Girl Pickpockets Remarkable Career

The run up to Christmas is exciting for most children, but for 11 year old Mary Ann Ward in 1914, not so much.

Blantyre lassie, Mary Ann found herself standing in the dock in Hamilton Sheriff Court on 14th December 1914, exactly 106 years ago today. The charge? Pickpocketing.

She lived at 67 Craighead Rows in Blantyre with her parents and Sheriff Shennan was in no mood for thieves that day. The girl pled not guilty to picking pockets in Blantyre, Burnbank and Hamilton and the case was suspended until the Wednesday, when she again stated a not guilty plea.

By then though, witnesses had been sought. Evidence was heard that the girl was in the habit of brushing up against her customers, generally women or girls in shops and deftly picking the purses out their pockets. On one occasion though she was caught with her hand in a girl’s pocket. A search was made of her bag and quite an array of purses were produced, some of them unable to be matched to owners.

The Sheriff concluded there was clearly a case for sending the girl to an “industrial school of remand”. She was to be photographed. He wanted a further week to think on what to do and meantime instructed she should be detained at “Pipe Cottage”, Hamilton. I’m unsure what “Pipe Cottage” was, but it doesn’t sound like a place she would enjoy.

Even in Victorian and Edwardian times, youths committing crimes were photographed for police records and just like the “mugshots” of today’s criminals there would have been some shame in having this done. Although Mary Ann is not pictured, these children pictured were photographed in a similar context and would explain their stern their guilty, stern faces.

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