24 April 2014

The Deaf Thief from Drogheda ... and the Norwegian Sailor

ISL version of a story about Henry Brady, a Deaf man living in Drogheda, Co Louth in 1896, arrested for stealing a watch belonging to a Norwegian sailor!


I'm back, here to sign another story to you about Deaf history, prisoners, courts and all the rest! I've just come across a great new story, that happened in Drogheda - where I live, so of course I was really interested to find out what happened!

This story is about a Deaf man who was arrested for stealing a pocket watch. So what happened?

On 7th September 1896, the Petty Sessions court was held in Drogheda. The Petty Sessions were the lowest of the courts, the equivalent of today's District Court, for hearing small matters. A defendant was called, Henry Brady, a Deaf man from Drogheda, accused of stealing a pocket watch from a Norwegian sailor. But the start of the hearing was beset by communication issues; first off, a defendant who was deaf; secondly the Norwegian sailor did not have a word of English! It looked like communication might be impossible. But further inquiry showed that the Deaf man could read and write, thus was able to communicate with the court. As for the Norwegian, his ship was in Drogheda port, and him and his fellow sailors were about town; his captain was able to speak English, and agreed to interpret for the hearing. With these communication issues resolved, the hearing began.

The first witness called was the policeman on duty, who gave his evidence. He stated that on the previous night, a Sunday, at about 11.15pm, he was on patrol when the Norwegian approached him in an upset state, but unable to communicate. Through gestures the policeman understood that his pocket watch had been stolen. Earlier that night, the policeman had seen the Norwegian in the company of the Deaf man, Henry Brady, and suspected Brady had taken the watch. The policeman soon came across Brady and followed him down the street. Brady noticed he was being followed, and quickened his pace; Brady eventually ducked into a lane, and the policeman ran to catch up with him. On turning the corner he saw Brady dropping some item before running off.

With the darkness of the night, the policeman had to use a match to light the ground, where he came across the Norwegian's watch. it was now clear that Brady had been the thief. He caught up with Brady and arrested him; following a written caution, Brady made a written statement and was placed in gaol.

After the policeman had given his evidence, the Norwegian sailor was called, along with his interpreter. He stated that the previous night he had met Brady at the railway station and accompanied him in a friendly manner down as far as the bridge near Shop Street. There, they met two young ladies and spent some time with them - though who knows how these four communicated with each other, through gesture or other means! They walked a little way down towards the church where the girls left them.

At this point the Norwegian checked the time - but found his watch was gone! Brady had already gone off at this stage. The sailor found a policeman and attempted as best he could to convey what had happened.

At this point the written statement of the Norwegian was given to Brady in the dock to read over and was asked his response. He read it and wrote a single line at the bottom, which read: 'I am guilty.' Brady had admitted his theft to the court. The judge then wrote to him a single line of his own: 'One month's imprisonment'.

Brady was then removed to Drogheda Gaol to begin his sentence.

Sources... Drogheda Independent 12 Sept 1896. 
Drogheda Argus 12 Sep 1896. 
Drogheda Conservative 12 Sep 1896.
Dundalk Democrat 12 Sep 1896.

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