My informant Denise Neufeld reports:
I was reading a newspaper account of a relative, Jonas Puddy House, who had his
goose stolen. It was surprising to
see the thief labelled as a "gentleman."
What happened was the
thief and his friend had been drinking. Jonas had his geese penned near
the stone wall of his property and the thieves could hear them. They had
a pony and trap and one man stepped from the trap onto the wall and then got
onto Jonas' property. One witness saw him step onto the wall and then I
think he said a bit later he saw one holding a goose but he didn't actually see
it taken from Jonas' property. Another witness saw one man on the road
holding a goose. The accused said he'd been drinking and ran over a
donkey and a goose. Neither witness saw the mythical donkey.
Jonas was being cross-examined the defense lawyer asked Jonas if he would take
compensation for the goose in return for dropping the charges. A police
officer there protested and said he'd never heard such a proposition made in
the middle of testimony. The lawyer said that the men had inadvertently
run over the goose and put it in the trap (eating it the next day) but it was
just a lark. There was no felonious intent. Despite the protest of
the police the magistrate (who probably knew the accused) agreed there was no
felonious intent and released the prisoner as long as he paid Jonas House for
the goose. He advised the prisoner in the future to dine wisely and not
too well. The newspaper writer said "Not guilty, but don't do it
The newspaper wasn't impressed and asked if it had been a labourer would he
have been allowed the same deal? Didn't think so and gave a recent
example of two labouring men who stole because they were hungry and who'd been
given 3 weeks with hard labour.
It's nice that Jonas got recompensed for the goose but was it right to let the man off simply because he was a "gentleman."
But that's the way of the world.
Acknowledgement to Canadian researcher Denise Neufeld for sharing this story about her ancestor Jonas Puddy House, born 1830 and died 1905.
The goose incident probably occurred after 1866. In 1861 he was living in East Brent but an 1866
directory has him in Lympsham* where the theft occurred. The case was heard in the Weston Police Court.
*a village and civil parish six miles west of Axbridge and six miles south-east of Weston-super-Mare, close to the River Axe in Somerset, England.