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Takin’ a tumble

For the last couple of months I’ve been flat out researching, writing and publishing several new audio tours. Combine that with everyday life and something has to give. For a short while at least it was the blog that suffered, but now I think I’m back on the horse. One good thing is that all that research throws up a load of bits and pieces that I can use here and the following comes from a tour I’m currently finishing off, set in the legal area of the Temple.

I had started to research the tour with just a little trepidation. Undoubtedly the area is very old and has a rich history, but I was worried that it may lack the element that I like to build into all my tours, that of personal histories. It may be thought that the Temples history is as dry as the legal profession is rather thought to be. I always like to get a few common people, their lives, loves and tragedies into the narrative, and I felt that I might struggle as far as the Temple was concerned and that it might just end up as a series of dates, buildings and judges. A short while ago I published the story of an incident that concerned a gate keeper in “That’s one in the eye” which I was pleased to find, however later on I came across the following story.

Elm Court

The setting is Elm Court in 1889 which involved quite a notable figure in Victorian Britain. Douglas Macrae was the managing director and editor of the Financial Times (FT), in fact, he was the first editor, the paper having been launched in 1888. He’s also the man credited with the decision to use the pink-coloured paper synonymous with the publication.

I’ve read through many early editions and the measured factual and insightful publication of today was not always so at its inception. It seemed to have loved a one-word headline, such as Shock, Agony or Saved! Obviously, I can’t comment on the validity of the editorials of the time, but in Macrae’s own words, “it is a newspaper which makes comments upon public companies“.

Early in 1889, an editorial commented on a company partially owned by an Alfred Green, the New Durham Salt Company, who took exception to the piece and brought an action for libel against the Financial Times. Several weeks later, just before the hearing, a pamphlet was published and distributed about the City, entitled “Blackmailing” which focused on the tactics of the Financial Times against Green’s company. The FT on having it brought to their attention, made an application to commit Mr Green for contempt of Court. Green then filed for a restraining order on the FT to stop them from publishing further articles before the hearing. The FT then retaliated, filing a request that Green should be cross-examined regarding statements made to gain the restraining order. Hope we’re all on the same page here?

Green was summoned to meet with a Special Examiner, Mr Bray, at 4, Crown Office Row, Elm Court . Chambers was full of parties for both sides, Green and his legal team and Macrae with his and the proceedings unfolded, far too full of dry legalese to go into right now.

The cross-examination had been running for twenty minutes when Green asked the Examiner to excuse him for a minute or two, as he suffered from diabetes, and might he leave the room. He left and was absent for about ten minutes. On returning he apologised for being away so long and said he had been to get a little brandy. The cross-examination then proceeded. Witnesses noticed that Green was rather flippant during the remainder of the examination, and he didn’t answer the questions properly. The Examiner cautioned him, and told him if he didn’t pay more attention, he’d have power to report him to the Court and his demeanor was described as curious. Mr Bray then adjourned the hearing for three weeks and all the parties involved filed out onto a small landing at the top of some stairs.

Green then said to Macrae “Come, Mr. Macrae, can’t we come to some settlement in this matter?” to which Macrae brusquely replied that recourse through the courts was indeed the correct way to settle the matter. Green looked downcast, but politely bid Macrae to use the stairs before him and as the editor set foot on them, Green violently shoved him in the back, causing Macrae to fall down the entire flight, about ten steps in all to crash against the wall at the bottom. In his testimony, he appeared quite proud of the fact that the fall didn’t dislodge his top hat!

This wasn’t the case for long, as Green jumped down the staircase brandishing a large stick shouting “Now I will murder you, you bastard” and proceeded to hit Macrae with several hurtful blows to the head dislodging his topper. Two lawyers came to his aid and tried to wrestle Green away, but he pulled the newspaper man to his feet and pinned him to the wall by the throat and was heard to utter “You have stopped me this time, but I will do for you yet.” I like to imagine some maniacal laughter at this point.

He was then fully restrained and dragged away to the local police station. He was questioned by the desk sergeant as was a very bloody and battered Mr Macrae and when charged with the facts, Green said “That is right, it is only the prologue.” Macrae was asked for his private address by the desk sergeant, which he gave, with Green saying, “That is what I want“, and wrote the address on his shirt cuff. On being searched he was found to have a loaded pistol on him and on being relived of it, he threatened to visit the offices of the Financial Times and shoot everyone who was there.

Incredibly at the trial held at the Old Bailey, Green was acquitted by the jury for attempted murder and it might be thought that Macrae would get some justice on a separate count of assault, causing actual bodily harm, but again the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Macrae stepped down as editor shortly after the trial and was to die the following year aged 40.

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