Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Funny Little Old Man Calls for Transportation of the Lord High Chancellor

We may think of the Victorian as being rigid in all matters especially those that appear to be in contempt of court, but they were able to show a good sense of humour on occasions, even when Court time was being wasted. Maybe a little light relief was welcome in these sombre situations.

Transportation for the Lord High Chancellor

The Brighton Herald of 18 May 1861 reported a case appearing before Brighton Borough Court which it introduced as being "an amusing scene." The paper said, "At the conclusion of business, a funny little old man, no great customer either to the barber or the tailor and giving the name of John Giles, stepped forward to make an application to the Bench."

John Giles handed to their Worships a rather grubby piece of paper. It said:

High Court of Chancery,
July 2, 1861.

Whoever will bring John Giles, a Lunatic, to our Court shall receive a reward of £5. Dated this day of July 1860. At our Court.

John Campbell,
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.

Perhaps this was John Giles' method of getting his "case" heard, because he went on to denounce the Lord Chancellor and all his lawyers for robbing him. He asked the Bench to intercede on his behalf. They were to write to the Lord Chancellor and tell him if he didn't give him, John Giles, justice, there would be consequences. These consequences were to be immediate transportation of the Lord Chancellor.

Further, he insisted, he was a respectable gentleman and he didn't want to be murdered.

Mr. Scott, in reply, suggested the possibility of a hoax, though it's not clear whether he meant John had been hoaxed or that John was "hoaxing" the Court. There followed a convoluted dialogue between Mr. Scott and John, which made little sense to anyone but the applicant. Possibly John Giles was just an eccentric attention-seeker.

The Bench decided to humour the "funny little old man" and presented him with half a crown from the poor box and then they sent him on his way, taking his precious "document" with him.


Cameron, Janet, "Bring on the Clowns,"  Brighton & Hove, Murders and Misdeameanours, Amberley Publishing, 2008.

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