St Helens 100 Years Ago This Week

In this, St Helens 150th year, we take a look back at 1918, when St Helens was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Read what was happening at that time, 12th to 18th March 1918.

This week’s stories include the shame of a famous Saints centre, the birching of a 12-year-old from Boundary Road, more on the Frederick’s ice cream theft, a cruel step-father and the anniversary of the Deeming murders in Rainhill. However the week began with an inquest on a new-born illegitimate child.

During the war some lonely women found it hard remaining faithful to their soldier husbands while they were abroad. Extra-marital affairs were frowned upon in the best of times but during wartime, the cheating women and their lovers were excoriated.

Annie Case from Holly Bank Street in Merton Bank went one step further. During the 2½ years that her husband Claude had been doing his duty, another man had made her pregnant. The guilty party was a fitter from Oxford Street called Joseph Davenport, who due to the nature of his work had been exempted from military service.

Annie had given birth to their baby on March 8th at 4am while she was alone in her house. It wasn’t until 12:30pm that she told anyone about the child and a midwife was called. The nurse found the baby to be dead and so she summoned the police.

The mother claimed that her child “appeared” to have been stillborn, however Dr Joseph Unsworth had a different opinion. The medical man from North Road told an inquest on the 12th at St Helens Town Hall that the baby had died from “inattention”.

The angry coroner F. A. Jones called for Joseph Davenport’s exemption from military service to be cancelled. However Det. Sgt. Bowden told him that he’d already spoken to the recruitment authorities and they said a man’s moral character was not their concern. Davenport had also got himself involved with another woman and the coroner called for the man’s name to be published adding: “It is well that the public should be on their guard against a scamp like this”.

A 12-year-old boy called Richard Bethell from Wilson Street (near Boundary Road) was ordered to receive six strokes of the birch on the 12th. The lad had stolen a watch from a pawnshop in Eccleston Street and then tried to sell it at Walter Finney’s watchmaker’s shop in Westfield Street. The suspicious owner called in the police and Richard admitted taking the watch in order to get money for the pictures. The boy will be back in trouble next month and be birched yet again.

There was worrying news from Earlestown on the 13th when a 10-year-old boy called Joseph Yamunabich was taken ill with spotted fever and died within hours. The police placed a cordon around Cherry Street – where the Yamunabich family lived – and were said to be taking all precautions. The newspaper reports said they were Russian Poles, but in the 1911 census the Yamunabichs are identified as a coal mining family from Lithuania.

There was a robust discussion at St Helens Council’s health committee meeting on the 13th about plans to slaughter horses for human food. However the debate was not about the principle of consuming horseflesh but the location of a dedicated abattoir. A building in Harris Street in Dentons Green had been selected but some committee members felt the existing Corporation abattoir should be used instead.

The St Helens Medical Officer of Health stated that in the four-week period up to March 2nd, 128 deaths had been registered in the town. Of these 3 deaths were from scarlet fever, 6 from diphtheria and 4 from measles. During the same period 110 people had contracted diphtheria, 62 scarlet fever, 21 tuberculosis, 398 measles, 135 whooping cough and 24 individuals in St Helens had contracted chicken pox.

David Traynor had been a famous Saints centre playing 160 matches for the club in two spells between 1896 and 1906. Rugby league historian Dave Dooley says his five tries in a Challenge Cup game against Leeds in 1897 had been a club try scoring record for about thirty years.

However Traynor’s reputation was badly tarnished on March 14th when he was sent to prison for six months with hard labour. The exact circumstances are unclear but appear very unsavoury. A newspaper report simply stated that Traynor had committed a “serious offence” against a Manchester boy.

The lad had run away from home and gone to Liverpool, intending to find work on a ship. However he was “picked up” by Traynor and brought to St Helens, where the offence against him was committed. A century ago newspapers would often censor the graphic details of certain types of crimes.


Read the rest of the article here

‘St Helens 100 Years Ago This Week’ has been a weekly feature on the Sutton Beauty & Heritage Facebook page since March 2016. The article is written and researched by Stephen Wainwright.


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