1913: A bogus parson and officer

Updated: Mar 9


Astounding details were given at Whitehill (Hants) of the career of P. Seymour Kelly, 21, who was charged with obtaining food and lodging by false pretences from the Rev. BG O’Rorke, an army chaplain at Bordon Camp.


Mr O’Rorke said be first saw Kelly on August 21, when, attired as a clergyman, he was riding a motorcycle through Bordon Camp. He represented himself as a Canadian clergyman and a chaplain to a militia regiment. He said he was on holiday in England, and desired to see how an army chaplain did his work, and expressed a desire to see round the camp. Air. O’Rorke showed him round the camp, and the Church Institute, and church, and introduced him to another army chaplain, who invited him home for the night.


On the following day Kelly, it appeared from the evidence, was found apparently unconscious on the road at Handley, his motorcycle beside him. He was removed to the military hospital, where he alleged that he had had an accident, and while unconscious had been robbed of £4 and a watch. As he was in difficulties, Mr O'Rorke asked him home, and found lodgings for him. entertained him to supper and breakfast, and supplied him with a new clerical collar.


Sergeant Clark stated Kelly described himself as a clerk in holy orders of Gleichen, Alberta, Canada. He made inquiries, and came to the conclusion that Kelly's story of the accident was not true, and. later, as the result, of a letter from a clergyman, a warrant was issued for his arrest. He saw Kelly at Aldershot. He had reversed his clerical collar and removed the stock. After the arrest prisoner said: 'It was all lies I told vou about losing the money. I wanted to get some somehow, and did not know how to. I am not a clergyman.'


Superintendent Reuben said Kelly was the son of a late superintendent of an insurance company at Hayward's Heath, and from October, 1907 to March, 1908, was. a boy in the offices of the local council. On being discharged from there he was apprenticed to a firm of tailors in Walworth Road, and while there he obtained an officer's uniform, and. proceeding to Wellington Barracks, had the guard turned out. For this escapade he was sent to Canada, where he seemed to have stayed three years.


The next they heard of him was on July 20 last, when, attired as a clergyman, he drove up with two ladies in a motor car at Cuckfield Union, and asked to be allowed to view the house. Permission, however, was refused. After leaving there he seemed to have visited the Rev. Morris Jones CF at Gosport, whom he told he was a clergyman on holiday from Canada, and raising funds to build a provincial church. He preached a sermon at the garrison church, and afterwards went to Landport, where the vicar of All Saints' Church, who was going on holiday, introduced him to the curate.


He attended church on Sunday, and conducted part of the service and on Monday read a portion of the burial service at a funeral.


Kelly afterwards went to Winchester, and called on Canon Braithwaite, and told Mrs. Braithwaite, that he knew her husband’s brother. Dr. Braithwaite, in Canada. Lodgings were found for him. and through an officer of the Hampshire Regiment Kelly obtained a motor cycle. He had been through the county, stopping at various hotels and houses, and leaving without payment. He had also victimised several clergymen in the same way.


The metropolitan police held a warrant for his arrest for similar conduct at Morton's Hotel, where he represented himself as an officer of the Canadian Rifles. He deposited same papers, which he declared were most valuable, but. on bis departure they were opened and found to be worthless.


On the suggestion of Superintendent Reuben, the bench took into consideration the warrant referred to. and on account of Kelly’s youth sentenced him to six weeks’ hard labour.


Source: The Sun (Kalgoorlie, WA : 1898 - 1929) Sun 12 Oct 1913, P8

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/216211859?searchTerm=Cuckfield


Photo (colourised): World War I Daily Mail Official War Photograph, Series 16, No. 123, titled 'British Chaplain Writing Home for Tommy'. Writing letters from the battlefield for soldiers is one of the British Army chaplains' unofficial tasks. Here a padre is writing for a man who is disabled. Wikimedia public domain image.


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.



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