Five Cases of Cruelty to Ponies in Denaby Main Colliery

March 1887

Mexborough and Swinton Times March 4, 1887

Five Cases of Cruelty to Ponies in Denaby Main Colliery

John Kelly

John Kelly, a youth, was summoned for cruelly ill treating a pony in Denaby Main Colliery on 14 February.

Mr HH Hickmott appeared on behalf of the company.

At the present court there were no less than five cases against youths for cruelty to ponies at Denaby Main colliery. During last year no less than six ponies have been killed and 30 badly injured in the pit, and the company asked the Bench to deal with the cases in an exemplary manner.

In one of the cases to come before the court there were four distinct acts of cruelty against one pony by the same youth. The company were determined to put a stop to this constant ill usage of poor animals, and whenever they found the pony ill treated they would bring the offence to court.

The case against Kelly was then proceeded with.

Samuel Phillips said on Monday, 14 February he was on top of the Montagu “jinny,” and he saw the defendant kick the horse twice in the belly as hard as he could. Witness asked him what he had done that for, and he answered, “What had he to do with it.” Witness then reported the matter to the deputies. The horse was going to the Jinny top and did not turn round as he ought to have done, but instead of getting well hold of its head that he should have done, defendant kicked it brutally

John Guest, the horse keeper, at the pit, gave evidence to the effect that when pony returned to the stables on 14 February he found a lump in the body about as big as a walnut. As a consequence of the injuries upon it was taken off work.

Defendant: Will you allow me to speak. I can prove that it has worked every shift

George Ickle

George Ickle, a lad of 13 years of age was then charged with a similar offence.

Mr Hickmott said he would prove three distinct cases of cruelty committed by the prisoner, after he had been warned.

Thomas Whitehead said on Monday the seventh he was looking after the boys at the top of the level in the East end district. He saw the defendant kick a pony called “Smiler” four times. The pony was doing its work properly, and there was no reason why the defendant should have kicked it. Witness heard the kicks when he was some distance away.

The prisoner’s father, who attended said that his lad owned to kicking the pony because it would not do its work.

Edward Whitehouse, a “Jinny” man, also gave evidence. He stated that on a different occasion than that spoken of by the last witness on the 7th instant, he saw the defendant kick “Smiler” on the legs. Witness told him to “give over,” and he replied that “He would not for him.” He then reported the matter to the deputy. This case occurred at the bottom of the level; the other one was at the top.

Another witness name William Lewis Cuthbertson said he was on the “pass by” end, in the western district, and there saw the defendant kick “Smiler” four times on the rear hind leg. There was an empty corve on the road, but that was not the pony’s fault. Witness told prisoner to “knock that off,” and it was not the pony’s fault, and he answered that witness had nothing to do with it.

This offence took place at a different time to those spoken of by the other witnesses.

John Guest also gave evidence as to the injuries received, and stated that the pony was compelled to rest five shifts.

Alexander Rhodes

Alexander Rhodes a youth, 15, was then charged with cruelty in Denaby pit on 7 February.

Thomas Lawton living in Wilkinson’s yard, Mexborough, said on the morning of the 7th at 9.30 he was going on the workings in the Montagu district, when he saw the defendant driving a pony named “Spragg.”

Defendant called the pony to stop, but as it did not do so he kicked it on the rear hind leg. Defendant wore clogs, and kicked the pony hard. Witness went to see the pony afterwards, and found that it was bleeding in the hock, the defendant having broken the skin.

Witness reported the matter to the deputy.

Senior Parish

Senior Parish was also charged with cruelty to a pony in the same colliery on 9 February.

John Guest said the defendant was driving a pony named “Plunger,” and when it was brought in it was injured. In consequence of those injury said enquiries were made, and a man named Samuel Toledo after was made a statement to the effect that he saw the defendant kick the pony.

On the previous Friday the defendant came to witness, and told him that he had a summons for kicking “Plunger.” He added that if he had had a pick he would have “killed the – – – –.” He said the pony had run away

Mr Hickmott said he had another witness to could prove that the defendant chained the pony up and then commenced to kick it.

The defendant: they stopped me seven shilling a fortnight since, and I’ve not got it yet. (Laughter.)

The Chairman: What for? – Defendant: I don’t know.

Mr Hickman explained that it was a practice of the company to keep so much in hand.

The mother of defendant: No they stopped in seven shillings and then stopped his lamp afterwards.

The Chairman stopped the woman in a long rambling statement as to her son’s earnings etc.

Alfred Wellings

Alfred Wellings was the next charged with cruelty at Denaby pit on the 24th.

Charles Davidson said he was a dataller, and on the day in question he was leaving his working place in the Denaby pit, and following his son William Davidson, who was leading a pony named Jim. As they got to the east Lane junction the defendant deliberately walked up to the pony, that his son was driving, and kicked it as it was passing. Defendant wore clogs and gave severe kick; there was no reason for the cruelty. When defendant kicked it, the pony ran away, and threw witnesses son off his back. He went and picked his son up, and then when he told defendant what he had done the latter used bad language to him. Because witness reported him, defendant stoned him and his son as they were going home. Defendant also threatened to have “his (witness) and his son’s liver out.”

The mother of the defendant appeared and pleaded for leniency.

The Chairman: Is this the way you brought up your lad?

The mother: I have 10 children, and I never heard him use bad language. (Laughter)

On the conclusion of the cases the Chairman said this practice must be stop. He commented on the fact that six ponies had been killed in the pit last year by cruelty, and said he thought that possibly some little alteration might be made in the pit as the regulations with regard to the boys, which would be a saving to the colliery company and an encouragement to the boys.

It had been suggested to him that the colliery company should divide the boys into three classes, the first beginning at a somewhat lower rate of payment than at present, and then as they rose and behaved themselves well, they might be promoted into another class. He did not know whether it could be done, but it was deserving of consideration.

If they gave a pony into a boy’s charge, and he had always the same animal, he was more likely to be kind to it than if they continually changed the animal he drove. That was a matter which, of course he (the chairman) could not go into. But he thought the factors of having three classes of boys would be a great encouragement to them to behave well.

At present he looked upon the ill using of the animals by the boys as a result of a spirit of pure wickedness, for the lads were not paid by the piece but by the day. In one colliery he had seen a boy burst into tears when his pony in the pit was simply flogged with a whip, and not ill used. The boys there claimed their own ponies, and got fond of them and looked after them when the work was done.

Perhaps it was impossible to adopt a system of that kind in these days, when men were working in shifts, but to reward the lads according to merit by promoting them in classes he looked upon as a very feasible and desirable plan and deserving of the attention of the managers of the colliery.

The defendants would be fined 40 shillings each and costs or one months imprisonment.

Kelly: I will stand a month, and if they are all of my mind they will stand it too; I won’t pay a “meg.”

The prisoners were then removed.