Valentine’s Day marred by yobs who end up in the dock

Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at a some less than romantic court cases from yesteryear...

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 3:59 pm
Not all Valentine cards were so happily received
Not all Valentine cards were so happily received

St. Valentine’s Day was celebrated with much enthusiasm in 1879 although at least one receiver of a Valentine’s greeting was far from happy.

Unfortunately Valentine’s are not always sent with the kindest of intentions as was revealed back in mid February 1879 at the Preston Police Court when the magistrates had a Valentine’s affair to deal with. Margery Coupe was summoned by Mary Mawdsley, a widow, for being riotous and disorde rly. The complainant stated that on the previous Tuesday night the defendant had visited her house and caused a great disturbance.

Coupe testified that she had received a Valentine that morning, and on reading it, she found that that it called her a ‘drunken slut’. When her husband came home she had shown him the Valentine, and he had put her out

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She suspected that Mawdesley had sent the Valentine, and therefore went to her house to tell her what she thought of her. What followed caused quite a commotion on the Mawdsesley’s doorstep with a large crowd gathering as Coupe made the use of most shocking language.

Only the timely intervention of the police prevented the altercation becoming violent. Mawdsley, who denied sending the offensive Valentine, did not want the matter to rest and was advised by the police to bring Coupe to court.

After the magistrates had discussed the matter the chief magistrate Mr. W. B. Roper informed the defendant that she must promise not annoy Mary Mawdsley in future.

The defendant replying, “Oh! Yes; I don’t want to touch her, if she won’t annoy me again.” The case was then dismissed with the defendant ordered to pay the court costs.

Coupe had got off lightly, but there was no love lost over Joseph Kennedy, described as a juvenile delinquent. He was not so lucky when he appeared in the dock later in the day accused of stealing a pistol.

According to pawnbroker, Mr. Drury, he had placed the pistol on his stall on the Orchard amongst an assortment of articles he had for sale. Apparently Kennedy had shown it to several other youths after taking it and when the police were informed he was arrested and admitted the theft.

The magistrates after a short deliberation ordered Kennedy to receive 12 strokes with a birch rod to be administered by Police Detective Welch at the Earl Street police station.

Preston was not the only place in Lancashire where a Valentine ended up with an appearance before the magistrates.

At the Liverpool Police Court a man named James Kilcoyne was charged with having assaulted Annie Kelly, a respectably attired young woman.

The prosecution stated that she was walking up Everton Brow with two friends when the prisoner, who appeared to be drunk, accosted her. She was engaged in reading a Valentine card at the time to her friends, and he endeavored to take it from her.

She pushed him away, whereupon he struck her with his fist on the breast and face. The prisoner chose not to justify his actions and he was committed to gaol for two months.

The magistrates commenting that it was a monstrosity that a respectable girl could not go along the street without being assaulted.

Inevitably, amongst the pleasure of Valentine’s there was also pain.