LAW & ORDER – Tramps, Vagrants, Tinkers, Imposters

Accreditation the Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea 03/06/1870.


            It is not remarkable that watering places and seaside resorts should be the favourite haunt of tramps and vagrants, for such persons suppose naturally enough that these communities offer special advantages for the exercise of craft of those who live by preying. It has been assumed of late years that a number of these social pests has considerably diminished; nevertheless, whatever may be the case in towns, the country and the seaside and never be without a class of habitual vagrants – beggars, and pilfer is by profession. The great majority of the is mendicants are able bodied men, whose common pretence is, that they are in search of work, though most generally they are of the class who, from their particular constitution would rather die than work. There are, moreover, persons whom decent labourers would not allow to be so shaded with them. Many of them have been brought up in the workhouses; others are discharged soldiers of bad character, or even deserters from the Army; not if you are dissipated broken down workmen, who, while tramping in search of work, have acquired the tramp’s bad habits and love of idleness. Many of them have been brought up to crime but want the skill and daring necessary to success in their profession. They often make pretence of occupation under cover of which they approach houses to beg, steal, or bully unprotected women -they are vendor’s of steel pens, paper, laces; tinkers, china menders, umbrella repairers, and ballad singers. They are much given to small thefts, most of them are believed capable of any crime, though in fact they attempt but few crimes; for, after all, they are pulled creatures and feel that society with its police is too strong for them. About one fifth of these vagrants are women who generally travel with men, and process they are widows, and their husbands are ill or out of work. There is freemasonry among them, and the houses of those who are wont to disperse small sums and broken victuals to beggars are well known to them, and any new house of the kind is speedily recognised and made known to their followers. It is difficult to understand what are the pleasures of the unsettled and shifty mode of life; it is probable that freedom and the ability to live without working hard its chief attractions. They have been well described as wondering about “ready to commit any crime, but not planning any crimes; quite ready to rob, but very much afraid of large dogs; very courageous against unprotected women, but school sulkers’ when a broad shouldered labourer turns his eye their way; with no purpose except wondering, no restraint except hunger, no all except of getting drunk upon someone looking haul, nomads in the midst of civilisation, simple savages without resources.” These imposters are, however, occasionally detected, and for the sake of putting on guard the charitable disposed in this neighbourhood, we have called attention to the subject with a special reference to two recent cases of imposture, neither of which were, unfortunately, brought to justice. The week before last, a man, pretending to be lame, giving his name as George Baker, and stating that he had been 17 weeks in the North Riding Infirmary, at Middlesbrough row, with a broken thigh applied to a subscriber to the Convalescent home for a recommendation; though the man’s story was very circumstantial, and his lameness apparently genuine, a doubt was suggested to the mind of the subscriber, and it was decided to communicate with the Secretary of the Infirmary, and in the meantime, some temporary relief was given to the man, who professed to be penniless. The answer from the Infirmary was to the effect that no such person as George Baker, or any man with a broken thigh, was known to have been in the Infirmary at the time stated. The application was made on Saturday, and on the following Monday, the man appeared a game, but as the answer had not arrived from the Infirmary. He was put off till the evening; and it seems he then suspected detection, for he was seen the same evening, near Marske, walking without a stick and perfectly sound. The second case of the kind occurred last week, when a woman named Johnson, professedly residing in Redcar, appeared with many tears to the charity of several ladies in courtroom, stating that her child had died that day and her family were in great distress; some of the ladies gave her money, others clothes, at one house, however, in consequence of the indisposition of the lady (the woman always ask to see the mistress of the house). The master saw and cross questioned the woman, saying he would make enquiries next day, when it was found that the woman was a mere making impostor, and not resident in either Coatham or Redcar, and her name and description were given to the police. The morale of all this is that indiscriminate alms giving inevitably does more harm than good, and as cases of real poverty and distress undoubtedly exist, it is best and wisest to exercise our benevolence towards the sick and needy poor of our own district, and to turn a deaf ear to the plausible and mendacious stories of fragrance and imposters.


Lol Hansom July 20, 2013 Law & Order