Liz Stride

JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

40 ANNIE BESANT

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There is a reason why many of the homeless in Britain share the pavements with their dogs. The need for the presence of canines has been understood since the 19th Century. The dogs keep the rats away. In 1888 those in regular employed work could afford to rent an overcrowded room. At the end of the 19th Century the choice for the rest, the distressed, consisted of the streets, lodging houses or the workhouse. George Lansbury described the Poplar Workhouse in the pamphlet Smash Up The Workhouse. ‘The floors were polished but of kindliness and goodness there was none.’  Suffering was not confined to those without work.   Employment in Victorian London was dominated by crowded sweatshops and factories paying starvation wages. Each day at the London Docks there were queues of men pleading for a few hours of work.

Annie Besant was born Annie Wood in London in 1847. She married Frank Besant, a clergyman. They had two children but a husband who was a Tory, the kids, political activism and a radical attitude to religion were too much for their marriage.   Her activism was rooted in radical secularism and support for the Irish cause of independence. ‘Three quarters of my blood and all my heart are Irish.’ Besant subscribed to and supported the radicalism of the 1880s. It began with talk amongst the disenchanted. The radical talk moved to open spaces.   There were pitches at Dod Street at Limehouse, Victoria Park in Bethnal Green, and Mile End Waste where the Stretford Dialectical and Radical Club held its meetings. Later the Radical Club became the Labour Emancipation League. In Dod Street thousands of workers assembled and listened to speakers advocate social and economic revolution. Annie Besant gave legal assistance to arrested socialists.   She was influenced or mentored by William Prowting Roberts. He was a former Chartist. Prowting Roberts understood that social justice consisted of more than economic progress. He said the poor were ‘worker bees, the wealth producers with a right to self-rule (and) justice, not to charity’. The National Union of The Working Classes (NUWC) had been established in 1830. The use of the plural is important. The NUWC became The International Workingmens Association (IWMA).   The third canonical Ripper victim, Liz Stride, was murdered in Dutfield’s Yard on a night when the IWMA was having a meeting in the adjacent Berner Street.   Louis Diemshutz who discovered the dead body of Stride was the steward at the club premises of the IWMA.

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When the NUWC was established it had three objectives. These were to secure for every workingman the value of his labour, to protect workingmen against the tyranny of masters and manufacturers and to bring about parliamentary reform. Those who struggle to understand why conflict exists within the modern Labour Party could do worse than think about those three objectives. Those on the right wing of the Labour Party are not so enthused about objectives two and three.

In the mid-1880s, Annie Besant enjoyed affluence and a comfortable home in the West End of London. Unlike most of her neighbours she was willing to visit the East End and talk to the poor. She also spent time in the Reading Room of the British Museum.   She discussed politics with Eleanor Marx and George Bernard Shaw. Edith Nesbitt who wrote The Railway Children would sometimes attend.   There were others but Besant missed the chap whose library card was issued in the name of Jacob Richter. Worried about being discovered by the authorities Richter concealed his real name, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin.

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Independent of Lenin the radicals of London protested about economic unfairness and how the British were behaving in Ireland. William O’Brien an Irish MP organised a rent strike on the estate of Lady Kingston near Michelstown in County Cork. This was followed by a demonstration of 8000 locals. The demonstration was led by MP John Dillon. At the Courthouse in Michelstown three demonstrators were shot dead by the police and others were wounded. O’Brien was imprisoned under the Coercian Act.   In 1887 the Metropolitan Radical Federation, the Irish National League, the Social Democratic Federation, the Socialist League and the Irish National League combined to organise a mass protest in Trafalgar Square.   The chants of the crowd challenged the imprisonment of O’Brien and demanded Irish Home Rule, free speech and economic reform.   Soon to be a failed Ripper catcher, Sir Charles Warren was the Commissioner Metropolitan Police. His appointment was welcomed by the Press but he was criticised for the provocative way the police treated demonstrators in Trafalgar Square. Some of the 30,000 protestors suffered beatings, and there were hundreds of arrests. A young clerk Alfred Linnel was trampled to death by a police horse. Annie Besant was annoyed because she was not arrested. From a prison cell or inside a court her legal and journalistic skills would have enabled her to add more notoriety to what had happened in Trafalgar Square.

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At a Fabian Society lecture in June 1888 Annie Besant heard Clementina Black discuss ‘Female Labour In London’. The next day Besant took three colleagues from her left wing paper The Link and interviewed women as they finished their shift and left the Bryant and May match factory. The owners of Bryant and May were Quakers and Liberals. They believed they were good employers. Besant published a report of the conditions. The women worked for low wages, suffered heavy fines for minor misdemeanours and had to eat in the factory where their food was contaminated with white phosphorous.

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Besant sent a copy of her report to the company directors. The report was dismissed as a ‘tissue of lies’. Factory foremen tried to bully the female employees into signing a statement that said the conditions were satisfactory.   The workers refused, several women were sacked and the workforce walked out. Lewis Lyons arrived at the factory the next day. Lyons wanted the women and girls to form a union. He was arrested for obstruction but the female pickets demonstrated at the police station until Lyons was released. Lewis Lyons was the leader of the Jewish tailors. Annie Besant had provided bail for Lyons in 1885.

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Helped by Besant and SDF member Herbert Burrows the women formed a Union of Women Matchmakers. On 8 July 1888 they held a rally at Mile End Waste before marching through the City into the West End. On the way they collected donations.   They stopped and rested at 40 Berner Street.   Louis Diemshutz, the man who discovered Ripper victim Liz Stride, may have still been around to serve them tea and biscuits. On 13 July 1888 Bryant and May stated they would not concede to the demands of the workers. The strikers wanted the women who had been sacked to be reinstated, the system of fines to cease and the provision of a separate area where the match girls could eat their food. The directors talked of relocating to Scandinavia and using scab labour but within two weeks they accepted the demands of the strikers.

Annie Besant supported the strike. Both her celebrity and presence at the factory gates were important to the cause but Besant denied ever being the leader. The women who led the strike were Alice France, Kate Slater, Mary Driscoll, Jane Wakeling and Eliza Martin. The women belonged to close knit and politically aware Irish communities. Some of the women knew Besant from her campaigns on behalf of Irish independence.

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Annie Besant continued to be a campaigner for political and economic reform until 1890. The Match Girls Strike inspired other workers to form a trade union. The Great Dock Strike in London began in the summer of 1889.   On the 25th of August a parade of 50,000 people headed towards the City. Brass bands, banners, horse-drawn boats and street theatre players made it feel like a carnival. Two days later the Evening News estimated that 130,000 workers in London were on strike. In Hyde Park around the end of August, 100,000 people gathered to listen to speakers on 20 platforms. Despite pressure from ship owners the dock owners refused to improve the conditions of the workers. Strikers were suffering, and rent arrears were increasing. A £1500 cheque, though, was paid to the strikers by the Brisbane Wharf Labourers’ Union. More cash followed, thousands of pounds were raised by Australian unions and amateur football clubs.   The dock companies were obliged to negotiate and concede sixpence an hour wages.   The system of daily hire continued but workers had to be hired for a minimum of four hours.

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Before the end of the year Annie Besant had met Helena Blavatsky and been converted to theosophy. The notion of establishing a universal wisdom that would unite all creeds and resist oppressors appealed to Besant. Theosophy promised that human beings through teaching could be improved. After her attempts at reforming Victorian society cleansing the human spirit was the next step. Besant did not lose her radical edge. The cause of theosophy took her to India.   She sympathised with the Indian people as much as she had her Irish ancestors. Besant championed home rule for India and in her quieter moments read about what was described in Britain as ‘the new unionism’, the legacy of the Match Girls Strike that she had supported.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.

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JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

36 BLOODHOUNDS

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This tale begins with a bark and ends with a bite. Bloodhounds have a sense of smell that enables them to follow trails up to two days old over difficult country. Their long noses are able to distinguish the scent of one individual from that of others.  The bark mentioned above appeared in the form of a letter to the Star newspaper.  The letter appeared on 8th September 1888, the day Ripper victim Annie Chapman was murdered.   The suggestion in the letter that bloodhounds could be used to help apprehend Jack the Ripper was not novel.  Bloodhounds have a sense of smell and so on.  In 1876 J H Ashforth of Nottingham had urged Lancashire Police to recruit bloodhounds. The dogs helped the police to convict murderer William Fish, so much for the rumour about cat food. The letter to the Star on 8th September alerted J H Ashforth. He raised his head, sniffed the air and wrote to the Commissioner Metropolitan Police, Sir Charles Warren. The Commissioner replied to the letter but took no further action. The letter from Warren has been described as courteous. Warren had consulted the police doctor. The view of Dr Phillips was that the bloodhounds would trace the blood of the victim rather than the killer.

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The opinion of Dr Phillips did not settle the matter. The double slaying of Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes on 30th September 1888 prompted an editorial in The Times the next day.  Readers were reminded about the success of the Lancashire Police when they had used bloodhounds. This inspired Percy Lindley to write to the newspaper.   Lindley, who just happened to be a breeder of bloodhounds, suggested that a couple of trained dogs be kept at the Whitechapel Police Station.   Lindley was not a lone voice.   H M Mackusick boasted he had the largest kennel of bloodhounds in existence. Mackusick added empiricism to the argument. ‘Ten well-trained bloodhounds would be of more use than a hundred constables in ferreting out criminals who have left no trace beyond the fact of their presence beyond.’ Not everyone agreed with top of the world Mackusick. Up in Yorkshire there was a long-standing suspicion of fancy ideas that were peddled by city types down south. Edwin Brough was a bloodhound breeder from Wyndgate near Scarborough. He doubted that English dogs were sufficiently well trained to operate in the crowded streets of Whitechapel.

Without ever being enthusiastic, Sir Charles Warren asked the Home Secretary Henry Matthews to approve a £50 purchase of a bloodhound and an additional £100 maintenance allowance for subsequent years. This would allow puppies to be trained and mentored by the original £50 bloodhound. Matthews approved the £50 purchase but refused to authorise the £100 annual allowance. In the money of today £50 is equivalent to £20,000.  Henry Matthews is remembered for his timidity as Home Secretary and even today the Home Office is not regarded as an example of streamlined efficiency.

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Back in 1888 on 6th October no nonsense Yorkshire man Edwin Brough left the Yorkshire Moors and arrived in London.   Brough had two trusted companions. These were his bloodhounds Barnaby and Burgho.   Trials began in Regents Park two days later on 8th October.  Barnaby and Burgho were able to track for nearly a mile a man who had been given a fifteen minutes start.  In the evening there was a second trial at Hyde Park. The trials continued and were successful. There were six in total. The hounds were not quick, presumably because they were a bit sniffy, but Barnaby and Burgho were able to follow a scent and trace its owner.

But if there were a heaven, that place where good doggies go in the Elvis song Old Shep, someone would complain about the altitude. A less than principled journalist reported that the dogs had been lost on Tooting Common. This was not true. What happened was that on 18th October a sheep was killed on the Common and this incident inspired invention by journalists. The Press and its readers expected Barnaby and Burgho to be put to work.  Unfortunately, they were back up North with Edwin Brough and breathing fresh Yorkshire air.   Brough was not an enthusiast like top of the world Mackusick. His relationship with the Metropolitan Police soon became odorous. The Metropolitan Police were not quick in making payments to Brough for the use of his dogs, and Brough needed some brass to live on and perhaps buy more bloodhounds.  Burgho was versatile and had an alternative career.  He was put into a show in Brighton.

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In the spirit of compromise Barnaby had been lent to a friend of Brough that lived in London. When Barnaby was summoned to assist in catching a burglar, Brough was unimpressed. Policemen had walked all over the burgled premises and ruined the scent. The burglary had also been committed at five in the morning and some hours before Barnaby was recruited to help. Brough did not receive any payment from the police for the efforts of Barnaby. Nor was he given assurance about compensation if Barnaby were injured by a criminal.

Meanwhile Warren was making limited progress. Matthews somehow relented and gave approval for Warren to pay for Barnaby to be insured and to cover the cost of hiring a puppy that could be trained with the accomplished bloodhound from Yorkshire.  By then, though, Brough had said enough was enough. He was almost as sniffy as his bloodhounds. By the time the money was approved Barnaby and Brough were already home in Yorkshire, two disillusioned creatures bored with fighting crime and dealing with what they regarded as southern softies.

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In 1904 Edwin Brough became an author.   His book was titled The Bloodhound And It’s Use In Tracking Criminals. The pages are now dog-eared but this text remains valuable if controversial, something to chew on. ‘It is a very significant fact that at the time of the ‘Jack the Ripper’ outrages in the East End there were no murders committed during which Sir Charles Warren had arranged for a couple of Bloodhounds to be kept in London, but directly it was announced that the hounds had been sent back, another of this series of horrible murders was perpetrated.’

Aye, happen, as they say in Yorkshire. Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes were murdered on 30th  September, and Mary Jane Kelly was murdered on 8th November, forty days or not quite six weeks later.   Brough, though, did not arrive in London until 6th October.  Bloodhounds were not seen on the streets of Whitechapel.  Barnaby was used in one instance and his purpose was to detect crime. The dogs were not a deterrent. But dog lovers may take offence and believe that it was Barnaby that drove the Ripper indoors to kill Mary Jane Kelly. When the police arrived at the home of Kelly after her murder, they waited outside her home for two hours before breaking down the door. The reported reason is that the detectives were waiting for Barnaby to arrive and to somehow detect the scent amidst the heat and carnage that was inside the home of Mary Kelly. No one, it appears had told the detectives that Edwin, Burgho and Barnaby were already in Scarborough.

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The bite that ends the tale is this. The typical Ripper book is fattened with indexes that detail the various participants, victims and suspects. Reference is made to what happened to Brough, Barnaby and Burgho within the various accounts but their names are usually overlooked in an index. Brough was at least able to write a book and be remembered that way. Barnaby and Burgho were willing workers and compared to their colleagues in the Metropolitan Police the two bloodhounds had a special kind of integrity.   A mention in the index for Barnaby and Burgho is not too much to ask.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.