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1906: German takes on workman - hilarity in court

The Mid Sussex Times, 13 February 1906

A pre World War I postcard view of Cuckfield High Street (colourised)

Henry Fechtler, of Cuckfield Park, Cuckfield, had three summonses for riding a bicycle upon a certain public footpath, for using threats towards James Leney and also for using threats towards Harry Etherton, all at Cuckfield, on February 1st. Mr KB Weir (Haywards Heath) appeared for defendant.

James Leney, Little London Lane, Cuckfield, roadman, said defendant was riding a bicycle on the pavement in High Street, Cuckfield. Witness held up bis hand for him to stop. Defendant said “If you don’t get out of the way I’ll run over you.”

Witness replied “ I shall not get out of the way.”

Defendant jumped off his “bike,” and gave witness a push.

Witness told him if be pushed again witness would hit him.

Defendant said “You Englishmen can’t fight. You are too silly. (Laughter).

I will fight six Englishmen with my hands in my pockets.” (Laughter). Defendant remained on the footpath.

Eventually he got off and said he “would put my daylights out.” (Loud laughter. Supt. Broomau: “ eep quiet, please; otherwise you will have to go outside”).

Defendant also said he would run over witness with a motor car.

By Mr Weir: Witness was instructed to stop anyone riding on the pavement, and had stopped a great many people, sometimes four or five a day. He did not put his shovel up at defendant, but had a shovel when he got in front of defendant’s machine.

Witness knew defendant was a German, but believed he understood everything witness said. Witness did not use strong language to defendant before the latter pushed him. Defendant did not just touch witness” tor the purpose of making him understand” (laughter).

He did not know what defendant meant by "putting bis lights out.”

Mr Weir: Did he terrify you in such a way that you thought be might stab or shoot you, or anything like that?

Wituess: "Yes. Witness did not see any weapons. He was still afraid defendant might do him an injury.

Witness said "Perhaps you are one of the sort who would stab people in the back,” but he did not call defendant “an old German".

Witness did not know if the expression “put your lights out” was commonly used by boys in the neighbourhood by way of a joke. Witness was a lamp lighter. He did not think defendant meant to put out the lights in the town (Laughter) he would not save witness the trouble.

He said witness’s lights would lie down on the ground. (Laughter). “Lights” meant his life. (Laughter).

Harry Etherton, roadman, said he saw Leney put up his hand to stop defendant riding on the footpath.

Defendant told Leney that if he did not get out of the way he would run over him. Defendant got off, placed his bicycle against a chemist’s window, and gave Leney a push. Leney said that if defendant pushed him again he (Leney) would hit him.

Defendant replied, “You Englishmen are silly. (Laughter).

You can’t fight. I would fight six Englishmen with my hands in my pocket.”

Witness said to defendant, “Probably you will hear of this again.”

Defendant said, “You are a little fellow” (Laughter) and he raised his fist to witness and said, “I will run over you with my motor car.” Defendant was a chauffeur.

By Superintendent Brooman: Defendant rode about 50 yards on the pavement. There was nothing to prevent him riding on the road except three or four yards of stones.

By Mr Weir: The only threat defendant used to witness was that he would run over him with his motor car. Witness was still afraid defendant would run over him.

Mr Weir: What, that he will commit manslaughter or murder? Is that what you are prepared to swear?

Witness: I never said so.

Mr Weir: But I am asking you. Are you afraid he will do you bodily harm or kill you?Witness I go in fear that he will probably at some time or another do me some harm

Mr Weir: You look like it! Did you use any language that would be likely to excite him?No,Sir.

By Superintendent Brooman: Witness was instructed by the Surveyor to stop anyone riding on the footpath when the Surveyor was not there.

Mr Weir thought “this was making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

Defendant was a chauffeur, and had only been in England eighteen months. His knowledge of English was very imperfect. Naturally when a person who could not speak a foreign language got excited he mixed his words up.

Defendant found the road at this spot in a bad state, and took a course adopted by a great many Englishmen, that of riding on the footpath.

Leney came towards him with the shove], and defendant was under the impression he was going to try to throw him off with the shovel, so jumped off.

Defendant admitted using the words, "I will put your lights out," but he had not the remotest idea of the meaning of the expression. He had picked it up.” (Laughter).

It was not likely that the two roadmen were likely to be influenced by any such threats as alleged, even if the strongest meaning were put on them.

Defendant (sworn) said the road was being repaired. At exactly the same spot on the previous day he saw a cyclist riding up the pavement. He thought, “Oh, the law of England is very good! (Laughter).

When a road is being made you can ride on the pavement!” (Laughter).

Leney rushed from the middle of the road with his shovel. Witness nearly fell off his machine, but he had two good brakes, and applied them vigorously.

Witness was very frightened, and said, "Look out, I shall run over you.” There was no meaning to the words, looking at his shovel and then at defendant, Leney said, “I’ll smash your hat in.”

Defendant had never heard that before in England. (Laughter).

Defendant “touched him very nice, like a gentleman, but did not push him.” (Laughter).

The man said “some awful bad words - I heard it before - it was a swear word.” (Laughter).

The Magistrates did not think the alleged threats were sufficient for a conviction, but for riding on the footpath, which was admitted, they fined defendant 5s. and (1s. costs. Defendant: Thank you very much. I didn’t know.

I will not ride on the footpath again. He he pleaded guilty to the riding, but not to the threats.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.



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