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Colonial Cases

R. v. Cunningham and others, 1890


R. v. Cunningham and others

Police Court, Shanghai
Mowet AJ, June 1890
Source: North China Herald, 27 June, 1890

26th June.
  John Cunningham, fireman, William Cooper, able seaman, and Patrick Roach, able seaman, were charged with assaulting George Valentine, chief officer of the British steamer Port Fairy, with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Roach did not appear, having been admitted to the Hospital on the previous evening and detained there. The prosecutor was also too ill to attend.
  The only evidence taken was that of Dr. R. J. Sloan, who said he had seen the prosecutor, who was suffering from the effects of what he (witness) had been told was a severe blow on the side, over the spleen.  It was difficult to say when the prosecutor would be able to attend, but witness would be able to give a more definite opinion on Monday.
  The prisoners were accordingly remanded in custody till Monday.

Source: North China Herald, 4 July, 1890

Shanghai, 30th June.
Before R. A. Mowet, Esq., Assistant Judge.
  John Cunningham, William Cooper, and Philip Roach, seamen on board the British ship Port Fairy, were charged on remand with assaulting George Valentine, chief officer of that vessel.
  Mr. D. P. Drummond appeared for the prosecution.
  Roach was accommodated with a seat in court, Dr. Little having, according to Inspector Kluth, stated that he did not yet know if Roach's skull were fractured or not. The prosecutor was still unable to attend.
  Dr. Sloan was recalled, and said that since the previous hearing he had examined the prosecutor twice a day on board the steamer. The fourth rib was fractured, and the cartilage of the ninth rib was separated from the end of the bone. The injuries might have been caused by a violent blow or a fall.  They might have been inflicted with the spritsail boom (Produced.) There would appear to have been two blows. Prosecutor is about fifty years of age, and the injuries would incapacitate him from duty for two or three weeks; but witness thought he could go on a voyage without danger. The prosecutor was getting better and could appear in five or six days. A sea voyage would be beneficial to him if he was not at a distance from medical aid.
  John Salisbury Bernard said - I am second mate of the Port Fairy. I was on board on the morning of the 25th; about one o'clock I heard voices proceeding from a sampan and recognized them as those of Roach and Hooper.  There were other voices which I did not recognize. I saw three men just afterwards climbing up the side at the forecastle head. I heard someone call out for a man to go aft and lower the gangway ladder. A man came aft and met the chief officer, who told him to go back. Roach then defied anyone to prevent him from lowering the ladder and called the others to follow him. Hooper and Cunningham followed Roach, and the three rushed at the chief officer. There was a tussle between them, and the prosecutor fell on the deck, and one of the others with him. I went to the chief officer's assistance, and Roach came at me with a belaying-pin. He aimed a blow at me which I warded off. I saw Hooper and Cunningham holding a spritsail boom (produced), and Roach ran to their assistance. I saw all three run at the chief officer with the spar; and he fell. I picked up the belaying pin which Roach had dropped, and ran to the chief officer's assistance. Roach and others rushed at me, and I defended myself with the belaying pin. I believe I struck several of them. The fight then ceased and I went on the bridge to be out of the way. The men remained on the main deck and threatened me. I saw the prosecutor soon afterwards. He was groaning with pain. With the captain's assistance, I put a bandage round his waist. The three prisoners had no leave to go on shore.
  By Cunningham - I saw you with the boom in your hand. I did not see you lift it.
  By Hooper - I saw you with the boom in your hand.
  By Roach - The chief mate did not say, while you were in the sampan, that if anyone came aft to lower the gangway ladder he (the chief officer) would cripple him for life. The chief mate did not speak. When you came aft neither the chief mate nor I drew a belaying pin from the railing.  When the struggle was over and you came up on the bridge after me, I did not strike you on the nose with a belaying pin; I had not one with me. Johnson did not come up on to the bridge, nor was he stopped by the captain, who did not hit him on the head with the butt-end of a revolver. You said to the captain that if you were not paid off you would "do" for me.
  Roach here said that he was too unwell to proceed; and his Worship said that as the man was evidently suffering severely, it would be better to adjourn the case.
  Mr. Drummond said the ship was due to leave next morning, and it would be advisable to take the evidence of other witnesses belonging to her.
  His Worship said he would take further evidence, but it would have to be without cross-examination on the part of Roach, who would now be taken back to the Hospital.
  By the Court - The struggle took place at the entrance to the alleyway, on the starboard side. The alley is between the foremast and mainmast. The belaying pins are kept in the rails, and the nearest would be about twenty feet from where the chief officer was standing. His room is in the alleyway and mine is next aft. There was no light from the rooms. The boom had been lying on the main hatch. I could recognize both Hooper and Cunningham holding the spar. When Roach ran away from me. He took hold of the spar, and the three men ran with it at the mate. Other men were there but were not holding the spar. I am sure the chief mate had no belaying pin in his hand; he had not time to get one.
  James Clark said - I am the master of the Port Fairy. On the morning in question I heard a noise in the alleyway. I heard Roach call out "Who'll follow me aft? and I'll see if the -------- will stop me from lowering the ladder." I then took a revolver in my hand and went down on the main deck. I saw the mate on the deck, and several men on top of him. I did not recognize any of the men.  I tried to separate them, and one struck me on the side of the head and tried to throw me on the deck. I gave him a tap on the head with the butt end of the revolver. The second mate and I then succeeded in separating the men, and I then recognized the three prisoners as being among the men who were on top of the mate. I then went on the bridge. I saw no belaying pin. Roach was the worse for drink.
  Walter Fowler deposed - I am chief engineer of the Port Fairy. I was awakened by the noise of angry voices about one o'clock on the morning in question. I went to see what was the matter. I saw the chief officer standing on the deck at the forward end of the starboard alleyway. Hooper and Cunningham were standing near him. The captain, second officer, and Roach were on the bridge. They were all talking loudly. The chief officer was holding his hand to his side and gasping. He pointed to Cunningham and said "That fellow struck me and I believe my rib is broken." Cunningham replied "You struck me." The chef officer replied, "I'll strike you again," and thereupon hit him with his open hand, holding his side with his other hand. Hooper was encouraging them to fight.  Then they all went forward. I saw Roach come down from the bridge, challenging the second officer to fight.
  By Cunningham - I believe you said to the chief officer, "You've struck me for nothing." It was not light enough for me to see if you had any blood on your face. I think the prisoners were under the influence of drink.
  John de Jersey said - I am a sailmaker and lamp trimmer on board the Port Fairy. I was on duty as watchman on the night in question. At eleven and twelve o'clock some men came aboard, and after twelve o'clock the ladder was hauled up. Later on I heard Roach go aft and say "Follow me; I'll defy any ------- to stop me haulling the ladder up." I ran on the bridge to call the captain. I went up to him and he told me (with the three men standing by) that a fireman had hit him with a hatch bar. I saw the bars in their places, but I saw the boom in the alleyway, with the large end lying aft.
  For the defence the prisoner Cunningham called
  John Driscoll, able seamen on board the Port Fairy, who said - I was lying in my hammock on the fore hatch, and saw Roach and another man go aft. I next heard Roach call out that the mate had struck him with a belaying pin; and then Cunningham called out "You have struck me for no reason." I heard the second mate call out to Roach, "You're no fighting man, I can fight you myself." There is a man on board who admits that he struck the mate with the spar, and he was going to jump overboard because he thought he had killed the mate. His name is Johansen. He told all hands the same night, and he told me, that he intended to give himself up. I advised him not to do so.
  By Mr. Drummond. - I did not leave my hammock till the fight was over. Johansen might have had a drink or two; had been on shore. Johansen was sober when he said he intended to give himself up.
  John Perry, sailor, said - I was lying on the fore hatch on the night in question. I was awakened by a noise and I went into the forecastle, where I saw Roach and Johansen. The latter sad he had been prevented form lowering the lad der. The someone suggested that we should go aft and lower the gangway (because there was a man in the sampan who had been suffering from dysentery and could not climb up the ladder.) I remained in the forecastle. Several others went forward and there was a struggle. When Johansen came back to the forecastle, he lay down for some time as if stunned. Afterwards Johansen told me he had jammed the mate in the ribs with the spar and was afraid he had killed him.
  At this stage his Worship adjourned the case till three o'clock for the attendance of Johansen.
  On resuming
  Friedolf Johansen, a Russian Finn, seaman on board the Port Fairy, deposed - I was with the other men who came aboard.  I went aft to lower the gangway, but the mate sent me back. Afterwards I heard a struggle amidships, and heard Roach call out that the mate had struck him with a belaying pin. I went there, and the mate lifted the belaying pin to strike at me. In self-defence I picked up the boom and lunged at him. I hit some one, but I could not see who it was. No one else was holding the boom. I told Perry about it.
  By prisoners - I did not see either of you interfere.
  By Mr. Drummond - After the mate struck Roach the belaying pin fell on the deck. I went aft to try to get the men away. I did not see Cunningham in the alleyway at all. After I had used the boom, the captain hit me on the head with the butt end of his revolver.
  His Worship said it was quite clear that the witness Bernard had named the wrong men. The charge was at an end as regards Roach, Cunningham, and Hooper, and they must be discharged. The mate, of course, if he chose could take proceedings against Johansen, who was really the man who had inflicted the injuries. His Worship added:  I myself do not think it is advisable to proceed further in this case, as it is desirable that the mate should proceed in the ship.



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