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Colonial Cases

R v. Blanch, 1869


R. v. Blanch and McAllister

Police Court, Shanghai
30 December 1869
Source: The North-China Herald, 4 January 1870




Before G. JAMIESON, Esq.

30th December, 1869.

R. v. BLANCH (Master of bq. Newcastle.)

Charge of wilful murder of one A. Harvey.

Mr. Hannen for Defendant.

Mr. HANNEN, before the case commenced, took occasion to deprecate the premature publication of statements such as that which appeared in the Evening Courier of the 29th instant.  Such statements, he urged, should not be made public while a case is pending, as they were likely to bias a jury.

J. Duncan. - On morning of 1st December, while captain was in town, provisions (beef) came.  Mate went on shore for some salt to preserve same, along with apprentice A. Carr.  While ashore, captain came, and finding mate on shore, he went on shore again.  Captain came on board in evening about 6 o'clock, with Capt. Page and Robinson of Mistletoe, or about same time as they came.  The constable came on board between 6 and 7 p.m.  When he came in the cabin, the captain gave mate in charge.  I was not in the cabin, but at forecastle door on main deck, and heard what was spoken.  The two captains, constable and mate were in the cabin, the mate was sitting down on the port side.  The mate refused to be taken from the ship after dark.  Some disturbance took place, I do not know what.  Mrs. Blanch said to constable do not take Mr. Robertson (mate).  Capt. Page came out of cabin and said if Capt. Blanch wanted the mate out of the cabin, he (Capt. Page) was the man to do that.  Capt. Page said to crew, there was not a man on board, and that he would fight any of them, they were a lot of boys.  The second mate said, I will fight you; but we took him forward and put him in the forecastle.  Capt. Page then went up to Bruce and asked if he was a fighting man (Bruce is a seaman).  Bruce said no.  He then asked Bruce of he could fight.  Bruce said, I cannot fight, but will not be struck for nothing.  Capt. Page told him to go on board his vessel next day at 8 a.m., and he would give him a round turn, as much as he ever had.  The two captains went into the cabin, the constable ashore without any one.  The captain went away about 9 p.m.

2nd December.

The crew of the Newcastle sent to captain Page's vessel and  said he could have satisfaction or must apologize for his words of previous day, he returned note with request for name of man who wrote the letter, we returned word it was for all of us.  About 8 ½ or 9 the constable came off for 1st mate and Bruce with summons which he read on deck, but not the charge that I heard.  Bruce said he would go, and went to put his clothes on.  Rest of crew said wanted to go and see the Consul.  I said so too.  We wan ted to go with Constable but he would not take us; he said consul was sick, but we would see him to-morrow.  The chief mate was walking in front of the cabin and then went inside, he neither refused nor complied with constable's summons, the constable went away.

About 12 o'clock the two captains before mentioned, Captains Robinson and Page came off, and constable, they came in separate boats.  I was forward when they came.  I came aft about two or three times after, as I heard mate crying out.  I did not hear what he cried out.  I heard him say that is the captain that wanted to fight last night, there was nothing particular going on till I came aft; Capt. Page took his coat off to fight the mate, the mate struck at him and Captain Page fell back in to a Bath Tub, these were the first words I heard and concluded there was a row between mate and Capt. Page; they were bandying words of anger.  Carpenter picked up Captain Page and said he must be a foolish old man to go and challenge, all hands and why he had said what he did last night.  Captain Page said he would fight any one for $50, he was drunk and could not walk straight, the constable went away with all the Captains, he did not try to take any one.  I am sure I saw all that went on.

We went to work again loading charcoal, gthe mate keeping tally; we finished work about five and cleared decks.  We began to play forward, I had concertina and carpenter the drum; the others dancing and sitting, work was all finished.  The cook came forward and said the Captain has come on board, has shut the fore cabin door and was on deck with a sword. I went into the forecastle and while there heard Mrs. Blanch scream out are you going to kill me; she called Mr. Robertson (mate) carpenter (Harvey) and Bruce.  I then went as far as Galley door and saw mate talking to Captain; the carpenter came up behind Captain and took the sword out of his hand, ran forward with it, but I don't know what he did with it, two sampans came at the same time, one from "Springfield" and one from "Glamorganshire" with armed men; there was no disturbance.

Gifford went to captain and asked him for a dollar, Captain called out do you want to assassinate me.  Gifford had nothing in his hand, he only spoke to Captain; at same time the armed men sprang on board, they were the men I saw in the Sampans, as soon as they came on board, the mate was standing at aft corner of cabin on quarter deck and the carpenter was at same place (Port corner), the mate was talking to captain, the armed men ran aft, and the carpenter was shot in the arm; he then attempted to escape through them, when the Captain and another man fired at him and he was shot through the body. I was in front of Galley door a little more than half a length of ship off from them.  I saw the mate shot through the arm and his arm drop, I saw him run at by Captain Laird with bayonet and struck down with the blow of a musket, he got up again and passed on forward.  I cannot say who fired at carpenter.  I heard a Ball whistle past me and ran forward and down into forecastle where mate had gone.  I came on deck and was knocked down by the back of sword of captain Sillerk of some brig name unknown.  Captain Baird all the time called out to shoot the Rascals - they called out for the mate and I heard a repiort of fire arms fired down the forecastle hatch.  I went aft, and as I was beside the carpenter kneeling, I heard one of the Captains say to Captain Blanch, now we have managed this job for you won't you give us a drink.  The Captain passing the carpenter the latter said Oh! Captain Blanch I forgive you - Captain Blanch said I did not do it, I have used no weapons.  The Doctor came off in about two hours and placed lint on carpenter's wounds &c. gave him brandy and water, but he died at 20 minutes to 8 p.m.

To Mr. HANNEN. - The Capt was abaft the house when men came on board, he did not say anything.  I did not see him do anything; when the captain said do you want to assassinate me, he was not attacked, but repeated the phrase when carpenter took thje sword from him.  The letter of 2nd inst., to captain Page was written by Bruce.  In reply to Captain Page's enquiry, his note was returned and on it was written "from the crew."  The constable had only one summon s for Bruce and mate, he read it out, I understood it to be to take Robertson and Bruce out of ship.  Bruce said I'll go forward, went forward and dressed; don't know what Robertson said.  The crew were all on main deck close to the constable, they said we wan t to go and see Consul.  I swear that no one said that unless all were taken Bruce and Robertson should not be.  Bruce came back among rest from forward and constable went away, saying to all crew I don't want to take any of you, he went away without laying a hand on any one. 

There were six or seven of us around the constable.  Bruce did not go because the constable would not take him, he may have been talking to the others while staying above and Bruce and Robertson among them.  I did not hear Capt. Page come on board and say Consul had sent him.  I only saw Capt. Page fall once, this was after the constable had first come, it was during his second visit this happened.  I was not there when Capt. Page first came on board.  When I saw the armed men come on board, I, Bruce, and Dawson stood still, Bruce  called out to the others to come forward as armed men had come, there was no resistance and no summons to surrender.  Alfred Carr was sent for Doctor, but I don't know by whom sent. We have talked about this affair since among the Crew.  About a minute or a minute and a-half occurred after armed men came on board before firing took place.  I did not see captain from then till beside the carpenter; there was time for him to speak before.  I could not see him but did see mate and carpenter.  Captain was nearer the armed men than were mate and carpenter.  There was no apparent connexion between captain's second exclamation and the arrival of the armed band.  I don't think he was sober, but cannot swear to fact.  All the crew except cook, was forward, where music &c. going on.  I do not know where the mate was, the 2nd mate was with us forward.

W. WALLER. - Between 4 and 5 p.m., on 2nd December, saw Capt. walking across deck in  front cabin, with sword in his hand by his side; there was no mutinous conduct on board before this.  I heard Mrs. Blanch call out to mate and carpenter to take sword from him.  She called Bruce the sailor, but he did not go aft of main-mast.  I did not go aft of galley door, three or four of crew were with me.  I next saw armed men come over side.  I was not near enough to hear what they said but they fired directly round the corner of house as soon as ever they came on board.  I only know of one of them, Capt. Page.  I went forward as soon as they came on board and over the head and remained there from 5 to 7 p.m. holding on to the chain.  I did so because I thought they intended to kill all hands.  The men all came from a barque alongside.  I saw them come down from here and into sampan which brought them.  I thought all the hands would be killed because the boarders were armed.  I don't know who sent them on board. 

When the constable came on board he read summons to take Bruce and mate on shore, and the mate called us all aft, where he did so. This was on 2nd December.  The mate said he would not go till captain came on board, and Bruce went forward to dress and go with constable - the mate alleged as cause of refusal the absence of captain; the constable appeared to be satisfied and went on shore.  I did not hear him ask either of them to go ion shore, and when Bruce offered to go the constable told him he did not want to take any of them, that they were to be quiet and all would blow over, the firing had begun before I ran forward, I did not see captain's wife when calling.  The constable did not come with the armed men, but I saw him while in the head, coming off in a sampan from shore.  He did not come from the barque.  He had one man with him.

To Mr. HANNEN. - The Captain was walking across deck with sword.  The mate's cabin is forward.  I never heard of mate having a sword.  I did not see where Captain got sword from.  I remember mate being left in charge of ship on 1st December, and going on shore without leave.  I don't think Captain wanted mate taken for above, but constable came after that; mate did not bring any grog when he came on board.  The armed men came in a sampan from barque alongside; there were two sampans, both came from the baroque; no, none came from other vessels in port.  When constable came, mate called us aft, the summons was only for him and Bruce, don't know why mate called us to hear summons read, and it was an unusual occurrence to do so - the mate said nothing to us; we told constable if Bruce was taken all hands must go, if Bruce was to go, we must all go or he would not - it is unusual for a whole crew to go at once; we said so that we might have our own way.  Our object was that Bruce should not go unless all went, and that could not be I know.  The mate said I won't go on shore, Mr. Steibe, till Captain comes on board the ship;" he meant Captain being away he could not go; he had gone before without leave, but now declined, though summoned to do so.

While the fighting was going on I saw constable coming, thought he was coming to take the men who were left  alive ashore, was in the water all the time, was very frightened, did not see when the armed men and he went away.  I thought they had come because we refused to let Bruce go, and were to take us all in consequence.  I have never heard or been told of fighting on board while the armed party was there.  I returned to deck from head, the Doctor was on board before.  It would take about quarter hour to fetch him, he had dressed carpenter's wounds.  I have talked about affair with crew, but not much.  When Mr. Henderson wrote petition all crew were present, he read it and we all signed.  Duncan first went to Mr. Henderson and told him facts in petition.  I signed it with mark.  I have told the Bench all I know about the matter.  I saw the mate and carpenter struggling with captain to get the sword from him.  I did not see anything between the time the Captain's wife sung out and the men coming on board, the captain only called out once, do you want to assassinate me?  Captain was on port side, I could not see for house.  Captain could not see armed men after leaving barque, till they came round corner of house and directly they came they began to fire.  I did not see anything between captain Page and mate.  I heard of it, I was forward.  I did not hear Robertson calling out or quarrelling with Capt. Page.

PETER AGRA, - Cook of Newcastle.  In the afternoon of 2nd Dec. mate asked captain Page why he said what he did the day before, and why did he interfere in another's business, and that if he wanted to fight any one, he (mate) was ready, and the latter struck at Capt. Page.  Capt. Page fell backwards into a bath tub. - Captain Blanch wanted to fight mate, but mate would not, and told him to let go of him as he (mate) as strong as an Elephant.  At five o'clock we knocked off work and cleared decks.  Captain came on board and rung cabin bell, but no one answered as steward was on shore. I looked out from galley and Captain had shut the fore-cabin door and Mrs. Blanch was outside; she wanted to go in, but could not; she went round to go in through after-door and met Capt. Blanch coming with swiord which he pimnted at her.  I could not hear what she said, but she turned and ran, calling on mate, Bruce and carpenter to take the sword from Captain as he wanted to kill her.  I followed Mr. Robertson aft, but Bruce said, I will not go aft of mainmast.  Mate said to captain, what do you want with that, it don't belong to you, I want it.  Mr. Robertson attempted to take it from him, but could not.  The mate had hold of his hand and they struggled.  During this one of the men came and asked the Captain to oblige him with a dollar; the Captain asked the man if he meant to be mutinous, and while this engaged the carpenter seized the sword behind Capt. and ran off with it.  I did not see what carpenter did with it, but think it went overboard.  Carpenter came aft and asked Captain why he took a sword on board his ship; the Captain said I have nothing to do with you, go forward.  There was then a row alongside, and armed men came on board.  As soon as they came the captain pointing at Robertson said there! There they are.  He said this to the boarders.  Three or four bayonets were pointed at Mr. Robertson's breast, he was close by me then, he was leaning against the rail, he asked Captain Blanch what was the matter and the Captain of a Dundee barque said, what is the matter! If you move I will shoot you.  I then heard a shot and I went forward; before I got to the galley I heard Mr. Robertson call out, I am shot to death; he passed me and I lost sight of him.  I heard another shot and saw carpenter put his hand from his arm, to his breast.  Carpenter was aft.  He fell down.  Carpenter died about 20 minutes to eight.  Another Captain made a cut at me at galley, I retreated into it or my head would have been cut off.  I saw him all at once close to me with a sword.  While in galley I heard Capt. Blanch calling the rest of the "Newcastle" crew to come aft, he was coming forward with a sword in his hand.

To Mr. HANNEN. - The cabin is from galley, twice the breadth of this Court about; it may be more.  There were in the cabin on evening of 1st December, Capt. Blanch and wife, Capt. Page and wife, and others; only the mate, and sailmaker went in at first.  The Capt. called the crew and they came and stood round the door.  The crew did not come aft till the constable came.  The mate was given in charge and said would not be taken from ship after dark.  In morning when constable came Mr. Robertson did not call crew, at least I did not hear.  I was in the galley and went out when I saw constable come.  I did not see Robertson call crew nor go for them.  The constable came without summons, and Mr. Robertson would not go without it.  He then went and returned with summons, and Robertson said he would not go on shore, this was at one o'clock when constable had summons.  I saw Robertson take captain's hand, when he (latter) had sword; cannot say how Capt. stood; the Capt. had sword by his side; the mate seized his hand and struggled.  The next man that came was the one that asked the Captain if he would oblige him with loan of a dollar.  The man did nothing else.  I did not see any one raise their hand to Captain; no one wanted to harm him.  Captain told carpenter in reply to query about sword, "I have nothing to do with you."

The case was eventually adjourned for three weeks, to enable witnesses to be procured from Foochow.  In the mean time Captain Blanch was released on bail, himself £300 and two securities £150 each.

Source: The North-China Herald, 8 February 1870


Our readers will remember an account given by our Foochow correspondent, (N.-C. Herald, Dec 21st) of an affray on board the British ship Newcastle, at the Pagoda anchorage, Foochow.  The Captain wished to arrest the mate; the latter declined to go with the Consular constable who came off for the purpose, and was alleged to have the sympathy of the crew.  The Captain enlisted volunteers, who went armed on board, and fired on several; members of the crew, killing one A. Harvey and wounding the mate, Robertson.

A Naval Court of Enquiry was held at Foochow, and the mate and sundry of the crew were punished.  On the arrival of the ship in Shanghai, however, the case assumed a new phase; the Captain of thje Newcastle, and one McAllister who had taken part in the affair, were arraigned for murder; and a Jury, after a lengthened trial on the 11th instant, has found them guilty of wilful murder.  But the Judge remarked that he should recommend the commutation of this sentence, in the case of Captain Blanch, to one year's imprisonment; and that McAllister, who had acted under a mistaken sense of duty, should be set free.


Source: The North-China Herald, 15 February 1870.



February 11.

Before Sir E. HORNBY, Chief Judge;

And Messrs. Brown, Byrne, Terry, Turnbull and Kelly, jury.


Wilfully murdering and aiding and abetting in the murder of one Andrew Harvey,

on the ship Newcastle, at Foochow.

[17 columns.]

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School