5th May 1861

A NIGHT SCENE IN ST JAMES’S PARK

Mary Ann Simpson, an ugly, ragged and dirty prostitute, was charged with assaulting two working men, named Thomas Lort and Francis Chamberlayne.

It appeared from the evidence of the complainants that they were passing along the Mall in St James’s park, when they were accosted by the prisoner. She asked them to give her some money, which they refused, and upon her becoming importunate and pressing against them as she walked beside them, they pushed her away.

She then uttered a loud shriek; upon which four soldiers, who had hitherto kept out of sight, rushed upon them and attacked them with their belts, beating them about the head with the buckles and ultimately throwing them on the ground and kicking them as they lay there.

The prisoner assisted the soldiers and struck both complainants. Upon a policeman approaching the soldiers made their escape, but she was taken into custody.

The prisoner was fined 35 for each assault, making £10, or four months’ imprisonment.

THE IRISH QUESTION

It was broad noon when I paused at the mouth of Neale’s-passage, lying between Earl-street and Castle-street, and, attracted by the sound of music and rejoicing, looked down. Midway in the grimy thoroughfare (which contained about twenty tall houses), and reclining on a costermonger’s barrow, were two Irish pipers—real Irish pipers, such as never my life before have I seen in London—with genuine long tailed coats and tall, jauntily-cocked hats, piping an inspiring tune, while swarming the road and pathway were a great number of the female sex, some dancers, some lookers-on.

Some of the females were hideous, yellow-fanged, and smoke-dried hags, wearing nightcaps with full and flapping borders; some were muscular creatures, brawny-limbed, and middle-aged, with a manly expression of countenance, and with their hair first twisted into a wisp about as smooth and certainly as thick as a hayband, and then bundled up and secured by a substantial knot behind; some were little, old, slovenly-bosomed, draggle tailed women of sixteen; while others, again, were straight-limbed, comely damsels, with teeth defiant of neglect, and with rosiness of a strength superior to all opposition. These latter, for the most part, wore handkerchiefs over their heads and tied under the chin.

From almost every half-glazed, rag-stuffed window in the face of the tall houses protruded a head, sometimes two heads, more or less hideous, the lips, as a rule, bearing a filthy little pipe. Equally as a rule were the upper windows garnished with reeking rags suspended to dry on the thrust-forth clothes-prop, or with ropes of onions, or with shreds of dried cod or some other such dainty, the outer wall being the only place beyond the reach of the picking and stealing digits of little children, hungry as wolves in mid-winter.

Only two of the dancers—there were ten or a dozen of them—danced at one time, while the rest squatted on the thresholds of the wide-open doors, or leaned cross-legged against the walls, or sat on the kerb and regained their spent breath, while at the same time they cooled their slipshod feet in the gutter.

With the exception of the pipers there were no men present, which went far to show that it was neither wake, wedding, nor extraordinary merrymaking but merely an ordinary afternoon’s piping by the ordinary St. Giles’s pipers, whose Christian names were familiar in the mouths of the dancers who ordered Barney to play “fashter,” and rebuked ” Mike Sullivan, bad luck to yez!” for keeping incorrect time.

It is, of course, an extremely foolish idea; but when one sees nobody but Irish people, never Scotch never Welsh, the sole inhabitants of localities of the metropolis given over to filth and squalor, one is almost brought to entertain the question—is it the Irish that make wretchedness and depravity, or is it wretchedness and depravity that make people Irish?

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