any sense of violence in my delving, and I associated the “missionary” work to be associated with the Holy Trinity.

    However it was explained that the term “mission” could relate to an “evangelical mission.” It is still difficult to find violence to someone preaching in the area, but the position of the Police Court Missioner is quite different when entering the lion’s den.

    Walsall had long had a temperance movement but I believe that Captain Croft may well have been the first Police Court Missionary and appointed shortly before February 1894, at the age of 40. The Hon Sec of the Gospel Temperance Union was Albert Stanley who has featured in at least two Blog articles…

    Albert said, “…they had powerful forces, the dignities of the Roman Catholic Church, of the Church of England, and many of the Nonconformists Ministers, lay men, students in colleges, and the Salvation Army. Forces at work in Life Assurance Societies, friendly societies, national, local associations, Army, Navy, Railway and other organisations, and it was thus to be hoped that all might be combined together to make further united effort to overcome the power of the Drink Fiend.”

    Not long after taking up the position Captain Croft encountered in the June…


    “There was a certain logic in Mr. Croft’s remark to a Carpenter named W. Rigby, of Paddock Lane, who, while drunk, solicited alms from him, that if he could afford to buy drink, he could afford to purchase food, and when Rigby struck him on the chest for this expression of opinion, the police court missionary acted very properly in giving the man into the custody of Pc Granger. He was now fined 5s and costs, but went to goal for 7 days in default of payment.”

  13. Pedro says:

    Captain Croft, mentioned above, may have been William Henry Croft who appears in connection with the Gospel Temperance Union, and is a Captain in the Salvation Army. There is a report in October 1893, when he was conducting an open air meeting, that collection money had been placed on the WAR CRY. When a chap came to take the money Mrs Jenks pushed him and held him until the police arrived. Three shillings and a halfpenny was taken out of his hand.

    In April 1899 it is reported the Cpt. Croft was very ill due to the hard work of the last 20 years.

  14. davidoakley says:

    Hi Bob
    I was interested to find that Pedro was still unconvinced about Alfred Merrick’s ‘strong opposition and personal violence’ experience, in his work for the Holy Trinity Mission in Clayhanger. Perhaps if we widen our search just a little, and forget ‘theological fisticuffs’, which I agree, were highly unlikely, we may come to an explanation for Alfred’s funeral comments which I myself have never disbelieved. This period was a torrid time for alcoholism and the forces ranged against it. Anyone could open a pub by paying a licence of £3, this was later reduced to zero, with the consequence that many sleazy little pubs where opened, some still owned by ‘Butties’ the curse of the Staffordshire coalfields, who, with customers and others, some still ‘ in pawn’ to the butties who, long after their malign influence on coal production, was ended, were still concerned with alcohol profits, did not take very kindly to Temperence movements and according to Albert Stanley, these movements were steadily growing. Contrast this to the life of Alfred Merrick and his activity at the Miners Institute. Long time Secretary, lecturer. All to keep miners away from the evils of drink and turn their interests into other worthwhile things. Alfred’s work at the church is quite sketchy. Possibly because his work at the Institute was so involved. But I’ve no doubt that the local licencees and their ‘hangers-on’ desire was to ‘get even’ with him. Reminds me of Harry Wilkes, a ‘lads club’ organiser in Walsall, at about the same time, in 1900. “Won’t turn a hair under a barrage of brick-ends and beer bottles, but always, metaphorically speaking, wears a twig of the olive branch, in his cap”,
    Finally, although there was a real, ding-dong battle going on between the Temperence movements and the licencees, history has a comparatively poor record. Many songs were created and sung at the meetings and at subsequent marches, ‘Signing the pledge’ became all important, and two songs which I remember, passed down, “But his steps came firm and steady, his eye was clear and true, For on his ragged coat he wore, A little piece of blue….” And the more rousing …”Joe Perkins was a white man, and boasted he was free, but the drunkards chain was round him, each night he went on spree, and I do declare he was shouting there, Three cheers for the brave and free” With all this fervour and excitement, a few brick-ends and beer bottles meant very little, but this would still rank as ‘strong opposition and personal violence’, even in this rather lawless age. Alfred would probably get his share, one way or another.

  15. Pedro says:

    Courtney Orchard took up his post as Police Court Missioner in 1904, but around 1907 he was beginning to be called a Probation Officer.

    In June 1908 the Walsall Watch Committee proposed remuneration of probation officers to be the rate suggested by the Home Secretary on a scale of 8 shillings in respect of each case for the first 3 months, with an additional 4 shillings for each succeeding period of 3 months up to a year.

    Alderman Noake asked how many times they were supposed to visit those cases. If they were going to pay a pound a year a case, they ought to know what was going to be done for it.

    The Town Clerk said that unless the thing was watched it was open to great abuse.

    Alderman Lope said he thought the money would not be the only incentive to visit those cases.

    The Town Clerk said he thought that they were perfectly reliable men from what he knew of their
    work, but it rested with the magistrates unfortunately.

    Alderman Noakes: They are the masters and we pay.

    Eventually they decided to adopt.

  16. Pedro says:

    The Walsall Advertiser In September 1913 has reports from the Children’s Court.

    A young errand boy, 14 years of age, charged with stealing a bicycle pump value 7/6, was brought on remand. The Chief Constable, Mr Thomson, said the lad was an orphan who was living with his uncle. He had previously been birched for stealing toffee. The case was adjourned to see if Mr Orchard could get the lad sent to Canada. (Later)…and now discharged, in the care of the Probation Officer, Mr Orchard, having promised to go to an emigration home preparatory to emigrating to Canada.

    The Lichfield Mercury 8 May 1913 carries an article CARING FOR CHILDREN and referring to Dr. Barnardo’s Homes says…

    ” … For out of 20,000, who during recent years have been sent to Canada, 95 per cent have succeeded in life, and today in every part of the Dominion there are living witnesses to the value of such rescue agencies…”

    But not everyone at that time agreed with this policy. The Plymouth Guardians Sub Committee recommended the securing of 12 boys and girls, 4 to 14, who had Volunteered, to Canada under the supervision of the Salvation Army. In a heated debate Mr. Argall remarked on the tender age of some of the volunteers. A child of 6 could hardly be expected to realise what immigration meant.

    MR A. Collins said if farm service in England was not satisfactory, it would certainly not be in Canada. 90 per cent of the children who emigrated would be put to farm service. It was sending them to practical slavery.

    The recommendation was rejected 11 votes to 10.

    “In February 2010, in what was regarded as a landmark statement on Britain’s historic treatment of impoverished children and their families, the then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivered a public apology for the UK’s role in the widespread practice of emigrating impoverished children to former colonies during the early decades of the twentieth century.”

  17. davidoakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Seems a bit of a sudden long-hop from discussing Alfred Merrick. But I fail to see the relevance of this particular discussion. The closing comments, attributed to Gordon Brown, appear to be devolving blame to the Governments of the day, regarding child emigration, ‘Wise, one hundred years after the event’ seems to be the watchword, Gordon, God bless him, would become an irrelevance, less than three months after his speech. It could have given him votes, that speech, but didn’t appear to, but let’s look, a little more closely at these issues. If we look at the statement by Doctor Barnardo’s Homes, ‘for out of 20,000 who have been sent to Canada, 95% have succeeded, and today, in every part of the Dominion, there are living witness’s to the value of such rescue agencies’. The Plymouth Guardians with their own little group of 12, decided against it, but only by one vote, hardly an earth-shattering about-turn. We all recognise the work of Doctor Barnardo’s, over the years and the work of the Salvation Army. They were doing, what they thought best, to alleviate the pressing problem of homelessness and future criminality in these troublous Edwardian times. This was a national policy, not local, and in the brief reference to Courtney Orchard, he was merely obeying, as a servant of the Court, the decision of the Chief Constable. We hear no more about the case. Was he sent to Canada, or no ? Courtney’s personal views are unknown, but knowing something of Courtney, he would look upon every case as a challenge to ‘make something of this lost, local, child’, a challenge which would often turn out well. Society is ever-changing, What is considered good, at one time is not-so-good one hundred later, but let’s not be smug. Homelessness and poverty are still rife, The humane forces from one hundred years did their best, mistakenly or otherwise to cope, and human slavery still exists, even in England. Shall we fare any better in a final analysis in a hundred year time ?

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