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Friday 18 December 2015

Alleged murder near Berwick, December, 1876

We started a creative writing group in November 2015 to write fiction to fill in the gaps about incidents and historical characters in Berwick’s, Tweedmouth’s and Spittal’s history, using research produced by the Berwick 900 Our Families Project and that writers do, themselves. 

Fiction may be short stories, poetry or scripts for radio, TV or theatre.

Some of this fiction will be based on newspaper articles.

From the Newcastle Courant (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England), Friday, December 8, 1876:

Alleged Murder near Berwick
On Tuesday, Samuel Ridpath, Longridge, gave information to the public police to the Berwick police that he had discovered a woman dead in a ploughed field on the road to Longridge, and that from injuries to her face it was feared that she had been murdered. The matter coming under the jurisdiction of the County police, information was sent to Sergeant Armstrong at Scremerston, but that officer being at present at Newcastle, police officer Tough of the Berwick force was sent to make enquiries into the matter. At the request of the policeman, Mr Gilley, East Ord at once granted the use of a horse and cart to convey the body. On reaching the place, the body was lying in a ploughed field on the farm of Middle Ord near to the gate, which was fastened, leading into the field. The body was lying on its left side, in the first rut left by the plough: there was a wound over the eye, and a little blood had flowed from it. The woman, who is about middle age, had evidently died where she was found, judging from impressions left in the soil of the movements by her feet and head. The police having been informed that a woman answering the description of the deceased was seen at Velvet Hall in the company with a cattle drover on Saturday night, John Huntley cattle drover Berwick was taken into custody and on Wednesday, at the sitting of the magistrates for Norham and Islandshires, he was charged on suspicion of having caused the woman’s death. Evidence was given that the prisoner and deceased were in company at a public house in east Ord on Saturday night. When they left, the prisoner was seen to drag the woman along the road against her will. They were afterwards seen together at Velvet Hall about 3 miles from East Ord public house the same night. Nothing more was seen of the woman until her body was found in a field on Tuesday morning. The prisoner stands remanded for a week.

Places named in the Newspaper Article
I was made in Berwick town
By river, sea and sand,
Protected by its solid walls
From the Borderland.

A gatherer of bait was I,
Ruled by moon-led tide.
The river and the ocean deep
In my heart reside.

Hard as a rock forged from earth,
My drover courted me.
I loved to hear his loamy tales
Beside the foaming sea.

His restless eyes and gravelly voice
Gave me windswept plains,
And mud and ice, and life and death
In never ending lanes.

I longed to stride out to the heights
Beside my sweetheart drover,
And make a fire to warm his heart,
And sleep beside my lover.

Without a word he left one dawn
 I followed, wracked with pain.
At dusk I found him wild with drink
On muddy Longridge lane.

Hard as a rock forged from the earth,
With words so harsh and cruel,
He threw my love back in my face,
And cursed me for a fool.

I fell upon my knees, and wept,
And begged him say he lied.
If I no longer had his love
Then I was dead inside.

“I'm of earth: you're of sea:
“Brine is death to land.
“Go back to your fishy ways,
“Or else you’ll feel my hand.”

I should have listened to his words,
I should have hastened home,
But I did swear upon my grave
His love could not be gone.

I tried to fall into his arms,
And fell to earth instead.
I shrieked for mercy as he held
A rock above my head.

Oh take me back to Berwick town
And lay me by the sea.
And curse the man who took my life.
And say a prayer for me.

© Sandra Whitnell – December 2015

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