A Poacher’s Tale is not always happy one!
A few years ago, well it seems like that but is probably longer, I was given a box of photographs to scan and do something with. Some of the carte de visite’s had that were handed to me in a shoebox had names or a clue to who they were. While others, the only clue was the name of the photographer and the place where they had their studio.
The box held a wonderful time capsule of images, with many having a Morley, West Yorkshire connection, but others linked by the photographer to places as far away as America and Canada, but that is another tale.
One of the pictures was handed over on its own………why? Well, I soon found out. I was asked it I could find out a little more about the person who would be forever the age when the image was taken. The reverse of the carte gave a name – James Clough, and I was also given a clue that he was a gamekeeper, that would also be suggested by the fact in the photograph he was holding a rabbit and a gun – just a few clues! It was also mentioned that James had been killed, but no idea when – now that would surely give me something to get my teeth into!
So, off to find a gamekeeper – James, found in the 1881 census as a gamekeeper. I now had 1819/20 as as approximate time of birth (61 years old), with Morley being given as his place of birth and confirmation of his occupation. He is living with his wife Mary, from West Ardsley, aged 56 and sons George A and Scott, aged 10 and 8, both being born in Soothill.
Going back in time to find James as a young man, back to 1851. James was living at Northgate, Dewsbury, working as a blacksmith with Martha, aged 27 from Dewsbury, as his wife – looks like things could get complicated. Martha was Martha Pickles who he married in Dewsbury All Saints in July 1839 after banns were read on the 7th, 14th and 21st of July.
Forward in time with a search through newspapers came up with a bit of a surprise! The Lancaster Gazette of 24th of July 1858. The small headline in the newspaper column read ‘Daring Outrage by Poachers’. James along with three others appeared before Wakefield Magistrates in July 1858 for night poaching in West Ardsley near Wakefield accompanied by violence. Three gamekeepers were keeping watch on the land owned by Joseph Ellis, esq. The poachers were seen and followed by the gamekeepers and their dog. If you read the article you will see what the reporters said in the paper. But it must have made a stir to be reported in Lancaster.
1859, only a year after being accused of poaching, James is now in the papers, and we see the first reference of him being a gamekeeper.
A few years late, 1861, James is living as a lodger in the home of Joseph Whittaker – The Joseph Whittaker who he was caught poaching with, in 1858. James is listed as married but his wife is not mentioned.
1871 came around and James is living in Soothill, with Sarah, his wife and son George Albert, aged 4 months. By now James is 51 and Sarah, is 38 – who is Sarah his wife? What happened to Martha? There is a death of Martha Clough in the March Qtr of 1852 and a marriage of a James Clough to Sarah Westmorland on 23rd of July 1866 in Dewsbury Parish Church. James was a widower aged 47 and the son of William Clough, while Sarah was a spinster aged 34, the daughter of Charles Westmorland.
1881 – James is still living in the Soothill area but now quite close to the Babes in the Wood, he is 61 years old. He now tells that he is a gamekeeer and living with his wife – Mary. Who is Mary, you may ask? Well, here we go again. It appears that Sarah died in 1874 as there is a burial entry for her in Hanging Heaton churchyard on 13th of November 1874.
The year of 1884 brings another turn-up for the books – James Clough aged 64 married Leah Delbridge, a 53 year old widow, daughter of Thomas Griffiths, on 7th January 1884 again in Dewsbury Parish Church, I hope by now he received a discount!
I hope life was going well for the couple who had seen the loss of their spouses, in James’ case he had seen the death of more than one wife. But, life has a habit of throwing things at you. It was in October of 1885 that James Clough, gamekeeper was killed by poachers.
James was laid to rest on the 19th of October 1885 in Hanging Heaton Churchyard.