The Union Jack, juvenile reading matter from 1880
Thomas and Roger Casement were avid readers, or so their father believed. The pair of adolescents (Thomas was 13, his brother 11) were arrested in January 1876 in possession of three books they had allegedly stolen from a Lambeth bookshop. Mr William Polder, the shop owner, appeared in court at Southwark to press his prosecution against them while the boys’ father was there to defend his sons.
Polder said the lads came into his shop on York Road around lunchtime and asked to look at some of his 3d editions. Having perused these for a while they thanked him but said nothing interested them, and left. Soon afterwards however, Polder realised that three copies of more expensive texts (which he described as being ‘of greater value with showy covers’) were missing and he suspected the boys.
He soon caught up with them and, with the assistance of a police constable (PC 97L) they were arrested. The books were discovered and the constable asked them why they had taken them.
‘To make money of, as they had none’, the juvenile thieves reportedly replied.
Having ascertained that their father was a respectable man, a captain in the local militia no less, a message was sent to fetch him. In court the officer spoke up for his offspring:
He ‘could not account for the lads taking the books unless it was to pay for the loan of them some other day. They were inveterate readers of juvenile literature, and were in the habit of borrowing books and paying for the loan of them’.
The justice, Mr Benson, pointed out that they had made no claim to borrowing anything, or offering to pay – this seemed like theft but the captain insisted it must have been a mistake. The magistrate gave him (if not the lads) the benefit of the doubt and released them into their father’s care on him agreeing to enter into a recognizance against their future good behaviour. If they stayed out of trouble all would be well, if they repeated the thefts then a reformatory possibly beckoned.
I imagine the journey home was an uncomfortable one for Thomas and Roger, but perhaps not as uncomfortable as the thrashing they were very likely to have received later.
[from The Morning Post , Wednesday, January 26, 1876]