Italian pipers jailed for Preston knife attack on good Samaritans

Local historian Keith Johnson takes a look at street fight that resulted in two street musicians being jailed.

Thursday, 6th September 2018, 12:50 pm
Updated Monday, 10th September 2018, 5:07 pm
Italian piper James Maragh was treated at the Preston Royal Infirmary

On the first day of June in 1879 an incident took place in the afternoon down Turk’s Head Yard that led to a pair of wandering Italian pipers Joseph Delegher, 24, and James Maragh, 30, appearing at the Preston Police Court a fortnight later.

According to Michael Ryan, a grinder from Chorley, he was in Turk’s Head Yard along with Francis Day, a Preston butcher, when he saw Maragh abusing a women who travelled with the accused as a dancer. Ryan stated that he told the man to let her alone and after some angry words were exchanged Delegher came up.

At that point Maragh rushed at him with an open razor and a struggle followed that ended with Ryan receiving a five-inch long wound on his right cheek from the razor.

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Maragh then tussled with Day and urged Delegher to get involved.

Delegher then began waving a pen knife and threatened both men. Another struggle followed between all four of the men and this ended with Delegher striking Day on the cheek with the open pen knife.

At that moment PC Swarbrick, who had been alerted by the commotion, arrived at the scene, taking the prisoners into custody and arranging medical treatment for both Ryan and Day.

Once in custody Maragh claimed he had been kicked in the abdomen by one of the men and was taken to the Preston Royal Infirmary in Deepdale for treatment.

It was an accusation they both denied, although Maragh spent a few days in hospital.

Both the accused were remanded in custody, to await trial at the Preston Quarter Sessions in early July.

Arraigned on a charge of cutting and wounding the pair of musicians pleaded not guilty.

They appeared before magistrate Mr Charles Roger Jacson, the Vice Chairman of the Quarter Sessions, and as they were Italian and claimed they could not speak any English an interpreter was employed to translate the court proceedings for them.

Both Day and Ryan testified as to the events of the afternoon with Ryan saying he felt compelled to interfere to rescue the distraught female.

Dr Armiston spoke of dressing the wounds that had likely been made by the weapons indicated. Despite denying inflicting the wounds both the prisoners were found guilty as charged by the jury.

Mr Jacson then informed them that they were sentenced to three months incarceration, with hard labour.

He remarked that if they had been Englishmen and not foreigners they would have been imprisoned for twelve months.