COBBOLD – David (The Redcar Cabbie who they did not want in gaol)

Accreditation This interesting true story about a Redcar Cabbie who they did not want to keep in gaol, is provided by the Cleveland Standard 1934.

Old Redcar Cabby’s Amazing Tramp
From Newton to Durham Gaol
Astounding New Year Resolution

Mr David Cobbold is a man in a million. He’s the man they won’t have in gaol. Probably there is no other man such as him in the whole of the British Isles.

 On the last day of the old year he made a resolution that he would spend a month in Durham Gaol, but although he had been ordered by the Guisborough magistrates to pay a fine of £1, or undergo as many days imprisonment in respect of an alleged offence in connection with a bicycle and a light, he found that the prison authorities did not want him. Indeed they would not have him, and they told him to go home! Surely Cobbold’s was the most curious New Year Resolution there has ever been. Not only did he make up his mind to become a guest of His Majesty in Durham Gaol, but he walked from his store – known as “Ye Olde Village Stoppe,” in Newton-under-Roseberry. – thirty four miles to Durham. Starting off in 1933, he heard on his journey the bells peal in a joyous New Year, and reached his forbidding destination on the first day of 1934!

A Long, Long Trail

The remarkable story was told to our representative by Mr Cobbold himself. He explained that the adventure started on December 19th, when he was given fourteen in which to pay a fine. Not having paid the money, before the period of grace expired, Cobbold set off on his long tramp to surrender himself, because he was too proud, he said, to let his wife see him marched off under arrest.

“The reason I made my journey,” he said was because I feel I am an aggrieved person. I believe I have been the subject of a scandalous attack by certain people for twenty years. Now at last the bother is coming to a head.

As the fourteen days in which to pay were expiring, I expected they would come and arrest me and take me to gaol. I determined then that I would not let my wife see me degraded before the public gaze. So at 2.30 on Sunday, December 31, I left home. It was a fine frosty – I shall never forget it. I tramped every inch of the way, and arrived at Durham Gaol at 12.30 on Monday. I started in 1933, arrived in 1934, and heard the bells pealing in the New Year, as I tramped my way to prison.

“A curious welcome to the New Year, and yet, if the result is anything to go by, quite a good one.”

Just past Sedgefield I met two black cats – a lucky omen I thought at the time.

Roads Like Glass

            “At first the weather was glorious; there was a moon, and the roads were like glass, but later the frost gave way and it began to rain. I took with me some sandwiches and a big bottle of peppermint – see there is still some left,” Mr. Cobbold declared, pulling from his overcoat a large bottle which gave off a familiar, pungent odour.

            Mr. Cobbold went on to tell me how for many, many miles he scarcely met a soul, but that whenever he came to a policeman he spoke to him, said who he was and reported that he was on his way to Durham Gaol.

            I wanted to make absolutely sure that my whereabouts were know, in case there was a warrant out for me, or they were searching for the cycle lamp bandit! I wanted to be absolutely within the law.

I Never Owed A Penny In My Life

            “Of course I knew my time was not up till New Year’s Day, but I wanted to be there at the Gaol, because I am an Englishman, and because I have never owed a penny in my life, and because I have been married thirty – six years, and I was determined to spare my wife the shame of seeing me arrested.”

            “What happened when you got to the gaol?” our representative asked.

            Mr. Cobbold smiled, lit his pipe, lighted the naphtha lamp, for there is no electric light at Newton-under Roseberry. “I went straight to the Governor’s private house, and asked for Captain Scott. They told me he was in the prison. So then I knocked at the prison door, and a chap – I suppose he would be the warder – opened it.

            “I immediately shoved one foot inside. I told him what I wanted, and he said, “Get out; we cannot do with you here.”

Showed His Summons

            “I replied that I got one foot in any way, and that I was due to be there for one month’s imprisonment, showing my summons to substantiate it. He told me that they did not want me, could not do with me, and recommended me to go over to the house of the Chief Constable.

“I did. I went across to the Chief Constable’s house and told him my tale. He too said it was no use, that they could not deal wit me, and that I would have to walk the thirty-five miles back again before I could be arrested! I pleaded that I was in the eyes of the law a criminal, and that I had come to give myself up, but, while he was a quite a gentleman, and sympathised with me, he said I would have to go back.

“So back I tramped!

Given Turkey Sandwiches

            “The journey “back was not bad, and I did quite well. A gentleman took me in and gave me tea and turkey sandwiches! They were fine. I got lifts, too. It was striking twelve when I was cutting across the fields home.

            “I have no one bothered me yet, and I don’t know whether they will or not.”

            Mr. Cobbold is a very proud of his achievement in having walked 68 miles to and from Durham, and told our reporter that he believes it is known by everybody in Redcar. He was a cabby in the town for 25 years, and for seventeen years acted in business of his own. He ran a kind of “station bus” to the Swan, the Coatham, and the Globe (now the Drill Hall) hotels. All the children knew him. In his day he was just as much part of Redcar as the pier itself, or the sands. Riding on his dickey seat, with a word for everybody, he got to be known not only by the local citizens, but nearly every visitor.

How’s Old Dave

            “I am known by somebody in every part of the British Empire. Wherever the Union Jack is flown there is somebody knows ‘Old Dave.’ I was talking to a gentleman the other day. He had come from India, and he told me how on meeting someone in Rangoon, or Bombay, or some place there, the other said, “And how’s Old Dave going on?  Do you ever see him now?’ I tell you I was as well known as sea coal and now I’m, in Newton to get away from dear old Redcar. I do go down there often now. I told them all in a lecture in the High Street there what had been happening.”

            Mr. Cobbold and his wife during their many years in Redcar, collected hundreds of pounds for charities, with a beautiful street organ they purchased long ago when faced with adverse circumstances.

            For “Ye Old English Fayre,” in the Amusement Park, they collected huge sums, while the Prince of Wales’ Fund, the Salvation Army Self Denial Fund, the Distress Committees during the war, Lifeboat Institution, and other deserving causes, benefited considerably by their efforts.

            Mr. and Mrs. Cobbold have kept receipts for the various sums they have handed over, and of these they are justly popular.

            Newton, where he keeps his little store, is a popular resort of hikers and walkers. Under the shadow of the big cone of Roseberry, it attracts crowds of holiday-makers, who find it a delightful starting point for rambles in the beautiful Cleveland hills. It is extremely popular on Whit Monday.


GO TO GAOL. (yes)

GO DIRECTLY TO GAOL (yes, well sort of)


 Part 2

David Cobbold Turned From Gaol
His Second Visit
Tramp to London to See Home Secretary!

            Mr. David Cobbold, of “Ye Olde Village Shoppe, near Guisborough, still retains his title of “The Man they would not have in prison”

            Arrested a week ago last Wednesday, he was taken to Durham Gaol, but within a very short time – indeed, before he had been given the usual prison bath – he was a free man again.

            At the present time he is in London, for after he left Durham he tramped every inch of the way to the Metropolis, endeavouring to present the facts of his case to the Home Secretary in person.

            “This is all part and parcel of a huge scandal,” a 23 year – old scandal,” said Mr Cobbold in an interview shortly before he was arrested. “Here I am fined £1 or given the option of one month in prison, for supposed to be riding a cycle without a light, but it is a mere detail with others, of part of a great scandal which I am determined to expose.”

            “Nobody by my wife and members of my family can appreciate what, we have gone through during these 23 years,” he added. “It has been torment, it has been worse, and now I am determined to see that justice shall be done if it costs me even my life.”

            That story of the arrest was related to a “Cleveland Standard” representative by Mrs Cobbold.

            “Sergeant Wilson came to the house between 12 and 12.30pm on Wednesday and told us what he had come for.

            “My husband changes his clothes, and in a pocket was a wallet which I know had been examined and sealed at the bank.”

Strange Intuition

          “For some strange reason some mysterious intuition I think, David knew that he was about to be arrested, because on Tuesday night he never went to sleep. He just talked about other things the whole of the time.”
“I said to Sgt. Wilson, ‘You are not going to put the handcuffs on him, are you?’ and Mrs Cobbold was in tears as she brought her mind back to the incident..
The sergeant looked at me, and there was a kindly gleam in his eye as he said, ‘I know the kind of people I am dealing with.’
“I would like to thank Sgt. Wilson for his kindness, he was a perfect gentleman. There was nothing to complain about whatever. If every police official were like him, then my husband would not have had much cause for complaint, I think, nor would there be much scandal to expose.”

            “David left us.” Went on Mrs. Cobbold, “and the next day I think it was we had a letter from him, saying that he had left the gaol, how the sealed package had been opened by the officials and £1 extracted. I suppose they had taken this in order to pay the fine.

            “He told in the letter how they had given him supper in gaol, and a number, 6545, by which he signs himself in the letter, ‘Your husband, convict 6545.’ “

            Continuing, Mrs. Cobbold said, “He informed us that when the officials told him he could go, he said, ‘Yes but I have come here for a month, and I have been here before. I was here on New Year’s Day, and I got my foot in.’

            “We are not going to keep lads like you here,’ said the warder.

            “David also said in the letter that he had gone through all the formalities with the exception of having a bath.”

            “Later” said Mrs. Cobbold, “I learnt from a son of ours in Leeds, on whom David had called, that he had asked them which was his room.”

            “But where is Mr. Cobbold now?” I asked.

On London Bridge

          “Where is he now?” answered Mrs. Cobbold. “He wrote to us a post card, on which there was a London post mark, and the address ‘London Bridge,’ together with two letters, ‘O.K.'”

            “But how did he get to London?” I asked

            “He has tramped every inch of the way. He walked from Durham to Boroughbridge, then to Harrogate, and from then on to Leeds. It appears he called upon our son in Leeds and told him his story, of how Mr. Cobbold had got to the gaol at 4.24 and left again at 6.0p.m., which means that he was in prison for less than two hours.”

            “I have an idea that David has gone to see the Home Secretary himself. He always said he would try and see the Home Secretary and would never rest until he got to London and laid his case before some high authority.

            Mrs. Cobbold went on to refer to a personal matter, and continued:-
“there are some kindly people,” said Mrs Cobbold, “but there are others who point their fingers and touch their heads and nod in our direction. It hurts, oh, how it hurts.”

            “And now David is in London making his final effort in his own way.”

            “Would that he had an adviser, who could lay the facts before those in authority, because I am sure he would get some redress.”

Cobbold Writes To Us

            David Cobbold has written to us from London, giving details of his long, long tramp.

            Writing of London he states: “I arrived at London Bridge, 5.30 p.m., on January 16. I find I am known there, so don’t be surprised if they arrest me, because I don’t know how long I am out for. Apparently they think it would be better for my health walking. I am taking the fresh air cure 24 hours a day.

            I could not get a drink of tea coming south, although I was willing to pay for it..

            “You will see that I have tramped 300 miles looking for the thing they call justice.”

            The writer describes how he met a Redcar Middlesbrough fruit merchant in Covent Garden – how later he found Good Samaritans in London – a lady who lived over 30 years in Station Road, Redcar, Mrs. Cottan where he had been staying.

            “I fell asleep as soon as I got indoors. I am resting now. Then I am off looking for justice. If I can’t find it, I am making for home. Thank God I am still alive, footsore, but keeping my pecker up. Cheerio. My best wishes for the “Cleveland Standard,” and all it has done for me and my family.”

Accreditation This interesting true story was taken from the Cleveland standard 1934.




dean October 5, 2009 People & Characters