Ducks at Mavis Mill

Warning, This story has content that some people may find upsetting.

In March 1914, Miss Jeannie Stratton came out her farm home at Mavis Mill, on the boundary of Blantyre and Cambuslang and met a horrific sight.

That first Sunday of March, under the root of a large tree on the riverbank of the Calder, she saw that her ducks were lying dead, each with their throats cut. With nobody about, the atrocity had clearly been done by a human, and being concerned about people creeping about previously on the riverbank at their property, police were fetched.

Wanting to catch whoever did this, the Stratton family and police came up with a plan. The ducks were replaced and the police hunkered down for the long haul, hiding nearby. Constables McIlhatton and MacDonald each hid themselves behind a hedge near the ducks and awaited developments. They didn’t have to wait long, for the following night around 9pm, they heard somebody crossing from the Blantyre side of the river. The persons companion emerged also and the two intruders made their way over to the ducks.

As they each lifted a duck, the police pounced out, giving the intruders a fright, causing them to start running off down the river. The two constables knee deep in water gave chase.

When the police shouted they wanted the men to come to the police station, the intruders put up a fight. A fight ensued as the men each fell into the water. One of the intruders fell into a deeper pool. but still managed to attack, punch and kick one of the officers. Meanwhile, the other man egged on two whippets which had accompanied the intruders, to attack the other officer, biting his left hip, puncturing the skin. The intruders both fought like madmen, knowing what would await them if they were caught. It was all in or nothing.

However, both officers drew their batons and managed to subdue one of the men, by beating them him around the head, whilst the other escaped. The captured man was dragged back to the farm by the two officers who found nearby a poachers net, some pellets and catapult.

The captured man was Terence Kelly a miner of Newton who soon gave up the name of neighbour John Stevenson, also a miner of Clyde Street, Newton. The police swooped on the house of Stevenson to find him wearing a suit, but on inspection of the bedroom found a wet suit hanging up drying.

The men appeared in Hamilton Sheriff Court at the end of March, both pleading not guilty, but the evidence was overwhelming. Both men admitted poaching but wanted rabbits, claiming they knew nothing of slaughtered ducks. The police came under scrutiny too, being accused of putting the mens head under the water, something the men claimed they fought back only in self defence. Kelly claimed he had been hit so hard on the head, he had no idea who or what he was fighting back against.

Sheriff Shennan found the pair guilty. Kelly fined £3 or 20 days imprisonment and Stevenson £2 or 15 days.

Photographed: Thomas Stratton stands guard on the riverbank at Mavis Mill looking out towards the Blantyre side.

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