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Colonial Cases

United States v. McCurdy, 1898

[assault on ship]


United States v. McCurdy

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Goodnow, 14 June 1898
Source: North China Herald, 20 June, 1898



Shanghai, 14th June.

Before John Goodnow, Esq., Consul-General.


   John McCurdy, first mate of the Hawaiian barque Foong Suey, was charged with assaulting Malcolm Macleod, a seaman belonging to that vessel, by biting off a portion of his right ear and doing him other serious injury.

   His Honour informed the prisoner that there was some doubt as to jurisdiction, but the latter elected to be tried by the Court and pleaded not guilty.

   Malcolm Macleod, the prosecutor, said that on last Wednesday morning the mate was turning out witness' bunk in the forecastle, when witness asked him to desist. The mate rushed at him and struck him. They got out on deck, and the mate took up a bar off the main hatch and made a blow at witness, which must have killed him but for the action of a man named King, who intercepted the blow. The crowbar struck witness on the right eye. They closed again and fell down, when the mate bit off the witness' ear. Prisoner then went aft to his room and got a revolver, saying, "I'll kill the ----- -----." The mate said here was rum in witness' bunk but he did not find anything there. Witness had not been drunk. The crowbar was about five feet long.

   By the prisoner - Witness did not remember the mate asking about a bottle of liquor. Did not strike the mate until he struck witness. Saw that the mate's face was covered with blood, but could not say if it was after breaking the bottle. Witness only struck the mate in self-defence.

   Thomas King, seaman on board the Foong Suey, stated he saw prisoner fighting with the previous witness, and heard the latter call out, "He is biting my finger." They went along to the main hatch, and the mate picked up a crowbar which was lying there and made a blow at the prosecutor's head, saying, "I'll kill the -------." They fought again, and fell down. When they got up witness saw that Macleod's ear was gone. The mate then went aft and got a revolver, but the captain pushed him into his room. The men were fighting when witness first saw them; they were then in the forecastle. Could not say who struck first blow. No-one interfered until the captain came and told them to get back to their work. There had been trouble on the passage out. The men had no liquor on board the ship; witness had not seen any on board since they left New York. When the mate struck at Macleod with the crowbar witness caught the blow on his arms, and the end of the bar hit the prosecutor on the eye. The second mate took the bar from witness.

   By the prisoner - Did not remember seeing the mate's face covered with blood, and had no recollection of seeing him with a bottle in his hand. Witness did not strike the mate, and did not interfere in the fight except to take the bar away from the mate, and when he told him to let go of Macleod's finger.

   Captain J. Willett was called for the defence. He said there had been trouble on board as far as he knew between the officers and crew until last Wednesday. He was told by his sampan man that two of the men, Macleod and Jolla, had been ashore on Tuesday and after remaining for about two hours, returned on board with drink in their possession. On Wednesday morning, hearing a row on deck, witness went forward and saw the mate surrounded by the crew, between the forward bits on the port side. There was a lot of broken glass about the deck and witness, who was barefooted, had some trouble in avoiding it. The mate had the neck of a broken bottle in his hand. 

   Witness stopped the fight and told the men to go about their work. The mate and Macleod walked aft, and the former took up a crowbar which was lying on the main hatch and made as if to trike Macleod. Witness seized the bar, and someone took it away from the mate, but witness could not say who.  They fought again after that, but witness did not know what occurred. Did not see anyone else strike the mate, nor did he see the latter bite off Macleod's ear. The mate went into his room.

   Asked by His Honour if he thought that the wound on Macleod's ear was caused by a bite, witness said he thought it might have been.

   Morris Connelly, second mate of the Foong Suey, for the defence, said that he saw the mate take a bottle of spirits out of one of the bunks in the forecastle.  Believed it was Macleod's bunk. Macleod made for the mate to try to get the bottle away and they walked out on deck and fell in the waterway. The mate broke the bottle against the bolts. The rest of the men were standing round and when witness tried to interfere they prevented him. When they went aft the mate took up a crowbar off the hatch and made as if to strike Macleod, but witness could not say if the bar hit him. Some of the men were under the influence of drink. 

   Antonio Santos, cabin boy, was called but his evidence threw no further light on the affair.

   His Honour considered the charge proved and fined the accused $20 (gold) and ordered him to pay a sum  not exceeding $10 (gold) for Macleod's hospital expenses, and sent him to gaol for two weeks.  

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