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Tony Flynn
100 YEARS AGO: DRUNKEN SEAMEN SOBER UP IN SALFORD COURT
"What shall we do with the drunken sailor, early in the morning?" as the traditional sea shanty goes.

For the answer lets take a visit to Salford Magistrates Court, September 1918 to see what the Stipendiary Magistrate had to say.

Our story starts on board the S.S. Chicago City a Cunard Liner boat that was moored at Porto Empedecole in Southern Italy, which was picking up amongst other cargo, cases of wine to be transported back to Salford Docks. 

What could go wrong?....The Captain was soon to find out.

Alarm bells should have rung when it was noticed that several seamen had begun drinking heavily from the cargo being loaded onto the boat from cargo lighter boats, a type of flat bottomed barge which would transfer goods and passengers to and from moored ships.

The Captain immediately put an armed guard on the ship and another on the shore in an attempt to stop the pilfering of wine by the crew.

I think you can guess where this story is going and how its going to end.

At 3am the next day the Captain was woken up by the Second Officer who told him that he was concerned about the amount of noise coming from number three hold.

The men along with the Chief Officer prudently armed themselves with revolvers and went to see what the commotion was all about.

As can be expected it wasn't a pretty sight, he saw a number of men lying on the floor, surrounded by empty wine bottles, others were singing loudly and as the Captain put it, "The men were mad drunk"  A lovely expression.

The men were locked in the hold overnight, presumably they had drunk all the wine that was being stored there and left to sleep it off.

The next day the Captain found that none of the men detained were capable of working and were "not in a fit state to be talked too"

They were then given one last chance to explain their innocence, none of them were able to do so.

They must have shifted a lot of wine or it was very strong stuff for al of them to be unable to work or even speak properly.

The ship sailed to Salford Docks without further trouble, no doubt the booze was firmly under lock and key if not an armed guard!

Ten men were arrested by the dock police, they were, Patrick Birch, George Kyfinn, Daniel Delaney, Michael McKenna, Velkhelm Hansen, Maurice Crosby, Herbert Atwood, Harry Ward, Daniel Fitzpatrick and Jesse Baker.

They were all charged with the theft of seven cases of wine valued at £25 the property of Cunard Liners.

The merry matelots were were defended by Herbert Cunningham whilst Herbert Vaudrey appeared for the owners.

Cunningham told the Stipendiary Magistrate that there was no truth in the allegations that they broke into the cargo, although it was obvious the cargo had been tampered with, however there were 31 men on board the ship and the men in the dock hadn't been seen doing the damage or theft.

He continues that it was true that the men were very drunk but asserted that they had bought their liquor ashore and therefore had committed had no crime.

Be honest that's not a very convincing argument for their innocence is it?

The Stipendiary obviously not believing a word, said that he thought, "the men had broken into the cargo and after a heavy drinking bout, no doubt had a craving for more drink and committed the offence that they were charged with"

He then fined each man 50 shillings or £2-10 shillings-0 pence which was about a weeks wage for the men, and a fairly hefty price to pay for going on a bender.


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