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Subject: ‘Famous crimes’
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Posted in America, Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Law on Wednesday, 22 May 2013
This edited article about the American Wild West originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 262 published on 21 January 1967.
Cole Younger, a member of the Jesse James Gang, in a shoot-out at Northfield
Surrounded by a posse of armed horsemen, a creaking hay-wagon rolled into the little Minnesota town of Madelia. The citizens flocked to watch its arrival, for on the straw lay three badly wounded outlaws, the famous Younger Brothers who rode with Jesse James and his gang.
‘Cole’ Younger was the most badly hurt of the trio. But even though he had 11 bullets in his body, he managed to climb to his feet, remove his brimmed hat and bow to the ladies of Madelia as they timidly watched the prisoners being escorted to jail.
Born on 15th January, 1844, Cole Younger became one of the most daring and romantic outlaws of the Old West. He and his brothers teamed up with Jesse James who specialised in robbing trains and banks. To many people, Jesse James was a modern Robin Hood.
In the period following the Civil War in America, the James gang had the sympathy of the Confederate supporters, who believed it was the ‘Damn Yankees’ who had driven Jesse James and Cole Younger to their wild way of life.
The redeeming feature of Cole was his great sense of humour. Once when he was being hunted in several states, he became a government census taker in Texas, spending his spare time singing in a local church choir. Little did the other choir members realise that the burly, good-looking man with the powerful bass voice was a desperado with a price on his head!
Cole received the wounds that ended his career of crime on 7th September, 1876, when the James gang raided the First National Bank at Northfield, Minnesota. They rode up in true outlaw style, entered the bank and held up the cashier. He tried to give the alarm and Jesse James shot him down.
The sound of the gun alerted the citizens of the town. As the gang ran out of the bank to their waiting horses, they were met by a hail of bullets. For the next 30 minutes a battle raged between the James gang and the townsfolk.
When three of the gang had been killed and the Younger Brothers were lying wounded in the dust, Jesse James gave the order to retreat. Firing as they went, the gang swept out of town, leaving the Youngers behind them.
It was the outlaws’ last raid. Not long afterwards Jesse was killed by one of his own men, who wanted to collect a reward.
Cole Younger and his two brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Posted in Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Politics on Wednesday, 22 May 2013
This edited article about Spencer Perceval originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 262 published on 21 January 1967.
John Bellingham assassinating the Rt Hon Spencer Perceval in the Lobby of the House of Commons, 11 May 1812, by George Cruikshank
In the small hours of the morning of 2nd May, 1812, Mr. John Williams, a respected mine-owner of Redruth, in Cornwall, awoke from a vivid and disturbing dream. It worried him so much that he awoke his wife and told her, but she only laughed and told him to go back to sleep.
Mr. Williams did so, but twice more he had the dream.
“I dreamed that I was in the lobby of the House of Commons – a place well known to me. A small man, dressed in a blue coat and white waistcoat, entered – and immediately I saw another man take a pistol from under his coat and point it at the little man.
“The pistol was discharged and the ball entered under the left breast of the person at whom it was directed. I saw the blood issue from the place where the ball had struck him and he fell to the ground. Upon inquiry who the sufferer might be, I was informed that he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”
Next morning, Mr. Williams was so troubled that he wondered whether he ought to go to London and make an official statement. Friends persuaded him not to, but it might have been better for Spencer Perceval, Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, if Mr. Williams had made known his dream. A little over a week afterwards Perceval was murdered in the House of Commons in exactly the manner that Williams had seen in his dream.
The assassin was a man called Bellingham, whose career had been as disastrous as Perceval’s had been fortunate. Bellingham’s father had died in a lunatic asylum and Bellingham was himself probably insane. A series of business ventures he commenced all failed and culminated in a bitter experience in Russia. An insurance company with which he was connected refused to pay compensation on a Russian ship lost at sea, and Bellingham was made the scapegoat. He suffered five years’ imprisonment and returned to England nursing a burning grievance against the British Government, which had been unable to obtain his release from prison.
Back in England, Bellingham pestered everyone who would listen to an account of his wrongs. He approached Perceval with a request that a petition should be presented to Parliament, but the Prime Minister was unable to grant the request. Bellingham then had the petition printed and circulated to all members of the Commons.
It failed in its purpose and the failure seems finally to have turned his brain. On 11th May he stationed himself quite openly in the lobby of the House and, when Perceval arrived, he fired. The Prime Minister died almost immediately and Bellingham made no attempt to escape. Indeed, when an officer of the House called out “Where is the rascal that fired?” Bellingham stepped forward. “I am the unfortunate man.” He was tried and executed a week later, despite the fact that he was obviously not responsible for his actions.
Meanwhile, in Cornwall, Mr. Williams anxiously scrutinised the infrequent newspapers. He was beginning to believe that his dream had been nothing more than a dream, when, on 13th May “my second son, returning from Truro, came in a hurried manner into the room where I was sitting and exclaimed: ‘Father, your dream has come true. Mr. Perceval has been shot in the lobby of the House of Commons.’ ”
Posted in Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Royalty, Superstition, World War 1 on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about World War One originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
Princip shot the Archduke and then his wife, by Neville Dear
The whole of the Austrian Royal Family was opposed to the marriage. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, it was pointed out, was heir to the thrones of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, but Countess Sophie Chotek was merely a lady-in-waiting. If the marriage took place, she would be treated as a ‘commoner’, and not as her husband’s equal.
Despite this threat, Franz Ferdinand married his Sophie on 28th June, 1900.
As they were leaving the church, an old gypsy woman burst through the crowd and ran up to the Archduke.
“Tell your fortune, Your Imperial Highness?” she asked.
Franz Ferdinand nodded his permission and held out his hand. The gypsy gazed into his palm and then looked solemnly at him.
“You will loose a great war,” she prophesied.
The young newlyweds turned to each other and laughed; they were not going to let anyone – the Royal Family or a gypsy – spoil their happiness.
But their joy was only to last until their 14th anniversary when the tragic consequences of their marriage brought about the start of the First World War.
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Posted in Animals, English Literature, Famous crimes, Legend on Monday, 13 May 2013
This edited article about Dick Turpin originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 253 published on 19 November 1966.
Dick Turpin's ride to York on Black Bess by Ronald Simmons
Dick Turpin’s famous ride from London to York is, alas, a case of The Ride That Never Was – and the same applies to his equally celebrated horse, Black Bess!
Richard Turpin, the son of an Essex innkeeper, was born in 1706. He was apprenticed to a butcher, but took to cattle-stealing instead, and joined a brutal gang of smugglers and thieves who terrorised the Essex countryside. He then teamed up with a notorious highwayman, Tom King, but accidentally shot him when trying to save King from being arrested. The dying highwayman gave information about Turpin, who escaped from London to Yorkshire (but not by a headlong ride), and it was there that he was finally captured. He died bravely on the gallows at York in 1739.
The legend of the ride was built up by Harrison Ainsworth in his romance, Rookwood (1834), but the real rider seems to have been a highwayman known as ‘Swift John Nevison’, who in 1676 robbed a sailor at Gadshill in Kent at 4 a.m. one morning and reached York at 7.45 p.m. the same day, to establish an alibi that he could not have been at Gadshill. He covered roughly 190 miles in just under 16 hours.
Posted in Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, London, Politics, Religion, Royalty on Saturday, 11 May 2013
This edited article about Guy Fawkes originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 251 published on 5 November 1966.
Guy Fawkes was born of a good Yorkshire family and brought up in the Protestant faith. But when his mother married again, a man with many friends in the Roman Catholic faith, he became a Catholic, too.
He also became involved in a plot being hatched by a group of fanatical Catholics who realised that they would gain nothing from the recent accession of the Protestant King James I to the English throne. While Fawkes was fighting in Flanders, one of the conspirators, Thomas Winter, persuaded him to join the plotters.
The plan which gradually took shape was to blow up the King and his ministers in Parliament, and, in the turmoil which would follow, to grasp the reins of government.
The deed was planned for the day that Parliament reassembled for its next session, which after several changes, was fixed for 5th November, 1605. A building next door was rented, and here the gunpowder lay hidden beneath a woodpile, awaiting the fatal match.
Guy Fawkes was a brave man. That was why he was chosen to carry out the terrifying crime.
But warning of what was to befall was sent to a member of the House of Lords. Guy Fawkes was caught red-handed in the vaults, surrounded by the evidence of his treasonable intentions. He and the other conspirators were executed in January 1606.
Posted in America, Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Law on Monday, 22 April 2013
This edited article about the Pinkerton detective agency originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 230 published on 11 June 1966.
Agents of the Pinkerton Detective Agency arresting bank robbers with (inset) the agency logo
Passengers on the night train from Philadelphia to Baltimore were curious about the invalid with the tartan shawl over his head who had reserved the last three compartments of the sleeping car. The conductor was told he was being taken to see a famous specialist. And a friend of the sick man said that “the poor chap must not be disturbed” on any account.
There were no crowds waiting to meet the train when it steamed into Baltimore at half-past three in the morning. The streets were deserted as the sleeping car was uncoupled and hauled by horse across the city to another station, where it joined a train to Washington, the capital.
The sick man and his party were undisturbed until they reached Washington, shortly after six. Then the invalid left the sleeping car, still with his shawl pulled over his head. Accompanied by his friend, he walked briskly out to the carriage that was waiting for him. Before entering it, he warmly bade goodbye to his friend and said, “Thank you for making it such a safe journey, Mr. Pinkerton.”
“Don’t mention it, Mr. Lincoln,” the man replied. “I was only too happy to help keep you alive!”
The carriage, containing Abraham Lincoln, the president-elect of America, set off for his hotel. An attempt to assassinate Lincoln before his inauguration as President had been foiled by an imaginary illness, a tartan shawl – and a bearded Scottish detective named Allan Pinkerton.
It was Pinkerton who had played the part of the “invalid’s” friend with such conviction. He had been warned of a plot to shoot Lincoln as he changed trains at Baltimore, and had persuaded him to leave for Washington in secrecy and ahead of schedule.
The president-elect had many enemies who felt he looked too kindly on the slaves in the Southern states. Some of them were prepared to murder him rather than let him take office.
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Posted in Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, London, Royalty on Tuesday, 16 April 2013
This edited article about Colonel Blood originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 226 published on 14 May 1966.
Colonel Blood stealing the Crown Jewels
On May 9, 1671, Colonel Thomas Blood was in the Jewel House at the Tower of London slipping the crown of England under his cloak.
Blood was an Irish adventurer who had served in Cromwell’s army. After the Restoration of Charles II, his fortunes took a turn for the worse and he found himself desperately short of money. So he decided to help himself to the Crown Jewels!
Disguised as a clergyman, Blood paid several visits to the Jewel House and became very friendly with Thomas Edwards, the keeper. On the afternoon of May 9, 1671, he called on Edwards, accompanied by three men whom he introduced as parishioners up in London for the day and most anxious to see the regalia.
The unsuspecting Edwards unlocked the door of the Jewel House, and ushered the party in. Edwards was speedily knocked down and the conspirators fell upon the case. Blood slipped the crown under his cloak, one of his “parishioners” did the same with the orb, and another began filing the sceptre in two so that it could be concealed.
At this critical point, Edward’s son John unexpectedly appeared and raised the alarm. The thieves tried to make an escape but were caught as they mounted their horses.
Not the least extraordinary part of this affair was that Blood was not brought to trial. Instead he received a pardon from Charles II. Perhaps the Merry Monarch was amused by the audacity of the attempt to steal his crown!
Posted in Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Politics, Royalty, Scotland on Thursday, 28 March 2013
This edited article about Scotland originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 214 published on 19 February 1966.
When William III succeeded to the Kingdom of England and Scotland in 1688, many of the Highland clans continued to support the deposed Stuarts. Civil war smouldered in the Highlands. Gradually, William brought the rebellion under control. In 1691 he promised a pardon to all rebels who before December 31, 1691, swore allegiance to his Government.
Among William’s opponents were the Maclans of Glencoe, a branch of the Clan Macdonald. On December 30, 1691, their chief went to Inverary to swear on their behalf before a magistrate, but bad weather prevented him from getting there until January 6, 1692. He then took the required oath.
William’s affairs in Scotland were being administered by the Dalrymple family. Viscount Stair, head of the Dalrymples, was President of the Court of Session. His son, the Master of Stair, was Secretary of Scotland. Both saw in the late signing of the oath an opportunity to settle old scores.
Reporting to the King that Maclan had not taken the oath, the Master of Stair asked that, as the Macdonalds were still in rebellion, their chiefs should be brought to trial. King William signed an order to that effect, but did not realize that all the Macdonalds were to be exterminated as well.
The order was to be carried out by the Campbells. Arriving in Glencoe on February 13, 1692, supposedly to discuss the end of the feud, the Campbells were received by the Macdonalds. That night they fell on the Macdonalds, killed nearly all the menfolk, burnt their houses and stole their cattle. A few survived to escape to the mountains.
Posted in America, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Law, Transport, Travel on Friday, 15 March 2013
This edited article about the Wild West originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 199 published on 6 November 1965.
Wolves, Indians and bandits threatened the Wells Fargo stagecoach
Film-Makers have often been accused of exaggerating the history of the Wild West, but they would find it hard – in fact quite unnecessary – to add more drama, excitement and courage to the story of Steve Vennard.
The year was 1869. The place was a deep trail between great walls of rock linking Nevada City with Grass Lands, California. The subject, gold, which, taken from the ground in triumph by the miners, had to be transported to the assay office by stage coach, along a trail which might have been built as a highwayman’s dream, because anything passing along it was a sitting target from the undergrowth or the heights above.
This was the nightmare which faced the Wells Fargo transport company responsible for despatching the gold. They could do no more than pack it in strong boxes, load it aboard the coach and hope that it would get through. But in May, 1869, two boxes a week fell to the hold-up men.
“Why not save time and trouble?” said a newspaper sarcastically, “and hand the gold over to the highwaymen right away?”
Nobody laughed in the offices of Wells Fargo, for the company had to refund all losses out of its own assets.
Our real-life film is already underway without any artificial scripting – opening shots of the hold-ups on the trail, the Wells Fargo boxes being lifted down, with perhaps a corpse or two on the ground to show that the bandits meant business. The anxious conference in the Wells Fargo offices, with grim reports of losses incurred – and before them yet another box with its precious cargo to be sent along the same treacherous trail.
Then as in all good films, the moment produces the man – the lean alert figure of Steve Vennard, employee of Wells Fargo, who carried and handled a rifle as naturally as he wore clothes. It was decided that he should ride alongside the driver of the next coach – a tough little man named Majors.
With the box of gold and six passengers the long night journey began, tense but unadventurous.
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Posted in Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Politics, Royalty on Tuesday, 12 March 2013
This edited article about British prime ministers originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 188 published on 21 August 1965.
Spencer Perceval being assassinated by John Bellingham in the House of Commons by C L Doughty
A career begun in hardship, then dogged by a mad king, then violently, abruptly ended by a mad bankrupt: such was the unenviable lot of Spencer Perceval, Prime Minister of England.
But even before he achieved that sought-after post, even before he tasted ultimate political power, Perceval had made powerful friends and powerful enemies.
His beginnings were humble enough, giving no clue as to the turmoil – and even scandal – with which he would have to deal.
Born in London on November 1, 1762, educated at Harrow and Cambridge, both Spencer Perceval’s parents died before he was twenty-one. He was left with an income of £200 a year – which was not enough for a gentleman to live on – not, at least, without working. So he applied himself to the Bar, where, according to a contemporary “he was the delight of all who knew him.”
In 1790 Perceval published a political pamphlet which attracted the attention of the mighty Pitt himself. Pitt asked to see this young lawyer, and was favourably impressed by him.
As a result of this distinguished patronage, Perceval’s fortunes improved. He was retained to appear for the Crown in two trials, his reputation grew, and he became a Member of Parliament.
But while he won the friendship of Pitt, he gained the enmity of no less a personage than the Prince of Wales.
The two men – Perceval and the Prince – were of the same age. That was all they had in common. Perceval was moral, upright, staunchly conscientious, a man of integrity and a high-principled Tory. The Prince was the profligate son of George III, and his behaviour, or rather the lack of it, was the sensation of society. He gambled, surrounded himself with the lowest riff-raff, and incurred enormous debts.
Nor could George III control his monstrous son, because, there could be no doubt about it, the king was going mad.
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