Hay Shed Theft, 1905

Here’s a great story which I hope you haven’t heard before. On 31st January 1905, three Blantyre boys were playing in a hayshed in Stonefield, Blantyre. On that Winter Tuesday afternoon, Robert Murdoch (17), Alsworth Laing (12) and Alexander Laing (11) were keeping warm by playing inside, when the two younger boys should in fact have been at school.

This was a day which wasn’t going to go well for them.

That same afternoon, nearby Mrs McGinnes left her Blantyre home to go to the bank at Glasgow Road to deposit £7, (a sum which today would be around £910). On the way, she called in first at the piggery at Stonefield, which belonged to her husband, with the intention of feeding the pigs. On the same premises, was the aforementioned hayshed, which one needed to enter to access the piggery at the back.

Upon hearing somebody approach and the door being accessed, the boys quickly ducked down behind the haw bales, hiding from Mrs McGinnes, who was utterly oblivious to them being there. She placed her purse containing the money down on the haybale, rolled up her sleeves and proceeded out the back access into the adjacent piggery.

Seeing opportunity, whilst Mrs McGinnes was feeding the pigs, the purse proved too tempting and they quickly removed it, then themselves from the hayshed, making their way out on to Glasgow Road and fleeing. I can only imagine what they thought when they opened the purse and saw such a sum of money. We’ll never know their true reaction but it is known that they made their way to a tram and headed away from Blantyre, towards connecting stops to Glasgow.

Upon her return to the hayshed, Mrs McGinnes was horrified to see the purse missing in the short time she had been next door and was perplexed as to who had taken it.

Now the story takes an even more dramatic turn. The boys had fled Blantyre, not just for the day, but had checked into accommodation in Glasgow, living a high life for a few days! Upon their return to Blantyre on the Saturday, the parents of the 2 Laing boys forced a confession, and by then news of the theft had spread to nearby homes so the parents decided to alert authorities, despite it being midnight!

Robert Murdoch, Alsworth and Alexander Laing found themselves in court the first Monday in February 1905, charged with the theft. In three days, they had spent £3, 4s and 8d (about £400), the remainder of the money being found in the purse, found in the possession of the older boy, Murdoch.

Robert Murdoch, already having a previous conviction was branded the ‘ringleader’ and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment. The two Laing brothers pleaded guilty to spending £1, 16s between them and due to their young age, were dealt with under the First Offenders Act.

It is not known if Mrs McGinnes was repaid in full.

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