Denaby Man Shoots Assailant – Justifiable Homicide

July 1911

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 22 July 1911

A Denaby Man Shoots Assailant

Justifiable Homicide

It will be remembered that three or four years ago a number of miners left this district for Glace Bay, Newfoundland.

Amongst others there was a youth named George Frederick Beal (21), a member of a well-known Denaby family. He was well known as a steady, industrious young man, and respected by all who knew him.

It is known here that they have been disputes at the Dominion Coal Co. and it appears that young Beal became involved in such a dispute, and at a miners meeting, attended by some 150 workers, including some who persisted in creating a disturbance, he in his capacity of secretary and treasurer to a miners branch, was sitting on the platform, supporting the chairman.

Owing to the Introduction of a handful of men, including two name Bryant and Michael Murphy (who was subsequently killed) Beal, at the request of the chairman left the platform for the purpose of bringing a policeman. On his way he was stopped by the interrupters, but to pacify them he said, “If you keep quiet, I will not go.”

There ensued a fierce struggle, in which Beal had to content with overwhelming odds, and, strange to say, without help, been afforded him by the crowd of bystanders, were almost all of the Labour movement, with which Beal was associated.

The man Murphy first struck Beal in the eye, and Beal, put his hands over his face, scrambled over some chairs as best he could come with Murphy, Bryant and Connolly following him.

Some of the officials of the meeting called out that it was time to stop, but though Beal and pulled out his revolver ( for the carrying of which had a magisterial permit), and had warned them that he would fire if they persisted in attacking him, some four or five men continued to kick and belabour him, and finally knocked him down against a window, with his head on the window ledge.

It was then that Beal, almost exhausted and helpless, twice pulled the trigger of his revolver, and both Bryant and Murphy fell, one being killed instantly and the other dying from his wounds the next day.

These stirring events took place in McDonald’ss’ Hall, Glace Bay, on April 14 and Beal was tried at Sydney on June 29. The trial only lasted six hours. At the trial, Beal said, “I am not a pugilist. I am a scrapper, a man who can take care of himself. I have used boxing gloves.”

Mr Justice Lawrence said if Beal was driven to the necessity of pulling his revolver, it would be a deplorable thing to convict him, but if it was not it would be a deplorable consequence to justice if they did not convict him. His Lordship then reviewed the old tragedy, and ask the jury should consider the question of justifiable homicide.

“”Had the prisoner use every reasonable means to protect himself from bodily harm, and to make his escape from the building before he shot ?

“You must not take into consideration, continued his Lordship,” the cowardly poltroons , who stood around the building and did nothing to try and stop the combatants, but consider the matter as if the only men in the building were the prisoner and his assailants, and the fact that the accused was driven into a corner, surrounded by several men who were beating him, and from whom he had no escape except by jumping through the window, and in doing that he might have received more serious injuries than he did.

“Did he retreat as far as he could in trying to escape, before using his revolver? The whole point to decide is, who is a prisoner justified in protecting his own life as he did?”

During his remarks, his Lordship took occasion to severely condemn Beal’s fellow Labour officials, “who,” he said, call themselves representative of organised labour, but were not representatives of Law & Order; they call themselves leaders, but the occurrence that led to this case should make them ashamed to ever again pose as leaders of men.

The courtroom was packed to the doors all through the trial, and the judges charge made a profound impression.

At the conclusion the jury retired, returning in 16 minutes with a verdict of “Not Guilty”.

On this finding the other charge brought against Beal, that of murdering Michael Murphy was thrown out on the advice of the Governor General.

It is understood Beal admits the seriousness of his act, but maintained that he had no alternative