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THE MURDER OF MINNIE MORRIS . . . The Walsoken Outrage (Part three)

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THE MORTAL REMAINS OF MINNIE MORRIS were laid to rest in Walsoken Cemetery on the afternoon of Friday 19th July 1912. The newspapers reported:

The officiating clergyman was the Rev. G. A. A. Finch, of Loughborough, who is in charge of the parish whilst the Rector (the Rev. J. Young) is on his holidays. The first part of the service was conducted in the church. The funeral was largely attended, it being estimated that there were quite 300 fruit pickers -from all parts of the district present.

The scene was a very impressive one, for many of the pickers, who are generally so light-hearted, were greatly touched by the solemn ceremony, and numerous were those who were moved to tears as the coffin was lowered into the grave. The chief mourner was the mother of the girl and for her much sympathy had been shown in the parish, a collection on her behalf amounting to £1. The girl’s sweetheart, a London bricklayer, came down to see her body, but was unable to wait for the funeral. There were nearly a dozen floral tributes, one from the mother, and the others, from pickers. Most of the wreaths were made by a Mrs. Love, wife of the copperman at Mr. J. S. Batterham’s farm, where the girl had been working.

On the spot where the body of Morris was found, a cross has been cut in the turf and flowers have been laid on the cross. On Sunday hundred, of people visited Burrett Road to see the spot. The charge of murdering Morris which has been preferred against Robert Galloway. – of No. I Angola Mews, Babington-road, North Kensington, to be investigated at a special sitting of the Marshland Magistrates at Wisbech today (Friday).

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Headline2The inquest on the body of Morris was conducted at the Bell Inn, Old Walsoken, on Wednesday 24th July. Presiding was  the District Coroner (Mr. R. A. Wilkins). Supt. Powles represented the police. The morning was to be dramatic. The victim’s mother. Mrs. Springfield, was the first witness to be recalled, and when she entered the room she looked at Galloway, gasped for breath, and then crying said between her sobs:
“That is the villain.” Stating that her husband was outside ill. she signed the deposition. As she was rising from her seat she said:
“My sister said she would look after her; What this man wanted to kill my daughter for. I don’t know. She never did anyone any harm. He got into the company of the girl, and I quite understand he got jealous. Oh God love her.”
The Coroner: “Do not get excited.”
Mrs. Springfield: “It is cruel. Look at the man. (Then to Galloway): Look at me – look at her mother. (Lifting her hands as a warder stood in front of her, and between her and Galloway): I would if I dare. You scamp, you dirty dog, you villain.”

The witness, who was crying as she was speaking, then left the room. It transpired that the man who cut the cross on the spot where the body was found, and filled the cross with flowers, was James Long, an employee of Mr. Blunt. The Coroner said it was a very nice idea. and quite refreshing after the brutal things they had been listening to.

The grim wheels of the legal process ground ever onwards. The next stage in the process was the police court in Wisbech on 1st August. The findings were never in doubt, but Galloway’s behaviour remained bizarre. He had now decided to opt for an insanity plea.

Police Court
Mr Justice DarlingGalloway remained under lock and key for the next three months, but in October he had to face the finality of justice. At the Norwich Assizes in October his belated attempt to plead insanity cut no ice with either the jury or Mr Justice Darling (right). He was sentenced to death and on the morning of Tuesday 5th November he had no option but to keep his appointment with Thomas Pierrepoint and his assistant George Brown. Newspaper reports said:

“He walked firmly to the scaffold, and death was instantaneous.”

Prior to 1887, Norwich prison – and its gallows had been within the walls of the castle, but Galloway’s last days would have been spent in the institution on Knox Road, and his remains presumably lie therein.

Minnie Morris’s body lies in a quiet corner of Walsoken cemetery, forgotten, unmarked and unvisited. Her family were poor, and unable to afford a headstone. Thanks to the efficiency of the District Council we know her last resting place, and I was able to put some flowers on the spot. If you click on the media player at the bottom of this feature, you will hear a lovely old hymn, written by Ira D. Sankey, which reminds us of our mortality.

Grave

Plaque

THE MURDER OF MINNIE MORRIS . . . The Walsoken Outrage (Part one)

HeaderThese days when Fenland fruit needs picking, the hands that do the work will belong to people who come from places like Vilnius. Klaipeda, Varna, Daugavpils, or Bucharest. Back in the day, however,the pickers came from less exotic places like Hackney, Hoxton or Haringey, and the temporary migration of Londoners to the Wisbech area was an established part of the early summer season. In the autumn, the same people – predominantly women and children, might head south to the hop fields of Kent, but in the July of 1912 the Londoners were here in Fenland.

One of the farms in the area which welcomed the London visitors was that of John Stanton Batterham, of Larkfield, Lynn Road, Walsoken. His house still stands:

Larkfield

He was to play no direct part in the tragedy that unfolded on the afternoon of 16th July, 1912, but some of the people who worked for him – and two in particular – were key players.

Minnie Morris has been hard to trace using public records. Her mother, Minnie Gertrude Morris had married (a re-marriage) John M Stringfield in the autumn of 1911, but the 1901 census has her living with a Henry Morris (who was almost twice her age) in Grays Inn Buildings, Roseberry Avenue, Holborn. Also listed is a daughter, also called Minnie, born in Hoxton in 1891.

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Minnie junior is hard to locate in 1911, but on the other side of town, in North Kensington, a young man named Robert Galloway was living with his large family in Angola Mews:

Galloway census

To call Robert and Minnie “star-crossed lovers” is probably pushing the Shakespeare analogy a step too far, but their paths crossed in the summer of 1912. Both turned up, from different parts of the country, to pick fruit for Mr Batterham. It seems that the hours were flexible, and there was money to be handed over the bar in The Black Bear, and the Bell Inn. The Black Bear still thrives, despite the curse of lock-down, but the Bell Inn is long gone. (below)

Old Bell

William Tucker, labourer, Old Walsoken, said he came from London in May last for fruit-picking. He knew Minnie Morris for a few months, and he met her in London. He saw her in the Bell Inn Walsoken, in June. He used to meet her about four times a week and was fond of her. He used to give her grub and spend evenings with her.”

Galloway was described as a seaman in contemporary reports, but there is no evidence to support this. Perhaps the term suggested something exotic and dangerous, and journalists at the time would be as aware of ‘clickbait’ as we are today, even though they might have used a different term. He was clearly violently jealous, and anyone paying court to Minnie Morris was regarded as a mortal enemy.

On 11th July there was a clashing of heads in the Black Bear inn.

Galloway saw William Tucker and Minnie Morris drinking together in the Black Bear inn. Galloway said: “Minnie. I want to speak to you.
She replied: “I’m all right where I am.”
Tucker and Minnie Morris then went out of the inn and stood talking. Galloway said the girl:

“If I don’t find you I’ll find him”, meaning William Tucker.

Over a century later, it is hard to come to any other conclusion other than that Robert Galloway was obsessed with Minnie Morris, and his feelings were that if he couldn’t have her, then no-one could.

IN PART TWO

A fateful stroll
A case for the police












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