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Durham Executions: Revenge on A Blackleg 1883 – Thomas Pyle – Plate-Layer from Ushaw Moor

April 11, 2014 3 comments

On the evening of Saturday 1 April 1882 Thomas Pyle, a plate-layer from Ushaw Moor, had gone drinking in Durham. He was in such a state of intoxication that he was helped by two young men to walk up Prior’s Path. Pyle then lay down at the hedge side and fell asleep. He was seen by quite a few people, as they made their way home, still lying in the same spot at midnight. The following morning Pyle’s dead body was discovered at a distance of some thirty yards from where he had been seen sleeping. A post-mortem of the body being carried out at the Durham Infirmary by Dr Jepson and Dr Oliver established that Pyle had been murdered. His left arm was fractured, there was a hole in his wind-pipe and his throat had been crushed almost to a pulp – by a beating.

Although the police conducted many interviews and pieced together the dead man’s last movements it was to be more than twelve months before there was an arrest, even though a reward of £200 was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Pyle’s murderer. Peter McDonnell was born in Halifax in 1851 and he and his sister, Mary, when both young, were brought to Durham with their parents. After their father’s death their mother married John Bray and the two McDonnell children adopted his surname. Young Peter Bray was always in trouble and was a general nuisance to his neighbours. He was sent to work in a carpet factory but decided he wanted employment in the pits. In 1866, at the age of fifteen, Bray began his criminal career, an assault for which he was imprisoned for seven days.

Then in March 1873 he began a sentence of six months for cutting and wounding.
In 1874 Crossgate Peth (Path) leading from the city of Durham to Brandon and other pit villages, became a black spot for robberies on dark nights, often carried out with brutal violence. Eventually the police managed to arrest five of the perpetrators who were given long sentences of penal servitude and suffered the lash for their crimes. Two others, James Glancey and Bray, managed to escape. Glancey was arrested soon after for another crime and received a life sentence. With the assistance of the police at Newcastle, Bray was eventually arrested at the Castle Garth in 1875. He was sentenced to be incarcerated for seven years — and to be flogged.

Bray was released in the early part of 1881 and went to live at Bearpark and enlisted in the Durham Militia. While undergoing his army training at Hartlepool he received a sentence of seven days, to be spent in Durham gaol, for drunkenness. As Bray left the prison on completion of his sentence, on 6 July 1883, the police were already waiting and arrested him on suspicion of the murder of Thomas Pyle. Bray stood before Justice Day on Friday 2 November 1883 at Durham Assizes, defended by Mr Grainger in what was to be a trial lasting more than ten hours. Although it appeared that there were many people who had known that Bray had done the deed they had all kept silent, some, it was said, through fear of repercussions. There was also the fact that during a miners’ strike the people who were detested almost as much as those that had the authority over the mine workers were the scabs or blacklegs who did not give total backing to their work colleagues, so perhaps many thought that Pyle had got what he deserved. Once the police had made extensive enquiries and unravelled the events of that night they summoned many of the witnesses to testify in court.

On the day that the murder had taken place Bray had been drinking with his companions at various public houses. Bray and David Liddell had left Durham at about 11 pm to return to Bearpark which was about three miles away. As they walked up Prior’s Peth they saw Pyle lying on the grass in a drunken sleep. It was well known that Pyle worked as a blackleg at Ushaw Moor Colliery where there was a strike taking place at that time. As Bray and Liddell walked on they bumped into a group of their acquaintances and one asked if they had seen Pyle as they passed. Bray said they had and they should go back and ‘kill the bastard’. When the group of men realised that his threat was serious they urged him to leave Pyle alone but he would not be swayed. Bray broke a rail from the fence before jumping over it and headed towards the defenceless man. It was a dark night and, although the men standing on the path could not see what was taking place, they heard a cry. Realising that Bray had done something to Pyle, the group hurriedly dispersed.

Bray had then gone to his lodgings telling his landlord ‘I have put a blackleg through that night.’ A few weeks later he had a conversation with an acquaintance in Durham market place, saying, ‘when I first struck Pyle he had shouted but I soon put a stop to that’. The two men who had originally helped Pyle on Prior’s Peth testified that he had a parcel with him. The parcel was not there when the body was found. Other witnesses stated that Bray was later in possession of a jacket and shirt that did not belong to him and he was also bragging about having money in his pocket. Bray insisted that he was innocent and that the whole affair was a conspiracy with the witnesses committing perjury. He pointed out that there were many of the mining com-munity who would have been hostile towards Pyle because of his actions.

The jury brought in a verdict of guilty and the death sentence was pronounced with Justice Day adding to his summing up that Bray should not look for a reprieve as one would not be granted. It was reported that, after a life of crime, twenty-seven-year-old Peter Bray confessed his sins, admitted his guilt and went to his death penitent. Precautions had been taken to avoid a repeat of the occurrences that had taken place at the previous execution. Once the white hood was in place Bartholomew Binns placed the knot of the noose at the back of the head instead of to the right and the slack of the rope was tied with a thin thread.

Bray went to his death on Monday 19 November 1883 with hardly a quiver from the rope.

Durham Executions: The Twentieth Century – Maureen Anderson – Google Books.

Ushaw Moor : Paperback : Alain Soren Mikhayhu : 9786139252510

February 7, 2013 12 comments

Anyone come across this BOOK before,seems a little pricey tho,, and the PHOTO is not of Ushaw Moor !

Ushaw Moor (Paperback) Edited by Alain Soren Mikhayhu

via Ushaw Moor : Paperback : Alain Soren Mikhayhu : 9786139252510.

Categories: books

Soldier Story – I was There ,Pamela Proctor speaks to the Royal Canadian Legion

January 4, 2013 1 comment

Listen to Pamela Proctor, daughter of Frank Proctor former resident of Ushaw Moor who left for Canada, remembering his story while fighting in WW2, speaking to the Royal Canadian Legion.
Download Pamela Proctor speaks to the Royal Canadian Legion

A Canadian Soldier’s Real Life Adventure Story

Summary: Frank Proctor grew up in a coal mining town near Durham, England, came to Saskatchewan to work in the grain harvest, enlisted in the Regina Rifles on the outbreak of war, trained in Canada and England, landed in Normandy on D-Day, fought through France and Holland to Germany, returned to Canada and moved to Mission, B.C., where he raised his family and operated his own business until retirement to the beauty of his art.

Read this gripping first hand account by a Canadian infantryman of his personal experiences in the tremendous events resulting in the liberation of Europe.

What readers and reviewers have said about I Was There click here

via Soldier Story – I was There , an autobiography by Frank Proctor.

Hard Copy of Memories BLOG

You can now purchase a “hard copy” of the Ushaw Moor Memories BLOG.

It is available as a soft back A5 book compiled into 300 pages with contents of TOPICS with comments.

The cost is £18.00 +p/p.

Let me know if you are interested.

Paul

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The history and antiquities of the … – Google Books

Ushaw is a village three-quarters of a mile east from Esh. A hamlet called Hilltop, recently erected, is principally occupied by tailors and other tradesmen employed by the students of Ushaw College. An act was passed, 2 George III., 1760, ” for dividing and enclosing a certain moor or common, called Middlewood Moor, or Ushaw Moor, within the manor of Lanchester, in the county of Durham.” This moor is described as containing upwards of 600 acres, and as being partly in the chapelry of Esh, and partly in the parish of St. Oswald, and intersected from north to south by the Scotch Dyke and Holywell Syke, the parochial boundaries. The allotments were to be subject to a clear yearly rent of 6d. per acre to the bishop

via The history and antiquities of the … – Google Books.

Categories: books, From the WEB, history