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Colonial Cases

R v. Welburn, 1869

[ship's captain]

R. v. Welburn

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




Before G. JAMIESON, Esq.

2nd Dec., 1869

REG. v. WELBURN (Master of W. Wilson.)

Charge of ill-treating H. Aldridge a Seaman.

Dr. Parker deposed that Aldridge came to the General Hospital, a week ago, suffering from injuries to the skin evidently caused by scalding.  He was not able to appear before the Court.  Aldridge had told witness that the Captain had put him into a tub of hot water.  His back was now covered with sores.

To Court.  Did not think, if Aldridge had only been exposed to the steam of hot water, it could have caused such blisters; was in a very critical state yesterday; but better to-day.

J. Horton, seaman, of W. Wilson, had heard the cook to bring boiling water, and saw him take it in the cabin.  Did not know what was to be done with it, but soon after heard groans from Aldridge.  When he went forwards, shortly afterwards, the latter showed him his body covered with blisters. Aldridge had told him the Captain and Chief Officer had held him over boiling water; that two blankets were thrown over him, and the Captain stood over him with a stick.  Aldridge was not at work at the time, was complaining of weakness and of pains; had asked Captain for rice, which he got, but his salty meat provisions were, (witness believed) stopped.  This was about a fortnight before she reached Shanghai.  The Doctor came on board and seeing the state Aldridge was in - the blisters had turned into sores - had remarked that the Captain would get into trouble if the matter became known.

To Defendant. - Had not complained to him of Aldridge's condition, because he (the Captain) knew of it.  Saw stick which, he was told, had been held over Aldridge.  It was that used to prop up sky lights witrh.  Aldridge did take the wheel once, while ill, but fear of getting another dose of the same treatment made him hide his real state.

Dr. Barton. - Saw Aldridge lying on his face with his back extensively scalded.  Was sorry he could not agree with Dr. Parker.  A man sitting close over hot water, covered with blankets, could be scalded by the steam.  Blisters from hot water would rise in 5 minutes; these only rose in ½ an hour, and might have been carried by steam only.

Defendant said Aldridge had complained of a chill and he had tried a vapour bath, having been told by a medical practitioner that such treatment was applicable.  Had not put Aldridge into hot water, but had held him over it.  They had had bad weather up the coast, and Aldridge had not had the attention he might have received, in consequence.  Besides, he didn't know the real state he was in; no one had reported it to him.  So soon as he did know, had called in a Doctor.

Aldridge being unable to leave his bed, the case was adjourned for a week; and Defendant admitted to bail, in the sum of $200.


Dec. 11th, 1869.

REG. v. The CAPTAIN and CHIEF OFFICER of the "W. Wilson."

Ill-treatment, scalding and refusing to allow one P. Dyce to go on shore to complain to the authorities.

Charge denied by both defendants.

P. DYCE.  On my way up from Foochow in the ship I was sick with fever and pains in the side.  I laid up and whenever I wanted medicine the Captain gave it me, but I grew gradually worse.  About one week before arriving in Shanghai, and on the same day the other man was scalded, the Captain gave orders to the cook for hot water to be prepared for the other man, meaning me.  The water was taken aft and I was sent for.  I answered that I did not wish to go through the process of hot water, but the mate told me I would have to.  The water was taken to the after part of the ship by the cook and I saw him put it in the tub.  The mate pulled down my pants and made me sit over the water.  It was too hot to support and I cried out and wanted to get up, but both the mate and second mate held me down.  I put my hand down towards the tub and it was immediately burnt, these are the marks (showing his hand).  I was kept there for about twenty minutes against my will.  The boiling water as about two inches from my skin, but when the ship would roll and toss the water would touch me.  It was very painful and I tried to get up, but was not allowed.  I have marks on my person now that are not healed, and ever since the second day after the process, I have been unable to work.  The day after the scalding I was sent aft to clean brass work and was kept there all day.  It could not sit nor stand, and as it is, I am in pain and cannot sit for any length of time.  While sitting over the water I was covered up.  I asked the Captain for permission to go on shore in order to lay my grievance before the authorities, but was refused.

Cross examined by the Captain. - I asked you for leave to go on shore to see the authorities and you refused me, saying you were going to pay me off.  I went on shore without your authority some time after, but with your knowledge.  I asked you again on Tuesday, and you refused.  I was on shore a fortnight ago.

To the Chief Officer. - You held me down, you pulled my trowsers off.  I cried out, but was held down by you and the second mate.  You remarked at the time that the water was not half hot enough for me.

Dr. Barton at the request of the Court, in giving his opinion said that the inside of plaintiff's thighs were the only part burnt.  Plaintiff is giving a different version of the affair to what he told me himself when I was called in to attend on him.  He is not at all in good health, but the effects of the hot water might have occasioned his lying up.  He is not suffering from any other disease, but is not in sound health.  He states that he cannot sit down for any length of time, but I think that the wounds only being on his thighs would not prevent this.

Fairweather. - While working in the main rigging I saw prisoner seated on a tub and boy Jones holding the clothes over him.  I saw the Cook bring the water aft, but did not see the plaintiff strip himself or stripped by others.  The mate was standing in his door way.  I heard the plaintiff say he would not have the bath as he was afraid of being served like the other man.  I saw both mates standing near by.  I should say he was on the tub quarter of an hour or twenty minutes.  I did not think there was any actual force used; he was merely told to do it.  If prisoner had entertained the same opinion as myself he would have got up.

To the Captain. - Plaintiff worked a few days after the water process.  The day we all came on shore, I heard the Plaintiff ask you for leave to go and see the authorities.  I don't remember, nor cannot say whether I saw any one holding plaintiff down or not.

The Cook. - All I know about the matter is that I received orders from the mate to get hot water ready for giving one of the men a bath.  The water I got ready was not boiling.  Two men were to have baths.  I took the water aft myself and poured it into the tub.  Only once before, between Foochow and here, was I ordered to get hot water for any of the men.

To the Captain. - The water I should say was about six inches from the top of the tub.  The second mate was present when I put the water into the tub, and he called up the mate.  I have frequently got hot water ready for both yourself and the mate.

The Court was here of opinion that this case was of the same nature as the one previously heard, and would adjourn it until the defendant in the first case was able to appear.  The bail of $200 the Captain was under for the other case would stand good also for the present one, but the mate must find bail of $50, for his appearance on day of trial.


Dec. 23rd.

REG. v. WELBURN, and his Chief Officer - charge of scalding and ill-treating two of his seamen.

The prosecution in this case was to-day withdrawn - the accused having, it is understood, made the complainants ample compensation.

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