The Last B and the First Cs
This blog marks a minor milestone in the project; the completion of the letter B and the start of C! Twenty-four to go.
The penultimate entry for the letter B is John Thomas Butler. The final one is Hilda Byron an alias for Hilda Burkitt, see earlier blog. John was arrested in 1908 charged with assault the police. He was sentenced to two months in prison with hard labour for the first assault and one month for the second. The sentences to run consecutively. Thirty-seven were arrested during a demonstration in the environs of the Houses Of Parliament. The police reported to the court that traffic had been seriously disrupted for over three hours and seven officers were injured. There is insufficient information to trace John any further.
Oonah Caillagh or Agnes O’Kell was arrested in March 1912. Sentenced to 4 months; a report notes that Agnes suffered from asthma and fainting attacks while in Aylesbury prison. The charge was breaking windows at 43, Piccadilly, valued at £6 and 5 shillings. Due to her ill health Agnes was released early.
While Oonah is the name reported in the newspapers it appears that this, out of the two names, was the alias as no official records exist for a woman of that name. The official files note that the woman, presumably Agnes O’Kell was born in 1864. There is no corresponding entry on the Suffragette Roll of Honour. Any clues would be welcome.
Ada Cairns was arrested March 1912 for her part in the window smashing campaign. On 1 March the suffragettes launched what one newspaper described as ‘an exceptionally malignant attack’ which took the authorities completely by surprise and was organised by great ‘artfulness’. The miners had organised a national strike to replace a complicated wage structure with a minimum wage. By the beginning of March, the government had indicated its intention to introduce a minimum wage bill. The folding of the Government to the pressure of strike action incensed the suffragettes who were still being ignored. This, as Christabel Pankhurst asserted, led to another round of window smashing.
Around one hundred and fifty women were arrested and taken to either Cannon Row or Bow Street police stations. Ada was among the prisoners taken to the latter establishment. At court she was charged with malicious damage and sentenced to six weeks in prison.
One official file records that Ada was actually called Ida, and this is the name recorded on the Suffragette Roll of Honour. Although another file includes two copies of 1913 issues of the Suffragette newspaper which includes donations made by a Miss A Cairns to the Liverpool branch of the WSPU. To add to the potential confusion other official records, link the March 1912 arrest to Ida Cairns. My research indicates that Ada and Ida are one and the same but if anyone knows differently, please let me know.
Ida was first arrested in November 1911. She gave her address as Clements’s Inn, the headquarters of the WSPU. Ida was charged alongside Edith Davis and Ellison Gibb with breaking windows at the Local Government Board. She was sentenced to pay a fine or seven days in prison. Her second arrest was the one cited above for Ada. Presuming the assumption is correct the harshness of the sentence would make more sense as it was not her first appearance before the courts. Ida had smashed a display case outside 137 The Strand, the premises of Cornhill and Higgins, jewellers. The damages were valued at £2. When confronted by a policeman Ida admitted it was her commenting that she was sorry for the man it belonged to but ‘it was a necessary protest’.
The files for Ida are blank as to a year of birth, for Ada it states 1879. Ida is said to be a widow from Glasgow. No further personal information has been located. However, among the official files is a report of a visit to Holloway prison by Ida’s husband. At the top of the page, it has been written ‘Though not certifiably insane she is in a weak-minded and hysterical condition’. When her husband visited, he requested Ida’s release so that he could send her at once to a quiet place in Scotland. The medical officer who met with him was of the view that Ida’s husband ‘feels his responsibility and will carry out his promise’. Ida was released that day, 16 March, having served 13days and her sentence remitted. Another file notes that on her release Ida was ‘mentally unstable’. She was not force fed during her time in prison.
Following her release, Ida continued to donate to the WSPU. There the trail goes cold.
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