Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A Christmas Lark

James Barrass was born in 1821 at Kenton, Northumberland to James and Alice Barrass. Young James was baptised at nearby Gosforth on 15 July when the whole family at that time, were pitmen.

Only a few years after James's birth, the whole Barrass family moved to Longbenton parish, where the men worked at Benton Colliery. The family eventually ended up living in Seghill.

A lot of the Barrass men became butchers, including James, his father and brothers. James himself set up his trade in East Cramlington. His business often took him to nearby Annitsford, where the local miners could be quite troublesome. 

In April 1870, Thomas Scott a local pitman, was remanded for a week, after having been charged with stealing a shoulder of mutton from James. A week or so later, Thomas Scott was again brought up for the same case. James however, did not get his justice, as Thomas was discharged in the absence of a prosecutor. Not even a whole year later, James was again in court after 12lbs of beef was taken from his cart. 

It was a few days before Christmas 1870, and James went into the Bridge Inn, Annitsford for a drink, leaving his horse and cart at the door. On coming out, James started for home, leaving without checking his wares. He only realised the beef was missing when he arrived home. 

Daniel Orde, another pitman, was charged with stealing the beef, which was valued at 10s. On the night in question, Daniel Orde had been drinking and thought it amusing to take the beef and lay it in his own garden. A witness was called who caught him in the act. They asked him what he was doing, with Daniel replying that it "was only a lark." The beef was only discovered the next day.

The Bench decided to dismiss the case, as they believed the beef was taken with no felonious intent - it was only in jest, a Christmas lark!

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