The Extraordinary James Cowan
This is the story told in newspaper clippings of Mr. James Cowan who was a hatter by trade in Liverpool and would also sit on the old Wallasey Local Board. I have singled out this character for his extraordinary exploits who would very often find himself in the newspaper headlines for almost three decades with continuous verbal attacks on board members, fights with the general public, fights with the Wallasey ferry manager, being evicted from council offices and often finding himself arrested. I have included a biography of James [from Wallasey Local Board Biographical Notes.]
James Cowan was a hatter at 59 Dale Street and 2 Manchester Street. Liverpool and was married to Eleanor. At the time he lived at Wallace Villa, Grosvenor Street, Liscard. James was a member of the Seacombe Ratepayers Association and was elected to the Wallasey Local Board in 1868. A running dispute between James and the Ferry Manager, William Carson, occurred for many years. In August James visited the Egremont Ferries workshops but was forcibly removed on Carson's orders which resulted in court action - Carson being ordered to pay 10s and costs. In October 1872 James caused a commotion when he produced a pair of cymbals at the monthly Local Board meeting in Church Street, on which he then commenced to clash and bang loudly. He stated that he wished to be heard by members who he felt ignored his motions. The police were called and James and cymbals were removed from the building. By 1877 James hatter business was put into liquidation and in November 1878 he was employed by the Board as sub-Inspector of Nuisances but the position only lasted a few years when he was repeatedly reprimanded by the Board for insubordination. James tried again to get elected to the Board in 1886 but he did not meet the necessary ratepaying or property qualification (he was listed living with his brother on Greenwood Lane, Liscard). On 14th April, 1886 James entered the monthly Board meeting and refused to leave, grabbing onto the chair he had to be physically ejected. The scene was repeated again a week later and again in September. Though James would repeatedly try to get re-elected his attempts always failed. James died, aged 88, in 1921.
Friday, 8th May, 1868
County Magistrates Court, Birkenhead
Before Messrs J.B Shaw, R. Bryans, J. Ravenscroft, and J.B Case
Fracas At A Public Meeting At Egremont
William Dixon, tailor and draper, Withen's Lane, Egremont, was summoned on a charge of assaulted James Cowan, a hatter, carrying on business in Dale Street, Liverpool, and who resides in the parish of Wallasey. Mr. Worship appeared for the complainant, and the defendant was represented by Mr. Sepping. The complainant stated that on the previous Thursday evening, he attended a public meeting at the ratepayers of Wallasey, which was held in the drill shed at Egremont. The meeting was called to appoint a deputation to confer with the members of the Local Board on the management of the Wallasey ferries. When the meeting broke up at nine o'clock the defendant (whom complainant had not seen before in the room) came up and asked what he had to say against the chairman. Complainant told the defendant to mind his own business; that he (complainant) had his own rights to protect, and he would protect them. The defendant then called him a ----- fool twice. Complainant retorted that defendant was a double fool and a wastrel for saying so. The defendant immediately "flew" at him, and struck him a blow with his fist on the forehead, causing the blood to flow. Afterwards. the defendant gave his umbrella to another person to hold, and attempted to assault complainant a second time, but he was prevented from doing so by two or three gentlemen. -- In cross-examination, the complainant said he took a very strong part in the meeting. -- Mr. Seppings: You treated the chairman very respectably did you not? Complainant: That is not the question. -- Mr. Sepping: Did you not say to the defendant. "if you are going to be robbed, I am not; they are nothing but a set of swindlers." Complainant: No; I was not very excited. I was as cool as I am now. -- In reply to Mr. Worship, the complainant said he had a right to protect the parish of Wallasey, as he had property there. -- Two witnesses, named Nathaniel Linacre and Joseph Smith, corroborated the complainant's statement. The last witness said that Mr. Cowan was not more excited than usual. Something was said about "soft soap," but that was in reference to Mr. Skinner. The complainant spoke rather strongly at the meeting. -- In addressing the bench for the defence, Mr. Seppings said he supposed the magistrates had seen in the newspapers an account of this meeting, at which there was a good deal of excitement. Mr. Cowan, no doubt, was excited, and so was the defendant. When the parties got to the door, the defendant heard the complainant say they were nothing but a set of swindlers. The defendant felt annoyed at the remark, and asked whether the complainant included him (the defendant) amongst the swindlers. Some angry worlds followed, but the defendant denied having committed an assault, and if the case was adjourned could be produced in his favour. -- The magistrates objected to any adjournment of the case, and Mr. Shaw remarked that he was sorry there had been any misunderstanding between the parties. Nothing could justify the assault; and if in this case the complainant had done anything wrong to the defendant, the law was open to the latter. The defendant must pay a fine of 10s and costs.
Wednesday, 24th June, 1868
Wallasey Local Board - Election Of Members
The annual election of members of this board, to fill places of those who retired in rotation, has just been taken place. For the township of Poulton-cum-Seacombe, the retiring members were Messrs. Buchanan, and Smith, and there was another vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr. Dixon. Four gentlemen offered themselves, and the successful candidates were Mr. Peter Isherwood, 310 votes; Mr. Henry Smith, 290 votes, and Mr. James Cowan, 203. Mr. Richard Danson, the unsuccessful candidate, obtained 149 votes.
Friday, 14th August, 1868
Assault By The Wallasey Ferry Manager
On A Member Of The Local Board
At the county magistrates court, Birkenhead, yesterday, before the Rev. M. Coxon and Messrs. R. Bryans, S. Ledward, and J.B. Case. Mr. William Carson, the manager of the Wallasey ferries, and Thomas Hughes, one of the ferry collectors, were summoned for an assault on Mr. James Cowan, a member of the Wallasey Local Board. The case produced considerable interest, and there were present several residents of Wallasey, including Mr. J.C. Boyd and Mr. Harold Littledale, members of the Local Board. Mr. Worship appeared for the complainant, and Mr. Bretherton for the defendants.
In opening the case, Mr. Worship said he would not go into a long story about matters which had transpired in the parish of Wallasey, but would confine himself to the assault. Mr. Cowan had not brought the summons from any vindictive feeling towards Mr. Carson, but to show the ferry manager that he could not take the law into his own hands. Mr. Cowan was a member of the Local Board, duly elected at the last annual election by the ratepayers, and in discharge of his duty went on the 3rd inst. to inspect the works of the board at Egremont Ferry. When he entered the works he was met by Mr. Carson, who asked him what business he had there. As a member of the Local Board Mr. Cowan had a perfect right to be there, and in this capacity Mr. Cowan told Mr. Carson he had a right to go round the works. Thereupon Mr. Carson seized Mr. Cowan by the collar of the coat, and as nearly as possible thrust him down a hole some 25 feet deep. No doubt Mr. Carson entertained anything but a friendly feeling towards Mr. Cowan, for some time ago the former threatened the latter with an action of slander. Mr. Carson, however, had not thought proper to prosecute that action, and therefore it might be that in making this assault he had some vindictive feeling towards Mr. Cowan. Had Mr. Carson succeeded in thrusting Mr. Cowan down the hole, the latter would have been killed to a certainty. It was after Mr. Carson had seized Mr. Cowan by the collar that he (Mr. Carson) called for the defendant Hughes to assist him, and it was then that both defendants ejected the complainant from the premises. The assault was not of a violent character, but the proceedings were taken to show that Mr. Carson and his subordinates were not to thrust the commissioners out of the premises of the board when they thought proper to enter them.
The Complainant was then called, and he stated that he was a member of the Wallasey Local Board. Prior to the 3rd. he saw Mr. Ewer, law-clerk to the board, who, in answer to his question, told him there was no law to prevent his going on the works belonging to the board.
Mr. Bretherton here contended that Mr. Ewer's opinion had nothing to do with the matter.
The Complainant went on to say that he had been previously to inspect the gasworks, and no person turned him out. The chairman of the gas and water committee demurred to his visiting the gasworks without first consulting the manager, and it was in consequence of this that he spoke to Mr. Ewer, who said there was no law to prevent him inspecting the works if the board. In the exercise of his duty as a member of the board, he went to the ferry works at Egremont on the 3rd inst. There had been a collision with one of their steamers, and he went to see the extent of the damage. On his return from inspecting the works, Mr Carson came up and asked him if he wanted him. Complainant replied "No." Mr. Carson then said he would not allow him into the works. Complainant told him he had no authority for saying so. Me. Carson answered that if he (complainant) went into the works he would kick him out by violence (Laughter.) Complainant said he would go into the works again, and would not ask Mr. Carson's leave. Complainant then returned into the works, when Mr. Carson seized him by the collar in the most violent manner, having first tried to get hold of his throat. Complainant then got hold of Mr. Carson by the collar. Near the place where the struggle took place there is a large "chasm," about 25 or 26 feet deep, without and railing to protect a portion of it, and it was a miracle complainant was not shoved into it. Mr. Carson called on the collector and several other servants of the board, but they would not come to his assistance. He called on the defendant Hughes to come and help him to put him (Mr. Cowan) out. Complainant told Hughes that if he touched him he would hold his responsible. Me. Carson, however, drove Hughes to it, and both of them put complainant out. Complainant had the nail of his finger torn off. Complainant did not bring the case before the magistrates from any vindictive feeling. -- In cross-examination, the complainant stated that Mr. Carson did not say to him "You are a trespasser here, and I will have to put you out." Mr. Carson did not say, "if you do not go out I will have to put you out." Complainant did not say. "We will see who is the strongest, and it will be a trial of strength." Complainant had no authority from the board collectively to inspect the works; he went there in his own private capacity.
Mr. Bretherton, at this point, said he admitted that Mr. Carson put hands on the complainant under authority.
Mr. Worship. -- Then I need not call any more witnesses.
Mr. Bretherton. -- I dod not admit the assault in law. I believe we were justified in removing this man.
Mr. Worship said that according to Mr. Bretherton's argument the director of a railway had no business to go on the premises of a railway.
Mr. Bretherton. -- They are not in the same category. Go on with your next witness.
Matilda Chorlton, a married woman, deposed to seeing Mr. Carson shoving Mr. Cowan down a little bridge at the ferry premises. Mr. Cowan returned, when Mr. Carson took him by the collar and shoved him down again. The defendant Hughes went to Mr. Carson's assistance. On Mr. Cowan getting to the boat his finger was bleeding, and witness tore a bit of her handkerchief and wrapped up the finger.
Mr. Coxon. -- We take it there is evidence of an assault.
Mr. Bretherton then addressed the bench on behalf of the defendants. The question for the magistrates to decide was whether a member of the body constituted as the Wallasey Local Board was had a right, in his own individual capacity, to force himself into any works or premises belonging to the corporate body. For certain purposes the Wallasey Local Board was a corporation, and their act distinctly stated they were to be so. The question, he repeated, then resolved itself into this. -- Could one of the corporate body, in his own individual capacity, enter premises and assume authority over the corporate premises? He need scarcely point out the disturbance, the irregularity, and the evils which would arise from such interference. If this was permitted, all the members who were opposed to each other on views or management would be brought into direct collision; they would have men striving for power, and instead of the trust being benefited it would be seriously damaged. Unless Mr. Cowan could show he had some authority vested in him from the corporate body, he (Mr. Bretherton) apprehended the bench would not hold that in his private capacity he had no right to enter on the premises of the board. Mr. Cowan distinctly stated he had no authority from the local board, and therefore he (Mr. Bretherton) argued that the complainant was an intruder, and that Mr. Carson was justified in putting him out. This was no new question between these two parties. for Mr. Cowan had been warned before, and notwithstanding this warning he persisted in going back. Mr. Cowan had inspected the works, and it was only when addressed by Mr. Carson that he returned, not once, but twice - courting, as it were, the assault of which he now complained. Mr. Carson (argued Mr. Bretherton) had done nothing more than what he was justified in doing under his appointment. By rule 1, it was stated that the manager shall have charge and control over the ferries, ships, piers, steamers, &c., of the board, and he took it for law that for general purposes a corporation might act through an agent. At Birkenhead, Liverpool, and other places, the usual practice for a member of the corporation or the local board, if he wanted to inspect the corporate premises, was to apply to the chairman of the board or to the chairman of the particular committee who had the direction of the premises, for an order. An order was given him, and he then went with the consent of the whole board; but if it was allowed that each member had a right to make himself a trespasser and intruder, where would the difficulty end? If a member had a right on his own authority to inspect the works, would he not also have a right to direct the workmen? If he had a right to do one thing apart from his corporate character, he had a right to do the other thing apart from his corporate character.
Mr. Coxon. -- Certainly not. If the member interfered with the workmen, that would be different. I hold that each commissioner may go at any time to these works, but he cannot interfere with the workmen or give orders. Mr. Coxon went onto say that he was chairman of a board of guardians, and, according, to Mr. Bretherton's law, the master of the workhouse might turn him out if he went there.
Mr. Bretherton said the board of guardians were not incorporated. The magistrates (Mr. Coxon) was a guardian for all purposes, and the law assumed him to be on the premises.
Mr. Coxon thought there was something between the parties which did not come before the bench. A member of a board of guardians, if pushed out of the workhouse by the master, would think it very ill-treatment on part of the officer. Mr. Cowan went to these works, and there was no evidence that he in any way was interfered.
If Mr. Cowan had no right to be there he was a trespasser, and an action for trespass could be brought against him. The case all turned upon the question of right. He (Mr. Coxon) held that a member of the local board might go to the premises of the board at any time, but he had no right to interfere. Indeed, he questioned whether the ratepayers of Wallasey had not a right to go there.
Mr. Bretherton. -- Then you will upset the whole of the parish. It is only putting another stick in the wasps nest. (Laughter)
After some further remarks in support of his view of the case, Mr. Bretherton called Mr. Harold Littledale, who said he was a member of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and a member of the Wallasey Local Board. In case of a member of the Wallasey Board wishing to inspect the works or to obtain information, the practice was to go to the chairman, who could exercise his authority, and either give an order or not as he liked. Mr. Cowan was not a member of the ferry committee. Witness was a member of the ferry committee, and Mr. Kerferd was chairman. Witness was not aware that any permission had been given to Mr. Cowan to inspect the works. -- In cross-examination, Mr. Littledale stated that he was serious in saying that the chairman of the committee or the chairman of the board could prevent any individual member from going into the works. Witness certainly would not go on the works if the chairman of the board told him not to go. He had been to the gasworks in company with the manager, but not since they were finished.
Mr. Coxon said the bench were manimously of opinion that Mr. Cowan had a right to go to these ferry premises, but he had no right to interfere. It did not, however, appear that he had been guilty of any interference, but it was evident there was a bad feeling between the parties, the cause of which had not come out. If Mr. Carson thought that Mr. Cowan was trespassing and had no business on the premises, he could have ordered him away, and, if he refused to go, then Mr. Carson could have brought the case before the ferry committee and complained of Mr. Cowan's conduct; but he (Mr. Carson) had no right to take hold of one of his masters - if he (the magistrate) might call Mr. Cowan by that name - and put him out. Mr. Carson, for the assault, must pay 10s, and costs. As to the defendant Hughes, he seemed to be acting in some measure under the control of his superior officer, and the bench would only call on him to pay 1s. and costs.
Mr. Worship asked that his fee should be included in the costs, as it was rather an important investigation.
Mr. Coxon. - No, it is not usual.
Mr Bretherton asked for a case, which was granted.
Dundee Courier And Argus
Saturday, 5th October, 1872
Extraordinary Scene At Wallasey Local Board
A Member Playing On Cymbals
The monthly meeting (says the Liverpool Courier on Thursday) of the Wallasey Local Board was held yesterday afternoon at the Public Offices, Church Street, Egremont. Mr. Ellis Davies occupied the chair. At the last meeting of the board Mr. Cowan had certain motions on the notice paper, but when he rose to propose them the other members left. He now rose in an excited manner and asked why his notices of motion had not been put on the paper. As they were not heard at the last meeting, they ought now to be heard first. The Chairman said Mr. Cowan was out of order. Mr. Cowan -- I am always out of order with you. I am ready for you --
I've come prepared
With ready arms and weapons bared.
The Chairman -- I am here to conduct the proceedings of the Board. Mr Cowan. -- Yes, and you do not conduct the business. I am not one to be put down. I will play on these. Here he took up a parcel, and unfolding it, displayed a pair of brass cymbals, which he commenced to clang and clash together, confusion, and laughter prevailing among the other members. Then ceasing, he said, "I have come here determined to move my motion." The Clerk then commenced to read part of a memorial relating to flooded sewers, when he was interrupted by Mr. Cowan playing "his sounding brass and tinkling cymbals." Lieutenant-Colonel Clay said, "I propose that the keeper of some lunatic asylum be sent for." (Laughter.) Mr Cowan. -- You are the biggest lunatic in the place. The Chairman said the question was whether Mr Cowan was to interrupt the proceedings. If so, he would move that the Board turn him out. Several members cried, "Hear, hear," Lieutenant-Colonel Clay adding "By force!" He then resumed the clangour of the cymbals; and Colonel Clay said, "Go on playing. It is a novel mode of proceeding." Mr Cowan - Then thousand men with bayonets bare would not put me down. Mr Chadburn begged to move that Mr Cowan be removed. Mr Cowan - I will not be removed. I would like to see you do it. I will have my motion made this evening. I will.
Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea.
(Laughter.) He then sounded the cymbals louder than before. The Clerk tried to resume reading; but the cymbalist cried out, "Shut up, shut up ! You can't be heard, you know." He added. "I wanted a bell, but could not get one loud enough, so I got these." Some member said. "He's mad;" the retort being, "I'm not so mad as you. I never ascertained that some of your ancestors were in a madhouse." Mr Sutton - You are a queer fellow. Mr Littledale - Try the business again. Mr Cowan - Try again, I will sound the loud timbrel. Mr Sutton - Never mind him. Mr Cowan - You should keep sober, Mr Stanley Sober, and then you would be right. Mr Sutton - I am sober. Mr Cowan - No, you are not. Mr Sutton - Have you no senses about you? Mr Cowan commenced playing again, when two policemen made their appearances - Sergeant Walker and Police-constable 179. The sergeant asked the chairman what were his orders. Mr Cowan said the policemen dared not touch him. Sergeant Walker - if this gentleman (the Chairman) orders us to put you out I will put you out. Mr Cowan - You can't do it. He then wrapped the cymbals, and said - What is the charge? Sergeant Walker - I have nothing to do with the charge, but if the gentleman asks me to put you out I have nothing to do but do it. About half-a-dozen members called out, "Take him away; take him away." Mr Cowan then said he would go. (To the sergeant) Let me get my machinery. He then wrapped up his cymbals, folded his motion (after tearing off the blank sheet), and stood up, saying "Take hold of me, and I will go out," Sergeant Walker took him by the shoulder, and Mr Cowan went away quietly with his "instruments and extracts" saying , "You have laid your hands on me; you will smart for this." Quietness being restored, the ordinary business of the Board was transacted.
Thursday, 9th April, 1874
Liscard Petty Sessions
Before Major Chambres And Captain Smith
Assaulting A Member Of The Wallasey Board. -- Edward Davies, a bookkeeper, employed in Liverpool, but resident at Liscard, was summoned for assaulting James Cowan, also a resident at Liscard, and a member of the Wallasey Local Board. Mr. Quelch, a solicitor, appeared for the complainant. The complainant's advocate having given an outline of his client's case, the complainant himself was called. -- He gave evidence to the effect that on Monday, the 23rd March, he was on board the Wild Rose, Seacombe ferry boat, and the defendant stood before him. Some remarks passed between the defendant and a Mr. Mills, when the former, referring to complainant said "Oh, here is the cymbal player." Complainant replied, "Yes, you could never do that; you would never have the brains to suggest it, or the ability to carry it out." Upon this the defendant struck him on the left ear, and knocked him down. In his fall, he came into contact with a lady standing close by, and she fell against the railing of the boat. This constituted the assault. -- In answer to a question by the bench, complainant said he had always been on friendly terms with the defendant; he had known for many years, and occassionally they had a chat together, but this time it came to a crisis. In reply to a question by the defendant, the complainant denied calling him a liar or a low-lived scoundrel; he never used such language, but he did say he did not dare to vote.
-- Alice Smith deposed that she was on board the ferry boat on the day named. She saw complainant and defendant talking together, and also saw defendant strike complainant and knock him down. He fell against the witness, and she was pushed against the railings. She did not hear complainant call the defendant a liar or a low-lived scoundrel, but defendant called the complainant a puppy, and threatened to throw him overboard. In answer to a question by defendant, the witness said he came up and begged her pardon for causing her to fall down. Defendant (referring to the local board) told complainant they were fools that put him in, but he (defendant) was not one of them, for he burnt his voting paper. -- The statement of the last witness was confirmed by her husband, Mr. Nicholas Smith. -- In reply to the charge, the defendant said that on the day named he saw complainant on board the ferry boat, and tried to avoid him, but he came up and became very abusive. He was not very choice in his language, and amongst other things called defendant a low-lived scoundrel and that he had not dared to vote. What protection was there if a creature such as the complainant could be allowed to go about and insult every decent man? Under the circumstances, he considered himself justified in what he had done. A man so incapable of understanding could not be appealed to in any other way, and you might as well talk to him as to any of the animals on the shore at New Brighton.
He denied, however, striking the complainant, as had been stated, under the ear; and before using violence, complainant applied to him the abusive epithets he had stated. He could easily have disposed of him by two blows, but he only gave him what he could understand. he felt so much confidence in the justice of his case that he did not think it necessary to bring two witnesses who could have given evidence in his favour. He regretted having caused injury to Mrs. Smith, but for that he had apologised.
-- Major Chambres intimated that his brother magistrate, Captain Smith, being a member of the board, declined taking any part in the decision of the case. He asked the defendant whether he would be satisfied with his (Major Chambres) decision, to which the defendant signified his assent. Major Chambres had no hesitation in saying that defendant had broken the law, even if complainant did use that word liar. Perhaps he might have used such language, but it was quite clear that the defendant had taken the law into his own hands, and he must take the consequence. He must pay a penalty of 20s. and costs.
Friday, 8th November, 1878
Cowan Appointed As Sub-Inspector of Nuisances
The [Gas and Water Committee] recommended that Mr. James Cowan (formerly a member of the board) be appointed inspector of waste water and sub-inspector of nuisances, at 30s a week. There were seven applications for the situation. -- Mr. Dixon moved the confirmation of the proceedings, with the exception of the recommendation to appoint a waste water inspector and sub-inspector of nuisances, on the ground that the duties of the new officer had not yet been defined. -- Mr. Prendeville moved and Mr. Skinner seconded an amendment that the inspector should be at once appointed. -- In the course of some conversation that followed, Mr. Dixon said there was a great waste of water in the parish, the consumption being 45 gallons per head per day, whilst in other places it was only 25 gallons. He urged that the inspector should have a knowledge of fittings, but with regard to the proposed appointment he believed the place was made for the man, and not the man for the place. -- The amendment was carried by eight to two, and the proceedings were confirmed. Mr. Alltree and Mr. Chadburn did not vote.
Friday, 8th July, 1881
[The Works and Health Committee] recommended that the services of Mr. James Cowan, sub-inspector of nuisances, be dispensed with on the ground of insubordination.
Mr. Martin, in moving the confirmation of the proceedings, expressed his regret at the resolution to dispense with the services of the sub-inspector of nuisances. Mr. Cowan had since apologised to the surveyor, and had also sent a letter of regret to the committee.
The Chairman read a letter addressed to the board by Mr. Cowan, tendering his humble apology, and after detailing at length his various services, prayed that he might be retained in his office.
Mr. Davies urged that there was no necessity for additional assistance in the surveyor's department. There was a considerable amount of jealousy with regard to this matter outside, and he moved, as an amendment, that the recommendation be referred back.
Mr. Ball supported the recommendation of the committee, and said that on investigation he found that the surveyor's office, through neglect before the appointment of the present surveyor, was in a state of chaos.
A long discussion followed, in which Mr. Skinner and others took part. Mr. Martin said he was satisfied, from personal inspection, that the work in the surveyor's department was greatly in arrear, and that additional assistance, was absolutely necessary. -- Mr. Skinner moved another amendment that no temporary surveyor be employed, but this was also lost.
Mr. Currie moved that the recommendation to dispense with the services of Mr. Cowan, sub-inspector of nuisances, be not confirmed. Mr. Cowan, he said, had made a humble apology, and he urged the board to give him another chance.
Saturday, 12th July, 1884
Abusive Language To A Late Member Of The
Wallasey Local Board
At the Wallasey Petty Sessions on Wednesday, James Cowan, late inspector pf nuisances for the parish of Wallasey, was summoned for using abusive language to Mr. Samuel Alltree, late member of the Local Board. From the complainant's statement, it appeared that on the 25th ultimo he was hearing a case at the Wallasey Sessions. Upon leaving the court he was assailed in the highroad by the defendant, who called him a poisoner and a murderer, alleging that he (Mr. Alltree), as a member of the Health Committee of the Local Board, prevented him (the defendant), in his capacity of meat inspector, from seizing diseased meat at the lairages, by which the public were poisoned wholesale every day. The defendant also used to the complainant a number of other offensive expression. -- Sergeant Vost corroborated the complainant's evidence -- Mr. Henry Skinner, late chairman of the Health Committee, wished to make a statement in vindication of the committee, but the Bench ruled that could not be heard. -- The defendant, who maintained that his allegations were true, was ordered to find two sureties in £10 each and to be bound over himself in £20, to keep the peace, or in default to be imprisoned for seven days. -- The defendant said he would not find sureties, and as he had nothing particular to do the magistrates might send him to jail.
Thursday, 15th April, 1886
Extraordinary Scene At Wallasey Local Board
An Ex-Member Forcibly Rejected
At a special meeting of the Wallasey Local Board, called for the purpose of passing the final proceedings of the several committees for the financial year just closed, and held in the Public Offices, Egremont, last evening, a "scene" of an extraordinary and unusual character occurred. The members present were Messrs. W. Danger (chairman). F. Pooley, J. Currie, C.J. Waldron, R. McGeogh, G.H. Ball, J. Joyce, R.W. Preston, G. Peers, T.R. Bulley, and J. Dean. Before the business commenced, Mr. James Cowan, a resident of Egremont, formerly in business as a hatter, but now out of business, and who was some years ago a member of the board, and subsequently a district inspector of nuisances, also entered the room and took a seat at the members' table. Mr. Cowan, it appears, at the last election, submitted himself in nomination, but Mr. Danger, in his capacity as presiding officer, declined to accept the nomination on the ground that Mr. Cowan had not the necessary taxpaying or property qualification. His presence in the boardroom naturally created surprise among the members, and the Chairman, on taking his seat asked - "What do you want, Mr Cowan?"-- Mr. Cowan I want my rights. The Chairman: Will you kindly retire from the room? -- Mr. Cowan: I will not retire from the room. -- The Chairman (addressing the assistant clerk of the board): Mr. Vickers, will you call in the inspector or sergeant of police? -- Mr. Vickers left the boardroom for the purpose of calling in the police, whereupon the following lively altercation ensued: -- Mr. Cowan: You can all do as you like. I shall not leave the meeting.-- The Chairman: I told you before --- . Mr. Cowan (interrupting): You have no right to tell me anything at all. I shall not submit to your ruling. It is a nice thing if the public are to be deprived of their rights in this way. -- Mr. Currie Don't be foolish Mr. Cowan. Take my advice, and withdraw. -- Mr. Cowan (excitedly): You would be foolish if you dared, I daresay. You would be the very last to submit to any despotism yourself. -- Mr. Currie: I am not going to discuss the question with you. You are not returned as a member by any constituency. -- Mr. Cowan: I am returned as much as you are. -- Mr. Currie: Take my advice and withdraw, and don't allow a policeman to take you out. -- Mr. Cowan: I don't care about a policeman. I don't care for any policeman. I shall be here every night of the meeting. He (presumably alluding to the chairman in his ruling as presiding officer) cannot give any explanation. I asked him as a man upon what rights and privileges --.-- At this stage Mr. Cowan's remarks were interrupted by the entrance of a policeman (Constable No. 229, Harper) accompanied by Mr. McAllister, the Keeper of the Public Offices. -- The Chairman: Mr. Cowan, will you please leave the room? -- Mr. Cowan: I have no right to leave the room. -- The Chairman: Mr. McAllister will you assist Mr. Cowan out of the room? -- Mr. Cowan: (looking towards Mr. McAllister, a powerfully-built man, and speaking in a defiant tone): He will have to give you authority. You have no authority to break the law. If you break the law, you will stand the consequences. -- The Chairman: You have no right here, Mr. Cowan, and I request you, Mr. McAllister, to show Mr. Cowan out of the room. -- The stalwart janitor approached the spot where Mr. Cowan sat clinging tenaciously to the arms of his chair. "Will you come out with me?" queried the officer, placing his hand on Mr. Cowan's shoulder. "I will not. You will have to take me out by force if I go," responded that gentlemen; whereupon Mr. mcAllister proceeded to carry out the orders of the chairman. The policeman, however, having received an intimation from the chairman not to interfere until Mr. Cowan was "put out of the room," looked calmly on the scuffle that the process of ejectment entailed. The board's officer, finding persuasion unavailing, seized the back of Mr. Cowan's chair and dragged it and its occupant a yard from the table. Mr. Cowan then sprang from the seat, wrenched the chair from the grasp of the official, who seemed to be in momentary peril of having the furniture hurled at his person, and assumed a defiant attitude. The officer, however, speedily regained possession of the chair, and, taking Mr. Cowan by the shoulders, without using more force than the circumstances of his unpleasant duty called for succeeded in putting the obstinate gentleman out of the room, the latter protesting "You have no right to interfere." -- The Chairman requested the policeman, as the latter was leaving, to "keep him downstairs, now he is here," but it was understood that Mr. Cowan went away without the constable's intervention after he had threatened the board's officer with criminal proceedings. The business of the board was then proceeded with, but the minutes of the several committees dealt with contained no matter of public interest. A vote of thanks having been tendered to Mr. Danger for his able and courteous conduct as chairman during the past year, the board rose.
Friday, 23rd April, 1886
Wallasey Local Board
The first meeting of this board after the annual election was held last evening at the public offices, Egremont, the members present being Messrs. Danger, Ball, Peers, Preston, Dean, Joyce, Currie, Walmsley, McGeoch, Herron, Waldron, Pooley and Wall.
Mr. James Cowan again made his appearance at the public offices for the purpose of claiming a seat at the board. It will be recollected that at the previous meeting of the board he was ejected from the building. Last evening, before the members of the board assembled, he entered the offices, and stopped for some time, but at the request of the keeper he left, and the front door was closed. The "would-be member" was afterwards prevented from entering the building by the keeper, three stalwart labourers in the employ of the board, and two constables, all of whom guarded the entrance.
Friday, 3rd September, 1886
Extraordinary Scene With An
Ex-Member Of The Board
Whilst the proceedings of the Ferry Committee were under consideration Mr. James Cowan, a former member of the board, quietly entered the room and took a vacant chair, to the astonishment if the members. At the last annual election Mr. Cowan was nominated as a candidate but it was held that his qualification was insufficient, and it was declared that his nomination was invalid. At the first meeting of the board after the election Mr. Cowan took his seat as a member, but was forcibly ejected from the room. At subsequent meetings he again tried to get into the boardroom, but was kept outside by the keeper of the offices. Last evening, however, the keeper was not on guard as usual, and Mr. Cowan consequently managed to find his way into the boardroom. Taking the chair usually occupied by Mr. R.W. Preston, Mr. Cowan said he had come to take his seat according to law. Mr. Currie: I move that Mr. Cowan be taken out of the room. -- Mr. Cowan Try it on, if you dare. I will give you one on the "nob." -- Mr. Currie: I will take you out the room without the slightest compunction if the chairman says I may do so. -- The Chairman: Mr. Cowan, I beg you to withdraw from the room, because you are interrupting our business here. -- Mr. Cowan: I beg your pardon, I have a right to be here, and I insist upon remaining. -- The Chairman: I ask you, sir to retire. -- Mr. Cowan: I will not retire. -- Mr. Currie: I ask that McAllister (the keeper of the offices) be called to take him out of here; and and if he does not take him out, I will take him out. -- Mr. Cowan: (looking sarcastically at Mr. Currie): You, sir, have no right to interfere with me. I shall come here for three years hand-running, do what you like. Most of you come here to rob the public. That is all you do. There are only two gentlemen in the room; that is, Mr. Heron and Mr. McGeoch. They are not implicated. I belong to the wrong country and stuff to be made a fool of. I will stop where I am. -- Mr. Currie: I will take you out by the "scruff" of the neck, if the chairman will allow me. -- Mr. Cowan: You (Mr. Currie) have no right to be here than I have. -- [At this point Mr. Vicars, the assistant clerk, went out of the room to look for McAllister, the keeper.] -- Mr. Cowan: Let us have fairplay; good English fairplay. -- Mr. Currie (excitedly): Where is McAllister? -- Mr. Cowan: You cannot show me an act of Parliament by which you can interfere with me. As for you, Mr. Currie, you were a decent man once; but I am afraid you have been bought over. -- Mr. Currie: I am obliged to you. -- Mr. Cowan: You were a man once. Mr. Ball there knows all about the rascality of the place as well as I know, and yet he was the first man to turn against me. -- Mr. Currie: Mr. Chairman, if you will allow me to take him out I will take him by the "scruff" of the neck. -- Mr. Cowan: Any fool can do that. He then went on to denounce the proceedings of the board, after which McAllister entered the room, tapped Mr. Cowan on the shoulder, and asked him to leave. Mr. Cowan refused to leave his seat, seized hold of the desk in front of him, and clung to it most tenaciously during a violent struggle. McAllister, who is a tall, powerful man lifted Mr. Cowan out of his chair, and carried him bodily into the lobby, amidst a scene of great excitement. Mr. Cowan here seized hold of the banisters of the stair, and defied McAllister or anybody else to touch him. He seated himself on the floor, and looked defiantly at the tall, powerful office-keeper. Finding that Mr. Cowan was not to be easily ejected, one of the reporters spoke somewhat kindly to him, and at his entreaty Mr. Cowan rose up and took the reporter by the arm, and walked with him quietly out of the building.
Thursday, 9th September, 1886
Singular Application Against
The Wallasey Local Board
At the Wallasey Petty Sessions, yesterday, Mr. James Cowan, who has made himself somewhat famous by his conflicts with the Local Board of that district, appeared in court and applied to the bench for protection against what he termed the brutality of the members of that board. The magistrates present were Messrs. W. Chambres, R. A. Eskrigge, W. B. Marshall, and T. R. Bulley. Mr. Cowan was formerly a member of the Wallasey Board, and in March last he was again nominated as a candidate, but his qualification was held to be insufficient by the returning officer, Mr. W. Danger, and the nomination was cancelled. Since then Mr. Cowan had attempted to take his seat at the board, but he had been forcibly ejected from the boardroom. On Thursday evening he unexpectedly got into the room, a violent struggle ensued, and again the intruder was forced out of the building. Mr. Cowan, in now making his application, for protection, said he went to the meetings of the Local Board, as he had a right to do, but he had been assaulted on three occasions. -- Mr Chambres said the bench could not entertain the question of Mr. Cowan's nomination, but if more violence were used than was necessary, and he had been assaulted, they could hear the case. He could take out a summons against the person who assaulted him. Mr. Cowan said he denied the right of anyone to turn him out of the boardroom. He also wished to state that persons who came to that court for justice should be heard by magistrates who possessed the necessary qualification to sit. -- Mr. Chambres said he did not suppose that any of the magistrates did not possess the necessary qualification. -- Mr. Cowan replied that he did not refer to any of the gentlemen then on the bench. -- Mr. Chambres said the bench could not enter into the question raised by Mr. Cowan at all. -- Mr. Cowan stated that if the bench would grant him a summons against McAllister, the keeper of the offices of the Local Board, they could hear the whole matter. He contended that he had a right to attend the board meetings, and no one had legal authority to interfere with him. He was legally nominated to represent Seacombe, but had been disqualified by the returning officer on the ground that he did not possess the necessary rating qualification. Twelve years ago he fought this question at the assizes at Chester, and Judge Mellor then gave a decision in his favour. He had spent £300 in fighting the question but did not intend to spend any more money. He was sorry to trouble the bench but he was only defending the rights and freedom of the citizen. He was determined to carry on the struggle with the Local Board, but would not spend a penny over it. He would go to every meeting of the board. He would not use physical force, unless compelled to do so, as he was determined to have his rights.-- Mr. Cowan then retired from the court.
Wednesday, 20th April 1887
Wallasey Petty Sessions
Before Messrs. Chambres And F.J Harrison
Mr. J. COWAN AND THE WALLASEY LOCAL BOARD - James Cowan, The Elms, Greens Lane, Liscard. appeared in answer to two summonses issued by the Local Board, one charging him with having assaulted Andrew McAllister, their doorkeeper. on April 6: and the other with having damaged a screen in the board room. -- Mr W. Danger appeared for the board, and Mr. P. O'Hare for the defendant who had taken out a cross summons against McAllister for the same date. -- McAllister stated that he was doorkeeper at the Local Board Offices, Egremont. The voters in the last election of members were being counted on April 6, and he was instructed by Mr. Joyce, the returning officer, not to admit the defendant in the offices. Two men were, accordingly engaged to keep out the defendant. In the morning, defendant made two unsuccessful attempts to enter. In the evening, about seven o'clock, he saw the defendant go upstairs towards the boardroom, and, following his instructions, he requested the defendant to leave quietly. The defendant replied with an oath that he would not. He (complainant) took him by the breast of his coat, whereupon the defendant threw himself on the floor. Witness had to use a little force to get him out. In taking hold of the defendant by the coat, he unintentionally caught some of his whiskers in his hand. While both were on the floor, the defendant took witnesses little finger in his mouth, but he failed to get a "right bite" at it as he withdrew it quickly. Defendant kicked him twice. Witness lifted the defendant from the floor, and while he had him in his arms the defendant gave out two or three kicks and sent a panel of the screen out. Witness thereupon, to prevent further damage, took him into the street. Previously, when witness had ejected the defendant from board meetings, the latter had threatened him. Cross-examined : Did not seize the defendant by the whiskers and say "out you go." Witness did not throw the defendant to the ground. On previous occasions the defendant had threatened to bring a sword and a pistol, although witness did not think he would do so. -- By the Bench: Witness used no more force than was absolutely necessary. -- By Mr. Danger: Mr. Cowan was a slippery customer. -- very much like an eel wriggling about, and one occasion witness had to carry him out, chair and all (Laughter). -- Thomas Jeff, one the men stationed to prevent the defendant entering the office, gave evidence that the defendant made two attempts to enter in the day. -- Alfred Salmon, surveyor to the board, said he was instructed by Mr. Joyce to have two men to prevent the defendant entering the room. He saw Cowan deliberately kick out the panel of the screen. -- Mr. O'Hare, on behalf of the defendant, said Mr. Cowan was highly respected on that side of the water, and had been a member of the Wallasey Local Board for a number of years. The consequence was that if they found Mr. Cowan guilty of the assault it would seriously reflect on his character. He had been duly nominated for election on the board, and three nomination papers, signed by men of position, were handed in according to the act. Thereupon Mr. Joyce, the returning officer, wrote to him that, as he had not the required rateable qualification, would he state what qualification he relied upon. To this Mr. Cowan replied that he relied upon the £1000 real and personal qualification. Thereupon Mr. Joyce wrote to Mr. Cowan that as his letter did not supply the required information he had no alternative but to cancel his nomination. He (Mr. O'Hare) contended, as it was a point which must affect the case, that Mr. Joyce had no right to do anything of the kind because the Public Health Act stated distinctly that these objections to qualifications must not be brought up until the candidate had either been elected or had for some time been a member of the board. Mr. O'Hare then quoted the sections of the act in support of this argument. As a candidate the defendant had a perfect right to enter the room where the votes were being counted, and it was a fact that friends of candidates and others who were not even ratepayers were present. Well, Mr. Cowan went to the room and found two persons, whom he could call nothing but blackguards - men made use of by the board for dirty purposes. -- The Chairman :- I do not think we can allow that expression to pass. The men were in the employ of the board, and were simply doing their duty. I am rather astonished that a learned gentleman like yourself should make use of such an expression. -- Mr. O'Hare said he did not want to say anything hard, and withdrew the observation. He would call evidence to show that Mr. Cowan acted in self defence when McAllister proceeded to eject him. At this point the court adjourned, and on reassembling Mr. Danger said he had several other witnesses, who would confirm the testimony already given against the defendant. -- Charles William Bullock, bank manager, of Church Road, Egremont, said he was present in the Wallasey Board room when Mr. Cowan came up the stairs. Some conversation took place, and later on, as witness was coming down, McAllister (who was informed that Cowan was upstairs) said, "I will soon have him out." Witness remarked. "I will go upstairs and see the fun." (Laughter.) When he got upstairs he found McAllister and Cowan on the floor. McAllister, who was on top of Cowan, who lay on the floor, and was pulling the latter very violently by the collar. A gentleman named Furniss then came up and assisted to pick Cowan up off the floor. McAllister refused to let him go, and dragged him towards the screen near the door. Cowan was then struggling to get free, the violence, in witness's opinion, being all on McAllister's side. He next saw "three pairs of legs flying about.", and the panels of the screen kicked out. (Laughter.) Whoever did it, did it accidentally. McAllister came up and said Cowan had bitten his hand, and witness told him he had got off very luckily. Witness, who was neither a candidate nor agent, walked into the offices, and was not asked for his credentials. Witness had no interest in giving evidence. Bertram Furniss stated that he was attracted by a noise as if a man was in a fit. However, every one looked on so unconcernedly that he felt it could not be so, and then instinct told him it was Mr. Cowan. (Laughter.) It was generally the case that if there was a disturbance in the board room, it was caused by Mr. Cowan. When he crossed the room he saw Cowan lying on his back, and McAllister holding him by the coat and shoulder. McAllister pulled toward the doorway on to the landing, and then put him in the street. To his knowledge no one touched the screen. While on the floor Cowan kicked right and left. Both parties were excited. -- Mr. Danger said the sections of the Public Health Act proceeded upon the assumption that a person was duly qualified. Mr. Cowan was not a ratepayer, and therefore the board were quite justified in removing him, he being a trespasser on their premises. -- The cross summons against McAllister was then take, -- Mr. Cowan was called, and stated that he was a gentleman. He was nominated for three districts at the last Wallasey Local Board election. On the morning of April 6 he was prevented going in the boardroom by two men. Mr. Joyce said he had nothing to do with the men. On the evening of the same day he had again went to the offices, and had not been in a minute before McAllister came up, and taking hold of him by the whiskers, said, "Come out of here." He (defendant) was certain that before he did this McAllister did not ask him to go out. The defendant then described the scrimmage which followed. He "landed" McAllister a kick to force him to let go his whiskers. He caught hold of a chair and rolled on to the floor. Mr. Furniss then came to the rescue. In the room there were people who were not ratepayers. -- Cross examined : I have been turned out of the board before, but I maintain that I have a right to be there. You are the cause of all this trouble Mr. Danger. The defendant was proceeding to make accusations against Mr. Danger, when the Chairman said it would be more seemly if Mr. Cowan would answer the questions simply. Continuing, the defendant said he was a ratepayer. His brother's name was on the assessment for the house he occupied, but he (defendant) paid rent and rates. The rent was £19 10s a year, and rates and taxes were compounded for. He had gone to all the meetings with the purpose of getting in. His name did not go before the ratepayers. -- Mr. Danger: How did McAllister's hand get in your mouth and be bitten? Cowan: Well, if you put your hand in my mouth you would find my teeth are as sharp as razors. If a man puts his finger in my mouth in my mouth I grab at it. Mt teeth are sharp and well used. -- The bench, after a brief consultation, dismissed the summons against McAllister and the one against Cowan for damaging the screen. For the assault on McAllister they fined Cowan £5 including costs. Mr. Chambres added that if persons acted as Mr. Cowan had done over and over again no public business could be transacted. There would be no costs allowed to either side. Mr. Cowan was granted seven days in which to pay the money, the Chairman remarking that Mr. Cowan should hardly demand time to pay if his assertion was true that he had £1000 real and personal qualification.