On Wednesday a man passing by the name of John Mitchell, and who pretended to come from Leeds, Yorkshire, was brought before Warden G Sergison, Esq., by Supt. Akehurst, on a charge of deserting his child, an intelligent looking boy of seven years old.
It appeared that prisoner, who has no vocation, has gone by the names of Spight and Speed at various times, and it is believed that the former is his right name, that he formerly belonged to the 18th Royal Irish, LI, and is in receipt of a pension.
By the evidence it was shown that prisoner was in the neighbourhood of Cuckfield with a woman be had picked up on the road, on the 31st of December last, and the little boy whom they deserted, and who was found by Mr Hollingsworth, a clergyman, sitting on a lump of stones in the evening, almost perishing from cold and hunger. It being a most inclement night, that gentleman took the boy to the police station, and PC. Taylor, ESC., obtained an order or his admittance into the union workhouse, where he has since remained.
Prisoner on Tuesday night last also procured an order for the vagrants’ ward, in the hope that the child would be delivered up to him and he should escape punishment, but a warrant was obtained and be was taken into custody. He behaved with a good deal of effrontery and said he had always treated the child well and would continue to do so if it was delivered over to him, telling a most undoubted tissue of falsehoods, and making up a most improbable story,
Mr Waugh, magistrates’ clerk, observed that he believed he bad told nothing bu- lies since be bad been in the room, and they did not believe a word he said.
It appeared that the child’s mother is supposed to have died upwards of three years since, and that prisoner has been using the boy as a decoy to induce charity.
The child's statement was that his father was a pensioner who bad been through the Crimean war, and that he received his pension at Guildford, and it was also shown ‘that he had boasted of his pension, but now he denied it and said he had never been in the army.
Mr Taylor, schoolmaster at the Union, said the boy was very good and tractable. When he came into the house he appeared nearly starved, and had not learned a letter, but was now learning fast.
Mr Jones, head porter, said all prisoner had about him when he came to the house was a pipe and a knife, but he said if the magistrates would allow him to take the child he would keep him.
Mr Sergison: And he will soon get into the same state again. As you have nothing, how do you suppose you can keep him?
Prisoner (impudently) - By my own industry. But I must have work first.
Mr Sergison: I do not think proper you should take the child at present, but if you have it again I hope you will take care of it. You are committed to hard labour for 28 days, and enquiries shall be made into your antecedents and about the pension.
Prisoner: Very well; when I come out I will never come for the boy again, and as to the pension I wish you may find it out; it will take you all your time.
He was then removed.
Sussex Advertiser, 11 May 1867
Photo: Philip Weinstein, 8 years old, and an older boy who uses him as a decoy. Philip sells until 10 and 11 PM sometimes. Photo taken at 11 A.M. Philip said he player [sic?] hookey a week and they fired him. A good many young truants on the street those days. From the records of the National Child Labor Committee (US). Wikimedia public domain image.
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.