In late February 1900, at Hamilton Sheriff Court, Elizabeth McCann, a 12-year old Blantyre girl stood in the dock awaiting to be charged. She was the daughter of William McCann, a miner who resided at Central Buildings on Glasgow Road.
She was charged with 3 different acts of theft from shops in Blantyre. The offences were committed between 24th January and 22nd February 1900 and the articles stolen were all items associated with keeping warm and dry in that winter. Five boys’ jackets, six pairs of boots and one pair of shoes, all of which were promptly taken to be pawned.
The theft is telling of a cold winter but there is more to the story for she was not intending to keep them for herself. Instead the court heard how the girl had been encouraged by her mother to steal the items from the shops and also told where to take them to afterwards, for the purpose of pawning them. The girl was told to bring her mother the proceeds of the thefts. In answer to the Sheriff, little Elizabeth was told she got 2d from her mother on each occasion she took money home after each pawning, and she would happily spend the full 2d on sweets and ice cream.
It was suggested by the court that a usual stance for this type of incident would be for the girl to be sent to a Reformatory School, but the court noted there was no such Catholic Institution of its kind in Scotland for girls at the time and instead asked for a period of 3 months to monitor her behaviour in future. It sounds that Elizabeth had got off lightly.
From “Blantyre Explained” (c) 2016 by Paul Veverka
Photo for illustration. Scottish clothes store in 1900.