1917 court: Horse bolting looked like ‘greased lightning’

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There was an echo at the children’s court at Scarborough of a recent runaway horse incident, which occurred at Scarborough, and which was reported by us at the time.

A horse attached to a lurry galloped from the outside of Mr JW Dent’s fish shop, in Westborough, and finished up by colliding with the gate of the old gasworks yard at the bottom of Eastborough, there being some narrow escapes of pedestrians in the principal streets.

At the children’s court, a youth of 15, was summoned that he “having charge of the lurry was at such a distance from the same as not to have control over the animal.”

The boy, who was represented by Mr J Whitfield, solicitor, pleaded not guilty.

PC Blackburn said on April 9th, about 12.50pm, he was on duty in Newborough, near Mr Sinfield’s shops, when he heard a noise and saw a horse attached to a four-wheeled lurry galloping down Westborough towards Newborough at a mad rate. Two ladies were on the roadway with children in perambulators, and he had assisted these to the footpath just as the animal galloped past. Later he saw defendant, who said he had been in charge of the lurry, but was busy carrying some fish from the lurry inside the shop at the time, but he had only left it about two minutes. Replying to Mr Whitfield, witness said he later saw a Mr Wilson, and the latter said he was on the doorstep when a motor car was driven down the streets at a rapid rate. It pulled up within four feet of the horse’s head. He did not mention that the brakes on the car made such a noise that any horse would be set off. The horse, witness had understood, was facing up the street towards the railway station, and the car came down the street.

Mr Whitfield: Were you told by Mr Wilson that he was in charge of the horse?

Witness: No, he said he was standing on the doorstep. That was what he told me.

Inspector Dalby, in the absence of the chief constable, said the latter had not brought the case to punish the boy, but more with a view to the proprietor supplying straps or chains to the wheels, or providing some responsible person to look after a horse when the latter was standing. In that case two women with children in perambulators had narrow escapes. The chief thought that a proprietor should do something to safeguard the public.

James Wilson said he was a friend of Mr Dent, and he occasionally assisted the latter on account of Mr Dent being short-handed in staff. When the horse and lurry arrived, he went from the back of the premises to the step to look after the mare whilst the “stuff” was carried in - a thing he frequently did. He took charge of the horse instead of the boy. That was the custom. Whilst witness was there a motor car came down at what he termed an unnecessary speed, the brakes were put on suddenly, and it drew up within a few feet of the horse’s head - presumably the object was to call at the shop above Mr Dent’s. He considered that the driver of the car did not drive in a proper way. There was no necessity for the driver to go up in that way; there was not a horse in a thousand would have stood it. The mare at once turned round, before witness could get to her head, and she was off. It went “like greased lightning,” as the saying was. Had the boy been there he did not think he could have held her.

By the clerk: Witness first saw the car when the latter was near the North Eastern Hotel. He thought it was going to pass - not to pull up. Mr Dent would not try the mare again in the town, she was so nervous. He (witness) would not trust any mare that had once run away. It meant that Mr Dent would have to sell her “with all her faults”.

By a magistrate: The mare was about ten-years-old. She had been run at Malton three of four years before coming here, satisfactorily.

Mr Whitfield submitted reasonable care had been exercised.

Mr Dent contended the owner of the motor car was responsible for the affair, and it was under contemplation whether proceedings should be taken in a civil court against the driver of the car for careless driving. Was it right or fair that that boy should have brought against him a complaint which would never have arisen but for the carelessness of a third party.

After the magistrates had retired the mayor said they found the charge against the boy was not proved.

It was the unexpected that always produced these cases. There should be some powerful brake on the wheel, or somebody should have been standing close to the head of the animal to prevent it going off. As had been shown anyone standing two or three yards away might not be able to stop a horse in a case like that. Any such occurrence in the future might even mean death to a person or persons in the streets of the town.