Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How some Billsons ended up in Canada

Here's some family history for you.

My father's grandmother, Emily Billson left England and came to Canada as a widow.  She brought her younger children with her - my father's father among them.  She left England due to what she considered to be too light of sentence given those responsible for the murder of her husband, Benjamin.

I found the following transcript of the trial on-line.  I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Reference Number: t18991023-705

705. WILLIAM FRY (21), RICHARD FRY (20), and ALBERT BOWERS (32), were indicted for , and charged, on the Coroner's Inquisition with, the manslaughter of Benjamin Robert Billson.


ROACH Defended Bowers.

JAMES TRACEY SIMPSON . I was House Surgeon of the Branch Hospital at the Albert Docks on September 3rd when Benjamin Billson, a man about 50 years of age, was brought in' a little after 11 p.m., in a semiconscious condition, and suffering from a scalp wound at the back of his head, and blood was escaping from his left ear—after dressing his head I had him put to bed—I saw him again at 1 a.m., when he was suffering from convulsions—during the night he became comatose, and remained so—about noon I advised the operation of trepanning the head—he died about 2.30 p.m. on the 5th—I made a postmortem examination, and found a fracttire at the base of the skull on the left side, a contusion on the right side, and considerable effusion of blood, caused by compression of the brain, from the result of which he died—the conclusion I came to was that a blow at the angle of the jaw caused the fracture, by driving the condyle of the jaw into the base of the skull—there was a scalp wound on the back of the head, which might have been caused by his falling on the ground, or by a blow—it is not uncommon for injury to the brain to be caused by such a blow or a fall on the point of the chin.

GEORGE WAYLETT (176 K) produced and proved a plan of the locality drawn to scale.

MARTHIA MCCUMSHAY . I live at 60, Clever Road, with my father—it is five doors from the alley—on Sunday, September 3rd, I was standing at the front door with Ada Beard, talking—I saw Richard Fry come from an alley down Martin Road towards Clever Road—he ran along Frederick Road, and came back and stood at the corner of Clever Road and Frederick Road—the lamps were alight except the one against the alley—he stood there singing—he looked intoxicated—Mr. Billson and party came along, laughing, and talking—Richard Fry said, "Who the b—hell are you laughing at?"—when they got to the corner Mrs. Billsoa said, "We are not laughing at you; you young rascal, you want your ass smacked"—Fry said, I will smack his ass "to Bowers and William Fry, who came from the alley—William Fry said, "Go for him on the right," and rushed at old Billson, who was on the right, and hit him with his fist on his left jaw—the old man fell, with the back of his head towards my feet—I had left the house, and come over—Bowers took a stick from Billston, and broke it before William Fry struck him—Richard made for another man—the prisoners then went through the alley to Martin Road—Mrs. Billson cried, "Murder!"—she put her hand on Billson's head—it was covered with blood—a crowd gathered—I knew the prisoners by sight—Miss Billson ran away—Richard had a white shirt and light trousers, no jacket or coat, and nothing on his head—Bowers was dressed in the suit he has on now—William had a light pair of trousers, and dark brown coat and waistcoat.

ADA BEARD . I live at 56, Clever Road—I am 15 years old—on Sunday, September 3rd, I was with the last witness about 10.30 p.m., outside her door—I know Richard Fry by sight—I saw him coming from the avenue leading to Frederick Road, called the Alley—there was a lamp alight in the alley—he stood against the fence at the corner of Frederick Road—the Billson party came along, laughing among themselves—Richard said, "Who the b—hell are you laughing at?"—the Billsons went to the corner, when Mrs. Billson said, "Do you want your ass smacked?"—Richard fry said, "I will smack his ass," pointing to Mr. French, who was on the right—someone said, "We are not laughing at you "—some men came out of the alley—one said, "Go for that one on the right"—Richard Fry hit Mr. French—I was frightened, and went away—when I was turning away Mrs. Billson called out, "They have killed him"—the men walked a few yards past the fish shop, and then ran—Bowers and Richard Fry are two of the men—I picked them out—I saw Bowers break a stick across his knee—I saw Mr. Billison with the stick.

GEORGE ANCHOR . I live at 18, Martin Road—I am 15 years old—I know the prisoner by sight—on Sunday evening. September.3rd, a little after 10 p.m., I was in Clever Road—Richard Fry was calling for his wife, Bella—shortly afterwards I saw three men and three women (the Billson party) come round the corner, laughing among themselves—Richard asked them what they were laughing at—they said, "Not at you"—then William and Bowers joined them—they came from Bowerss ran in the alley—William said, "Pick him out in the road"—Bowers lives in the alley—I had seen him going out with shrimps—Richard went for French—French took a stick from Mr. Billson, and said, "Go away"—Bowers went to hit French, but could not hit him, he was so drunk; at last he took the stick from French and broke it—French was defending himself with the stick—I heard someone scream—I saw the old man fall down—I noticed that he was cut under his left ear—the prisoners ran away.

WILLIAM EDWARD TEBB . I live at 58, Frederick Road—on Sunday evening, September 3rd, I saw the Billson party walking along the Frederick Road—Richard Fry was against the fence, using obscene language—he looked as if he had had enough—the Billson party were laughing and joking together—after some bad language, some more men came through the alley—one was a larger man than the others—one holloaed out, "Take that man on the right"—Richard rushed at the man on the right—Richard made a strike, and they all rushed at the Billson party—French took a stick from the old man to defend himself—he had one man on him and another behind him—the stick was taken away from him by the stout man—I saw old Billson fall, and ran to his assistance—I helped to take him to Dr. Boyd—French said, "What have I done?"—the stick was broken.

EDWARD FRENCH . I am a foreman stevedore, of 12, St. John's Road. Canning Town—I was with the Billsons on Sunday evening, September. 3rd—I married into the family—we were laughing together—I understood Richard Fry to nay, "Who the f—hell are you laughing at?"—I said, "We are not laughing at you, my son," and continued to walk on round the corner—I said to my wife, "Come on, May"—she said, "All right, mate, I'm coming"—the next I heard was, "Your bleeding May won't go much further," and "Hit him up the b—g gut"—I buttoned my coat—Richard Fry rushed at me—I stepped on one bide, and he passed me—I turned to see whether he had gone, when two of them touched me on the shoulder—I got near my father-in-law, the deceased, and said, "They are a rough lot; lend me the stick; I will do something"—he was 52 or 53 years of age—as soon as I got the stick it was taken away—it was not thicker than ray finger—this is a portion of the stick—I held the stick as long as I could—I got a little tap, and rushed over to a doorway, and asked a woman if she cou'd not do something for me—she slammed the door in my face—I heard my mother-in-law scream "Murder! they have killed him!"—I came back—he was lying on the ground, bleeding—I afterwards identified William Fry.

THOMAS HENRY STANDEN . I was with this party, and heard someone complain of people laughing at him—when we passed, the man who was leaning against the fence followed to the corner, two or three more came from the opening, and said something to him—French said, "We have not come out to tight; leave us alone; we want logo home"—French walked across the toad—Billion's home was in Forty Acts Lane, about 10 minutes' walk—the man who had been leaning against the fence made a blow at French, then hit Billson in the mouth; then another with a brown coat hit me on the right jaw, and I hit him in the face—three men were straggling with French—Billson was in front of me, when the man in the brown coat and cap who hit me knocked him down—I went towards Frederick Road after the man, but on hearing the cry of "Murder!" I turned back to see what was the matter, and so lost sight of him—the man who hit Billson in the mouth with his fist and had been leaning on the fence, was dressed in a light shirt, a light pair of trousers, and no cap, coat, or vest.

EMILY BILLSON . I was the wife of Benjamin Billson, who met his death on September 3rd—I live at 18, Forty Acre Lane—I remember Richand Fry coming towards French after some words, and other men coming—they begin to attack French; then I saw them rush to my husband—it was too dark to see the faces of the men—my husband fell in the road, and I screamed "Murder!"—they all ran away.

ALFRED FRY . I live at 22, Martin Road, and am the brother of Richard and William Fry—I am 10 years old—I know Bowers—he was out selling shrimps in the morning of September 3rd—I was in Bowers’s van in the alley at the end of Frederick Road, in the evening, with William Fry, Bowers, David Hunt, and Barton, singing—when I came from the van Richard Fry was leaning against the fence—I saw three men and three women coming along laughing—he said, "What are you laughing: at?" and they went round the corner—William Fry said, "Pick him out in the road"—Richard Fry went to hit him, and missed him—he said, "Give me that stick," and Bowers got away the stick, and hit Billson on the jaw—Bowers had light trousers, and no coat, waistcoat, or hat—Billson fell on his back—William had a Brown suit on; not the same he has on now—it was a backhanded blow—all walked away—I hare not seen Barton since.

Cross-xamined by Richard Fry. Mother cannot prove that you have no other clothes than a black jacket.

Cross-examined by MR. GEOGHEGAN. I did not know Billson—George Cox told me who he was—David Hunt came after me—I know Bowas as "Albert" and "Icy."

DAVID HUNT (Cross-examined by MR. GBOGHEGAN). I am 17 yean of age—I am a general dealer—I have been employed by Bowers—I was in his service on September 3rd—I left it eight or nine days ago—I gave evidence before the Magistrate—the police asked me—on Sunday evening, September 3rd, I was in Bowers's van in Clever Road, with Bowers, Barton, William Fry, and Albert Fry—Bowers and I left the van about 9.30—I went to Bowers's house, when I heard a row in the street—Bowers and I came out about 10.15—we went into Clever Road—I saw Richard Fry strike French or Standen—French had a stick in his hand—William Fry and Barton were there—French went to strike one of the Frys, and Bowers took the stick away and broke it up—I saw Alfred Barton strike Mr. Billson with a stick at the back of his ear—I have known Barton six or seven months—he has disappeared since Billson's death—I saw Billson fal—Bowers was standing on the kerb, the other side of the road, 9 or 10 yards away—Barton spoke to me in the alley.

By MR. BIRON. Bowers threw the stick away—William went to strike, but he never hit anyone—I was with Bowers and the others while the "singsong" was going on—they did not stop the "singsong" because of the noise in the street—I gave evidence on September 22nd, the second I hearing before the Magistrate, and before the Coroner—I knew Barton was in the row and had got away.

By the COURT. I did not know the witnesses—I saw a tidy few people standing at the corner—I do not know whether this stick would knock a man down; I saw Barton hit him first with his fist, and with the stick afterwards—he was falling when he hit him with the stick—I suppose Barton picked up the stick—it was the piece of the stick—I told the Coroner that—(The witness's depositiom before the Coroner and the Magistrate being referred to, the word "fist" tvas not mentioned)—I misunderstood his meaning.

KATE LYONS . I live at 56, Martin Road—on Sunday, September 3rd, I saw Barton about 60 yards from Clever Road—he stayed in my company a little time—a policeman came along—he hid—he was dressed in a dark suit; navy blue.

GBOEGE MONTAGUE MARTIN . I am assistant to Mr. Hilleary, the Coroner ror West Ham—on September 11th he Held an inquest inquiring into the death of Benjamin Robert Billson—William Fry, after being cautioned, gave evidence—I took down his statement, and rend it over to him—he signed this deposition in my presence—the other prisoners declined—(Read: "William Fry, 17, Martin Road, Custom House I am a labourer. On Sunday, September 3rd, I was selling shrimps and apples round Martin Road, Clever Road, and Hooper Road, with a pony and cart. I went home about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I had my dinner. I took the horse out of harness, took it on the fields, and came home again at 3.30. I stayed indoors the rest of the day. There is only me and my wife lives at the above address. I did not go out in the street. I had beer on the windowsill. I saw Richard Fry in the evening wich Mr. Shaw, coming down the street. He asked for two or three shrimps, and I gave them to him. I saw Bowers about six o'clock at night. Richard Fry was not drunk when I saw him. I saw three men and three women go down the street. I was sitting on the downstairs windowsill. I did not hear anyone speak to them. I did not see anyone attack them. I saw a crowd. I went out to see what it was about. My sister-in-law said, 'There goes Richard; go and fetch him back again. I went and got hold of him, and pulled him back. He was running along hollooing out for his missus. He was not touching the party. Some boys said, Your brother is in a bit of a row.' He had been drinking. I left him in Frederick Road. I came home. I then sat on the windowsill again, and then my brother went after him. I went out again to fetch him back. He said,' My wife's gone down here, and I want her.' He was in Frederick Road against the chapel, by himself. There was no one else there. I saw three men and three women coming along. I don't know if he spoke to them, or they spoke to him. I saw a scuffle. I don't know who it was. I got hold of my brother and pulled him out. Icy was there; I did not see Eagle or Nelson there. Icy did not help me take my brother away; I took him myself. I did not see the old man or my brother fall; I only saw my brother scuffling against the fence shouting,' I want my wife!' I heard of the old man being knocked down, and followed a chap up the street as far as the doctor's. One of them says, "Get an ambulance"; so I went to get a barrow from the furniture-shop. We could not get a barrow. I had a coat on; it was a dark one, with a black satin stripe. I had tweed trousers on, the sameas I am now wearing. I did not know Billson. I knew French about two years, as working in the docks. I was not in a van with Icy on Sunday evening. I did not say to Richard Fry, 'Why don't you pick him out in the road!" I did not see Richard Fry go for French. I did not see, and do not know, if Richard Fry had anything in his hand. I heard someone calling, 'Murder!'—I was sitting on the windowsill, drinking cola—I did not go to render assistance for a quarter of an hour; they were then taking the man to the doctor's. I saw my nephew, Alfred Fry; he was talking to us. [By the JURY] I took my brother, Richard, home before I saw the man in the road, about a quarter of an hour. [To the CORONER] My wife saw me at Holloway to-day, and said that Kate Lyon had told her that a man ran down Martin Road, and said, 'Let me hide behind your post, I have hit a man, and I believe I have killed him.' The man's name is Arthur Barton. I don't know where he lives. He is a young man. Richard Fry was drunk at night,")

WILLIAM WALLER (218 K). In consequence of information I received on September 3rd, I went on the 4th to 18, Martin Road, where Richard Fry lived—I searched the house; he was not in—afterwards, in the street, he came and asked me whether I wanted him—I said, "Yes," and that I was going to take him into custody on suspicion of assaulting a man in Clever Road on Sunday night—he said, "I know nothing about him; I did not strike him"—I took him to the station—he was identified by the three witnesses, French, Tebb, and Martha McCumshay—I had received a description of him—after the charge was read over he said, "I saw a man had got hold of the old man's arm; he cuddled him, and took his stick; I saw him passing by, he laughed, and I asked him who he was laughing at, he said, 'I am not laughing at you, my son'"—Bowers, whom I know as "Icy," was brought to the station the next day, September 5th—he was let go, and rearrested on further evidence being forthcoming.

Cross-examined by MR. GEOGHEGAN. Alfred Fry, I think, was the only witness who picked him out.

FRANCIS CRONK (573 n). On September 5th I saw William Fry in Martin Road—I told him he would have to accompany me to the station—he said, "All right"—I took him to the station, and told him he would be detained—he said, "All right, Sir"—he was placed amongst others, and identified by French—he afterwards said, "I know nothing about it; I was passing through the opening, and saw Richard; he was a bit boozed; I pulled him away cut of it"—the charge was read over—he made no reply.

Cross-examined by William Fry. You did not say, "I pulled him away from the fence."

ARTHUR FENNER (243 K). On September 5th, about 11.50 p.m., I went to 32, Martin Road—I saw Bowers in bed—I told him I was going to arrest him for an assault in Clever Road on Sunday night—I asked him if his name was "Icy"—he said "Yes"—when I told him the charge he fainted away—when he came to, he dressed, and went to the station—on the way he said, "It is all through them Frys; I will go to—he only asked whether the poor man was dead.

Cross-examined by MR. GEOGHEGAN. The inspector cautioned him—after that he said nothing—the station is about a quarter of a mile from where he lives—we reached it in about 20 minutes—he was two or three minutes in the faint—there was no light in his room—a constable and the winess Tebb were with me—I sew one child—the others stood against the door, striking matches—I have heard that two detectives had been to his house; that he went to the station to know what they wanted him for and that he was kept there all night; that Mrs. Billson failed to identify him, and that he was at the Police court—I did not know it at the time; I heard it at the station—Tebb lives in the neighbourhood, and knows Bowers—his wife only said, "What's the matter?"—he is a costermonger, and of good characher, so far as I know.

JOHN BEAR (Police Inspector). I was in charge of the station when French made the complaint—I have made inquiries, but have been unable to find Barton.

Cross-examined by MR. GEOGHEGAN. Five others have been arrested—two others, Eagles and Nelson, have been charged before the Magis-trate—that was in consequence of the description given.

Bowers, in his defence on oath, said that he saw French assault William Fry with a stick, which he took from him broke up, and threw away, as French was a bigger man. William Fry, in his defence, said on oath that only one witness said he struck the deceased; and that he was wearing a black, and not a brown, coat as stated. Richard Fry, in his defence, said on oath that he was too drunk to know what was the matter.

BOWERS— NOT GUILTY . WILLIAM FRY— GUILTY — Eighteen Months' Hard Labour. RICHARD FRY— GUILTY — Twenty one Months' Hard Labour. 


  1. How cool is that?!??

    Sucks that they killed him... but if they didn't, I probably wouldn't be alive. ;)

  2. yeah - probably me neither!!

    Makes ya' almost wanna' think kindly of the fry-guys...

  3. Yes...we would certainly all have bad teeth. :/

    Thanks for sharing this!!

  4. That is very cool. I mean, it's not, it's tragic, but still it's neat to know why we're Canadian and not English. Or, one of the reasons, anyway.