1917 Court: ‘Great illuminations’ on South Foreshore

editorial image

Warnings as to persons striking matches in the streets having been of no avail a batch of six defendants were summoned at the Scarborough Police Court, the charge against them being that of “failing to extinguish an external light visible to sea” - they had struck matches on the South Foreshore-road on Sunday, October 14th.

Defendants were: John Garra, a discharged soldier, described as a farm servant, Sea-Bathing Infirmary; Harry Porter, fireman, 68, Candler Street; John Farrar, clerk, 11, Candler Street; Chas Mennell (17), baker’s vanman, 29, Sussex Street; Stanley Borrows, no occupation, 64, Prospect Road; Alfred Heelbeck (15), gardener, 81, Seamer Road.

The chief constable said he took those proceedings because of the great illuminations which took place on the South Foreshore-road on Sunday evenings. There was a continual flashing of lights caused by the striking of matches. It had been presented to him that this must be stopped, and he quite agreed that it might be a source of great danger. On the date in question he caused a number of reports to be made against those striking matches, they included several civilians and soldiers. The whole matter was gone into with the military authorities, and the Competent Military Authority had decided not to direct prosecutions against the soldiers because he said there had been no proceedings taken during the summer months, and therefore the soldiers, and civilians too for that matter, said the chief, would not know the police were taking proceedings. The Competent Military Authority, however, had issued an order that in future if any soldiers were guilty of that offence they would be dealt with by the civil court the same as civilians. He (the chief constable) was unable to issue a general order like the General, and the only course was to take proceedings against civilians. He had brought those cases, in the first instance, as a warning, so as to stop that practice. He felt it would be unjust to punish severely those first offenders, and he was glad to report that on the previous night (Sunday, October 20th) there was a tremendous improvement on the South Foreshore-road. There were only two of three isolated cases, and he hoped the taking of those proceedings would have the desired effect of stopping it altogether. He asked the Bench to deal exceptionally leniently with those first cases, but to give a warning that if any other cases were brought the Bench would deal with offenders.

In the case of four defendants Garra, Porter, Mennell, and Burrows, the offences were admitted. They had told the police officers they did not know they were doing wrong and were sorry.

Replying to the bench, the chief said the offence of striking matches in the streets applied to the whole town, but the danger was accentuated when near the sea. During a pending air raid the danger was of course very great. There being no sound signals at Scarborough to warn people it was impossible to give notice to the public that an air raid was pending, and the only alternative was to try and stop the practice altogether.

The chairman, Mr WS Rowntree: Do you mean to take proceedings against all persons striking matches in the streets?

The chief: Yes, but I have started with those visible to sea as being the most dangerous.

The magistrates intimated that under the special circumstances the summons would be dismissed under the First Offenders’ Act, but in cases later that day the same excuse, which the magistrates believed, would not apply. Everyone must see that it was of extreme importance that flashing lights made by matches must not be shown anywhere in the town. Even in the ordinary streets at the time of an air raid such might be extremely dangerous.

Farrar denied the offence, and it appeared that Borrows had struck the match - in all Borrows struck three matches, the second one going out and the youths, three in number, lit their cigarettes.

The magistrates held that “aiding and abetting” was equal guilt, the summons being for failing to extinguish an external light. The case, however, like the others would be dismissed under the First Offenders’ Act.

The case of Heelbeck was taken in the Children’s Court, he not being sixteen until March next.

The chief said he had told the constable that he was seventeen next. Not being sixteen he should not have been smoking a cigarette at all, but he was not charged with that.

The youth said he was not smoking a cigarette, he struck the match for another youth. The case was also dismissed under the First Offenders’ Act.