Sentence of 30 days imprisonment was imposed on William Sommerville Ritchie, a young unemployed farm servant, who appeared in custody before Sheriff Brown Hamilton Sheriff Court on Boxing Day 1933. He had pleaded guilty to 2 charges of breaking into a shed situated in Barnhill Nursery on Hunthill Road, on December 25th and opening two lockfast desks and attempting to steal there from; and (-) stealing six stones of potatoes from the Barn situated in the nursery. William admitted three previous convictions for theft. The Fiscal explained that the accused was 24 years of age and an unemployed farm servant. He broke into the shed using the true key which was hanging on a nail. He entered the shed with a pair of pliers or some other equipment and forced open the desks, The accused then stole a bag of potatoes weighing about 6 stones, which he hid in a wood. The police then kept watch on the wood and apprehended the their when he came back for them. When charged, William said he would do the same again until he got Parish relief for himself and his wife.
On December 1st, just 3 weeks earlier, he had got married and had been living with his wife’s family but over the last few days they had been living in a dug out on the banks of the River Calder. Mr David Baird, court writer, said Ritchie had been working as a farm servant until five weeks ago, when he became unemployed. Accused made application to the Public Assistance Department for outdoor relief. He was offered accommodation in the poorhonse, which he refused to accept. William Ritchie wanted money. He had no income whatever, and his wife had only 6 shillings per week by way of National Health Insurance. Accused’s motive for committing the crime, while a foolish one, had been to bring his claim for relief more forcibly to the notice of the Public Assistance authorities.
Stopping for a second, it must have been a dire situation to be living in a little shack on the edge of the river Calder, as a direct result of being made unemployed 5 weeks earlier. Even worse, to know that it was Christmas day, and the situation called for breaking into empty premises to steal potatoes. I hope William’s life story ended better.
Barnhill Nursery is now a modern home sitting on the corner of Broompark Road and Hunthill Road.
On social media:
Marian Maguire What a sad set of circumstances. Could you imagine the police nowadays, staking out a place for a sack of tatties.
Elaine Hunter Sad story