Tuesday 30 April 2024

Brawling in the Vennel

On a Saturday night in July 1909 a large crowd gathered in the Vennel in Greenock where two “pugilistically-inclined” women were having a fight.  The brawl only came to an end when one of the women pushed the other through a window. 

The women were arrested and ordered to appear at Greenock Police Court before Bailie Lemon where they were charged with creating a breach of the peace.  Only one of the women, Jane Hamilton or Keenan (whose address was given as East Breast, Greenock) actually appeared, the other, although charged instead of appearing, forfeited a pledge of 20 shillings.  .

One of the witnesses was an egg merchant in the Vennel who gave evidence in court.   The local newspaper summarised his account in their own words– “for fully half an hour the two women waltzed around each other in a spirited face-disfiguring and hair-pulling competition – perhaps not under the approved Queensberry rules, but yet with all the enthusiasm and energy of enraged femininity.”

The merchant stated that when the woman was pushed through the window, which happened to be his premises, “pyramid upon pyramid of eggs came toppling down in a heap.  Altogether about 30 shillings worth of eggs were hopelessly smashed”.

Jane Keenan denied that she had been the one to push the other woman through the window as several of her friends swore when giving evidence in court.  One stating that “it was the crood that broke the window”,  another giving an alternate theory – “the ither wumman took a wake turn and fell through hersel”!

Source - Greenock Burns Club

Bailie Lemmon pronounced Keenan guilty of taking part in a disturbance and handed down a sentence of a fine of 20 shillings or ten days in jail.  Later in the year she was again in court charged with assaulting two women and sent to prison for thirty days.

It was not Mary Hamilton or Keenan’s first brush with the law since 1903 she had several breach of the peace court appearances, had been charged for using obscene language and in 1907 she had been charged with riotous and disorderly behaviour.  Just another Saturday night in Greenock's closes!

Want to read more about what went on in the narrow and overcrowded streets of Greenock?  Then you might enjoy the following posts, just click on the links:-

The Greenock Ripper
Greenock's Dunghill Problem
Mince Collop Close
Cartsdyke's Problem Piggeries

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