Although they feature relatively rarely in the written reports that were published in the newspapers the most common occupants of the Police court dock were those accused of being drunk. ‘Drunk and disorderly’ and ‘drunk and incapable’ were subtly different: the former meant that an offender had probably challenged a policeman’s direct order that they ‘go home quietly’ whilst the latter reflected the reality that they couldn’t.
Anne Murphy fell into the second category. She was found lying on her back in Cleveland Street, until to stand and seemingly having some sort of fit. The constable that discovered her helped her to her feet and walked her, with some difficulty, to the Middlesex Hospital in Mortimer Street, which was just nearby. After a quick examination to make sure she was medically fit and well she was released.
Anne was still far too drunk to walk far however and the police officer was obliged to fetch the station’s Bischoffsheim hand ambulance. He then wheeled her back there to spend a night sobering up in a cell. In the morning she was one of the many drunks that took their turn to be processed before the magistrate at Marlborough Street.
In her defense she told Mr Hannay that she was ‘subject to fits, yer honour’.
‘Drunken’ ones, the justice muttered under his breath. Anne’s hearing was good however, and she denied it.
‘Upon my word, I had none of the creature yesterday. I only had had a share of a pint and a half of four ale, and that was between my daughter, my daughter-in-law, another woman, myself, and a gipsy woman, and we were all sober as aldermen – Lord love ye’.
The court was laughing now, either at Anne’s performance or the idea that aldermen were sober. Mr Hannay spoke to the gaoler saying ‘I see she is not know’. The prisoner in the dock heard him and took offence:
‘Not known, indeed” Oh yes I am. I’ve been in one situation two years’. She meant she had a job, but Mr Hannay was establishing that she had not been in trouble with the law before. ‘I mean you are not known to the police’, he explained.
‘Certainly not, never; why, bless you, I’m a widder of the highest respectability’.
As the court collapsed in laughter the magistrate told her he would let off this time with a warning to behave herself in future, and keep off the drink.
‘I shouldn’t have been her now’, she replied, ‘only I was dhrunk, yer Honour’.
Anne then left the dock, curtsied to the bench and went home, her day in dock to no doubt be retold several times over several glasses of beer.
[from The Standard, Tuesday, March 03, 1891]