School mistress feared attack by angry parent

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1913 Police Court

At the Scarborough Police Court, Mrs Gough, 20, West Square, was summoned to find sureties to keep the peace, complainant being Miss Gertrude Horsley, school mistress at the Gladstone Road School.

The Town Clerk appeared for the prosecution, and Mr Tasker Hart appeared on behalf of the National Union of Teachers. Mr C Royle appeared for defendant, who did not admit using threatening language.

It appeared that Silvetta Gough, a child of defendant’s, attended the school. The child had been absent for some time. She returned the previous Monday, and it was usual for Miss Horsley to examine children who had been absent.

She then found vermin on the child, and sent the child down with a note in company with another child to Dr Tatham, the school’s medical officer.

She did this in accordance with the instructions of the Education Committee, and also in accordance with the Education Code, it being important that the children should be as clean as possible for the sake of all.

After a short time Mrs Gough returned and asked what Miss Horsley had been doing. She told her, and asked the child: Where is the note? Mrs Gough took the note, and throwing it down, told Miss Horsley to take it herself. She shook her fist in Miss Horsley’s face and said that if similar action was taken again she would disfigure her and would “do” for her. She added that she did not mind if she had to pay for it, she would not allow Miss Horsley or anyone else to do anything to the child’s hair. If the child had vermin on her, she had, said Mrs Gough, got it at school. Miss Horsley asked her to go out, but she said she would go back to put the child in her class. The Education officials had been to her about the child going to school, and she was going to put her in her class. Mrs Gough told the child to go to her class, and the child not knowing what to do, the mother eventually took her, and put her in the class. She said that if Miss Horsley, or anyone else took her out, she would come back and show them what she would do. She told Miss Horsley that she would not go out for her, she (Miss Horsley) could get someone to “chuck her out,” Miss Horsley tried to get assistance of the master, but could not find him. An elder sister of the scholar was seen going out from the cloak room, and on Miss Horsley asking her what she wanted, Mrs Gough, from the doorway, shouted: “What do you think?” Mr Jones said that Mrs Gough had had the privilege of appearing before the Education Authority and offering any excuse, but failed to avail herself of the privilege.

Mr Royle asked Miss Horsley, if, when she found vermin on the child it would not have been better to have communicated first. Witness said that she took the usual course.

Mr Royle: Wouldn’t it have been better as a matter of diplomacy?

Witness: I have nothing to do with diplomacy. I have rules to carry out.

Replying to another question, she said she was afraid defendant might assault her.

Miss Ada Harland, a teacher at the school, also gave evidence.

Mrs Gough, the defendant, went into the box, and speaking softly, Mr Jones asked “if she would speak in her last Monday’s voice?” (Laughter).

Mr Royle: Don’t let Mr Jones annoy you.

Proceeding, witness said she denied threatening Miss Horsley. If she wanted to strike her she would have done, and not threatened her. She was the mother of 12 children. The child in question went to bathe every morning with an elder brother. She sent the child to her own doctor and he had said the child was clean.

Asked the name of the doctor, witness said he lived near the station, but could not remember his name.

The magistrates felt that the threats were used in the heat of passion and that Miss Horsley had no need to be afraid of Mrs Gough. Under all the circumstances, therefore, they dismissed the case.