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Illingworth House: 9 - Public Humiliation, And Worse

Rugby League star Joe Gibson is humiliated in a court appearance which follows a violent incident.

On the bench to sentence him is his employer, Abe Illingworth.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story of a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

Mary Greenwood had her problems at home, too. Her father did his damnest to stop her going out with Joe Gibson, especially after that time Joe was hauled before the magistrates for brawling. He'd taken Mary to a Saturday dance at the Town Hall. A licence had been granted recently allowing drink to be sold at the dance hall.

Of course, the inevitable happened and people got drunk. The outcome was that Mary was pestered by a drunk, who tried to muscle in on Joe in the final dance. Joe gave him the big heave-oh but the drunk was waiting for him as they left the dance hall and hit Joe with a beer bottle.

Joe fell stunned, but got up and before anyone could drag him away set about the drunk and gave him a right pasting. Before the police dragged Joe off, his assailant had lost some of his teeth and had a badly broken nose and jaw. He was taken to hospital and Joe stayed the night in the police cells.

Mary was in shock when she arrived home late after going with Joe to the police station. Her parents were waiting up and her father began lambasting her as soon as she came through the door.

By the time she'd finished explaining, he was livid. "That's the last tha sees him!" he shouted. "Ah'm noan havin a lass o' mine dragged
down by such as him. My name'll be muck once Joe Gibson's been through t' court."

Mary flared up. It wasn't Joe's fault, she told her dad, but he remained unmoved. He'd been waiting for an excuse such as this to stop her going out with Joe.

"Tha can choose," he said when she'd done. "Tha finishes wi' him or else tha leaves this house! Ah'm having no lass o' mine wedding a drunkard!"

"Ah love him an Ah'll not break off wi' him!" Mary insisted.

"Then tomorrow, tha'd best start looking for lodgings!" yelled her father.

Her mother stood by silent. She was terrified of her husband, but when Mary ran to her room in tears, she crept in and comforted her, till her husband ordered her to come to bed. The outcome was Mary left the next day and went to live with the Gibsons, lodging there till she married Joe. By that time the country was at war and Joe was in the army.

The Monday after the fracas at the dance hall, Joe was taken from the police cells and hauled before the bench. Sitting with all the riff-raff of Keighworth before the court opened, he felt humiliated. He was to be humiliated more before the session ended.

He sat in an ante-room with a rotten headache and feeling miserable till he heard his name called. He was escorted by a constable to the dock and heard the charge against him read out. Before him sat Abe Illingworth with two fellow magistrates and to one side was the public gallery with a couple of journalists scribbling away like mad.

The following Saturday his name was plastered in headlines all across the front page of the Keighworth News - "Rugby star fined for brawling". Beneath was his photo and details of the case.

When Joe appeared in court, Abe Illingworth scowled down at him. Their eyes met but Illingworth looked icily back with no hint of recognition. He had Mary's hero at his mercy and when the police sergeant had presented his case he gave full vent to his feelings.

"There's too much drunken brawling going on in this town and it's our duty to support the police and stop it," Illingworth began. His fellow magistrates nodded in agreement as he went on at some length, before saying, "Someone of your age and standing should know better, Gibson. The young of Keighworth look up to you and you ought to be setting them an example instead of throwing your weight around brawling in public. We know you were provoked, but that's no excuse for setting about Mr Kilshaw the way you did. You might have killed him if the police hadn't dragged you away. Now we've studied your case carefully and agreed what should be done. Have you anything to say before I pass sentence?"

A man of few words at the best of times, Joe was tongue-tied. Illingworth's words stung him and he never forgave him. As he grappled for something to say, he was asked again, "Have you nothing to say, Gibson?"

Joe looked across at him and stammered, "No, sir. Only that he hit me wi' a bottle as Ah came out o' t'dance hall."

"And you retaliated out of all proportion," snapped Abe Illingworth. "The man you assaulted is still in hospital and likely to remain there for some time."

He leaned across to his colleagues on the bench and conferred with
them, ignoring Joe and leaving him wondering what was coming next.
Then he spoke to the police sergeant who'd arrested Joe.

When they'd finished conferring, Illingworth coughed and said slowly, "I was considering sending you to the County Court, Gibson, where you most certainly would have been given a custodial sentence. You can thank your lucky stars that the police sergeant here has spoken on your behalf and said how much you were provoked.

"I'm prepared to accept his plea, but the fact remains that you seriously injured someone. What you did went beyond self-defence, but as this is your first offence - and I hope your last - I'm going to impose a significant fine as a warning to others who come before this bench for brawling. I'm fining you 50, and if it isn't paid by the end of the month, to prison you go, Gibson. Understand?"

Joe nodded dumbly. How he was going to raise 50 he didn't know, unless he went to moneylender Grimstone. It was ten weeks' wages!

He left the court grim-faced and when he turned in for work, he found his wages waiting for him. He'd been sacked and the clerk told him Mr Hirst had left a message that he'd receive no reference from him for his next job because of his fine. He was having no criminal working in his foundry.

The only comfort he had was when his mother told him Mary had come to lodge with them. When he told her all that had happened at court and work, she burst into tears and held him close. They comforted each other till Mary had calmed down, and in her commonsense way worked out how they pay off the fine together.

Joe soon found another job and his money from rugby brought in a second wage. Things began to pick up, then a few months later both of them were surprised by the mysterious arrival right out of the blue at Mary's old home of a baby girl adopted by Mary's parents.


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