The Crime Of Plagium.

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The Crime Of Plagium.

Post by Currie » Mon Jan 25, 2021 1:56 am

Plagium, in Scots law, is the offence of child stealing. It was punishable by death.

There is some interesting coverage of this in Bl**dy Scottish History: Aberdeen by Elma McMenemy, 2014. (My Irvine’s are from Edinburgh. I wonder if the woman sentenced to be executed was one of my lot.) ... frontcover

The mysterious appearance, and disappearance, of children without trace is usually blamed on aliens. That may be so, but perhaps they were the product of a successful child stealing operation. A stolen child would lose their identity and gain a new one without any official recording of the event. I guess its a bit like early unregulated adoptions in that regard.

Searching the old newspapers for child stealing cases brings up quite a lot of results in Scotland.

Caledonian Mercury, Saturday, July 29, 1826

CHILD STEALING.—The Police of Dundee were on Tuesday engaged in attempting to trace an atrocious case of child-stealing, which was committed on the previous day, at Dairsie Muir, near Cupar. The circumstances are us follow:—Elizabeth Miln, who belongs to Dundee, entered the service of Mr Alexander, baker, about a fortnight ago. On Monday, she took her master’s babe, who is scarcely ten weeks old, from the woman who had it in charge, for the purpose of airing it in the garden. She hovered for a little in the garden, and then made the best of her way to the Dundee road; but, before the parents became alarmed, she was beyond the reach of pursuit. Subsequent inquiries led to a knowledge of her route; and it was ascertained that she had been seen to change her own dress, at the water-side, by some people who hinted their suspicions that she had not come fairly by the child. When she reached Dundee it became obvious that she had stolen the child, and rendered its parents wretched (the mother lies dangerously ill), for the purpose of imposing upon a paramour. When it was tendered to him as his own offspring, he detected the trick by the appearance of the innocent.—Miln was seen in Dundee on Tuesday morning; but she speedily made her escape with the child, and no trace of her has since been found. Miln is a red complexioned woman, with fair hair, and had on a black gown. The child was wrapped in a cassimere shawl. She is about 25 years of age—Dundee Advertiser.

Caledonian Mercury, Saturday, September 23, 1826

Perth Circuit Court.
Elizabeth Mill, accused of manstealing or plagium, was then put to the bar. She was charged in the indictment with stealing a child of nine weeks old from its parents, on the 24th of July last. The child belonged to William Alexander, baker at Dairsiemuir, in Fifeshire. The circumstances of the case were stated in our paper at the time. She pleaded Guilty, and the Jury returned a verdict in terms of her confession. The Advocate-Depute restricted the pains of law to an arbitrary punishment.
Lord Gillies addressed the pannel, and pointed out to her the enormity of the offence, and the agony of grief to which she had subjected the parents of the child. The crime was a capital one; and, but for the leniency of the Public Prosecutor, it must have been his painful duty to have pronounced the last sentence of the law. As it was, he was bound to award a severe punishment. He therefore sentenced her to 14 years transportation.

Caledonian Mercury, Monday, October 7, 1844

Circuit Court of Judiciary Glasgow.
Helen Wade was brought up and accused of the crime of child-stealing or plagium, in so far as on the 5th of April last she did in or near Main Street of Camlachie, by Glasgow, steal and carry away Catherine Hamilton, an infant child of three years and a half old, daughter of Elizabeth Hamilton, handloom weaver there, and did carry the said child to Liverpool, where she was discovered and apprehended by one of the officers of the Glasgow Police. The pannel pleaded not guilty, but after an examination of witnesses, and a defence by counsel, the jury returned a verdict, finding the pannel guilty as libelled. Sentence, seven years’ transportation. [The defence set up by the prisoner was, that she had lost two children of her own, and that this child Catherine Hamilton took an affection to her, and she the pannel took a love for her.]

Glasgow Herald, Monday, November 18, 1844

Child Stealing.—Information having been received a few days ago by Mr. Gordon, the keeper of the jail of Kelso, that a little boy, named William Robertson, residing in Skinner's Close, Edinburgh, had been taken away by an individual supposed to be from Kelso, he lost no time in making the necessary inquiries, in the course of which it was discovered that a child of the same name, and answering the description given, was in the employment of Alexander Watson, chimney-sweeper, here. Information of the circumstance having been sent to the superintendent of police in Edinburgh, a warrant was forthwith transmitted for the apprehension of Watson, who was taken into custody on Tuesday evening by Mr. Gordon, and his assistant James Johnston, and lodged in jail. It appears that the boy, who is not more than seven years of age, and a very prepossessing child, was the same evening sent into the country, along with Watson's brother, for the cruel and illegal practice of sweeping the chimneys of a gentleman’s house early next morning, but from which heart-sickening work he was fortunately relieved by the timely arrival of the officers, who brought him to the prison. Watson was on Thursday conveyed to Edinburgh, under the charge of two of the police, for further examination, together with the boy, who seemed to be delighted upon his emancipation from the galling bondage of a chimney-sweeper's life.—Kelso Chronicle.

Dundee Courier, Tuesday, May 5, 1846

Mary Kerr, from Dundee, was accused of child stealing in so far as, between the months of July and August last, she stole the child of Mr Anderson (a female child about three years of age), residing in Fish Street, Dundee. As objection was taken by prisoner's Counsel to the relevancy of the indictment, inasmuch as the Crown Prosecutor had taken too wide a latitude for the fixing of the crime. The objection was overruled, and the prisoner pleaded not guilty, and the case went to trial. Panel was so loquacious in offering explanations and making statements, that the examination of the witnesses could not be proceeded with until the officers were ordered to stop her mouth with their hands—an order which, although it threatened suffocation, was found to be of no avail when put in execution, and the Court had just to put up with the annoyance. After consulting, the Jury returned a verdict finding the panel guilty as libelled. She was sentenced to ten years’ transportation.

Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, September 28, 1848

Margaret Park was charged with the crimes of plagium or child stealing, and theft, in so far as on the 7th July last, she did wickedly and feloniously steal and theftuously carry away from Love Loan, a child, named Mary Morrison, about ten years and a half old, daughter of John Morrison, pattern drawer. She was further charged with the theft of the child’s clothes, aggravated by previous conviction of theft. She pleaded guilty of stripping the child, but not of the intention of keeping it. A plea of not guilty was recorded, and a jury impannelled.

From the evidence of the witnesses, it appeared that on Friday the 7th July last, the child was missed about one o’clock. Nothing was heard of it by the mother till Sunday evening, when it was brought to her by William Fotheringham, wanting the clothes—which she now identified. Fotheringham and the girl’s brother having received some information, went to a house in Bell Street, Calton, and asked for Margaret Park, when the prisoner, who opened the door, said she would go for her. The witness, however, put her back into the house, and then saw her in a state of nudity. Prisoner said it was the child of a woman Campbell, who had left it with her in the state it was. The child was taken home, and the woman put into the hands of the police. One broker identified the prisoner as having pawned the shoes, and another the frock, both on the 7th July. In her declaration she admitted the main facts of the case. Mr Graham, for the prisoner, endeavoured to seperate the two charges, and to show that the theft of the clothes only was proved.

Lord Moncreiff held the proof to be conclusive that both the clothes and the child were stolen, and, in point of law, the child, by being kept away as it was, had been stolen. The jury without hesitation found unanimously the prisoner guilty as libelled.

Mr Deas, in craving sentence, suggested the consideration that the child had received proper food while in prisoner's custody, and restricted the libel.

Lord Cockburn made a few remarks on the enormity of the offence, and stated that at present by the law of Scotland the crime was still capital. Since the year 1784 downward, there had been three convictions, and although the cases had been restricted to a sentence of transportation, it was in the record that sentence of death had been pronounced. He proposed sentence of 14 years’ transportation.

Lord Moncreiff, in passing sentence, said, that in one of the cases where sentence had been pronounced, it was put on the record that the punishment was restricted only at the earnest solicitation of the parents of the child.

Paisley Herald, Saturday, May 5, 1855

Glasgow Spring Circuit.
Mary M‘Donald or Hastie was accused of plagium or child stealing, in so far as, on the 30th day of January last, in or near Great Clyde Street, Glasgow, she did wickedly and feloniously steal, and theftuously away take Anna Jane Bell, a child then 21 months old, daughter of Andrew Bell, Temperance Hotel keeper, and Lilias Cross bis wife. The panel pleaded not guilty, but after trial was convicted and sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment. From the evidence it appeared that the prisoner was followed by the father of the child immediately after the infant was uplifted from the street by her, and that he succeeded in apprehending the thief in West Nile Street.

Glasgow Herald, Friday, September 28, 1855

Marion Rosemond or Skeoch was accused of the crime of plagium, in so far as on Friday the 17th of August, in Monteith Row, or in Kent Street, or elsewhere in Glasgow to the complainer unknown, the said Marion Rosemond or Skeoch did steal James Young Fleming, a child aged three years and six months, son of Mr. Thomas Crawford Fleming, warehouseman, residing in Monteith Row, aggravated by previous conviction. Panel pleaded not guilty. In this case the female was traced to a confectioner’s shop in Great Hamilton Street about five o'clock in the afternoon in question, where she purchased a halfpenny’s worth of lozenges. Robert Spears, the shop boy, served her, and observed her leave the boy Fleming at the door. She then took him away. She next went to a lodging-house in New Street, Calton, occupied by a widow named Mrs. Mitchell. Panel said she had missed the train and lost her husband. She said the child was her own, and the remaining one of four. She next said she had not lost her husband, but that he had put her out. She went to bed, taking the child along with her. He struggled with her, and got out of bed. She seemed to have been indulging in liquor, and appeared fatigued. The little fellow, on getting out of bed, wrung his hands and said, “Oh my, it is getting dark; what am I to do for my mamma—what am I to do for my papa?” Mrs. Mitchell then asked the child if the woman in bed was his mother or his nurse, and he said that she was not, but that she had taken him away from his play. She asked him his name, and he told it, and also where he lived. She then in the most praiseworthy manner took the child home to his parents. Both Mrs. Mitchell and another neighbour named Mrs. Fraser were complimented by the Judge for the manner in which they had acted. Panel’s declaration was then read. It set forth that the child followed her, and she took him to Mrs. Mitchell's house till she got a rest, after which she intended to take him home. For the defence it was stated by a witness named Mrs. Busby, who lives in Gibson Street, Calton, that the panel came to her house on Friday evening with the child, and stated that she found him wandering about the streets, and took charge of him. She said it was a pity to see the child wandering about, and expressed herself to the effect that she intended to go and try to discover his parents. He could speak, and told where he lived. The panel, another witness stated, was a lawful married woman, and had two children, one of them thirteen years of age.

The Advocate-Depute having addressed the jury for a conviction, and Mr. Guthrie Smith on behalf of the prisoner, his Lordship summed up, and the jury returned a verdict finding the prisoner guilty as libelled, and she was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment.

Elgin Courier, Friday, December 19, 1856

A singular affair—implying either a remarkable instance of mistaken identity, fraud, or child-stealing—is being investigated at present, a considerable portion of the interest connected with which centres in Forfar. The leading incidents are as follow:—In the year 1830, a widow residing in Forfar gave birth to a female child, which was named Sabina Mills, after its putative father. About five years after the birth, the mother and child removed to Dundee. As the child grew up she became noted for her handsome appearance and winning manners, and a Mr Morton, merchant in Keighley, England, having signified to some of his Forfar friends his desire to engage a Scotch girl to assist in his household duties, the girl in question was fixed upon, and, her mother being dead, she removed to Mr Morton’s residence in 1852.

Everything went well until a few weeks ago, when a middle-aged female, one of a company of strolling players laid claim to Mr Morton’s Scottish domestic, as her mother. Of course, the claim was at once repudiated, but the newly discovered mother, not to be outdone, preferred her request before the magisterial bench at Keighley. In evidence, she produced a certificate of birth from the registrar at Manchester, which corresponded exactly with the age of Sabina Mills; but, what is still more strange, the several marks by which she sought to identify her lost child tallied with Sabina Mills’ personal appearance. On examination, she stated that her child had been stolen from her, and that the girl she now claimed was her daughter. Accordingly, Mr Morton was the accredited child-stealer. In vindication, this gentleman produced written evidence which he had caused to be transmitted from Forfar, proving that his domestic was born there.

The people of Keighley, interested in the affair, and rather suspicious, apparently, viewed the documents as trumped up for the occasion. A neutral party in Keighley, to test the truth of the Forfar evidence, communicated last week with a reverend gentleman in Dundee, who, with the assistance of the Inspector of Poor, secured testimonies on oath from those present at the birth, &c. Should these fail to satisfy, it is likely that the parties will require to attend personally at Keighley, to clear up this strange jumble of birth-places, dates, and identity, but more especially to free the suspected gentleman from the opprobious character of child-stealer,—Dundee Advertiser.

Stirling Observer, Thursday, Dec. 25, 1856

The Mistaken Identity Case.— We (Dundee Advertiser) understand that the Forfar certificates given upon oath regarding the birth of the supposed stolen girl, Sabina Mills, have satisfied the authorities of Keighly as to the innocence of the accused gentlemen, and, of course, the self-alleged gipsy mother will not carry off Sabina.

More to come,

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Re: The Crime Of Plagium.

Post by SarahND » Mon Jan 25, 2021 10:39 am

Thanks, Alan

"Theftuously carry away" - what a great phrase! :lol:

But oh my... doesn't that play havoc with genealogists trying to work with DNA evidence :roll: I suppose all of those transported ended up in your neck of the woods? Imagine finally tracking down your great great grandmother only to find one of those newspaper articles about her misdeeds -- adds color to the family history!


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Re: The Crime Of Plagium.

Post by garibaldired » Mon Jan 25, 2021 3:31 pm

That's absolutely fascinating, Alan.

I had no idea it existed on such a scale.

Thanks very much.

Best wishes,

Anne H
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Re: The Crime Of Plagium.

Post by Anne H » Mon Jan 25, 2021 7:27 pm

Certainly is fascinating. Thanks Alan!


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Re: The Crime Of Plagium.

Post by nelmit » Sun Jan 31, 2021 2:44 pm

Great stuff as usual Alan.


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Re: The Crime Of Plagium.

Post by Currie » Tue Feb 02, 2021 4:09 am

Thanks all.

And Sarah, when I finished tracking down my GGGranny I had found that she had been not just the Town Drunk, but the City Drunk. So bad in fact that when her children died no-one could remember or wanted to remember her name and only the father’s name appears on the death certificates. I can’t find a record of her death. Maybe she fell in the river and drifted out to sea and everyone preferred not to notice. Most likely they just hit her on the head and buried her in the back yard. She’s probably still there, perfectly pickled.

On with the Plagium.

Caledonian Mercury, Saturday, October 20, 1855

CHILD-STEALING. — A case of child-stealing—a crime known in Scotch law by the name of plagium, has just occurred in Edinburgh. Several days ago two decently-dressed women accosted a young girl who had charge of a child in the Grassmarket, and, giving her fourpence, asked her to purchase pears for them, promising to keep the child till she came back. On her return, both women and child were gone, and they have not since been heard of.

Caledonian Mercury, Saturday, December 29, 1855

CHILD STEALING — SINGULAR CASE.—In October last we chronicled a case of child-stealing as having just occurred in Edinburgh. Two decently-dressed women having accosted a young girl, who had charge of a child, in the Grassmarket, and, giving her fourpence, asked her to purchase pears for them, promising to keep the child till she came back. On her return, both women and child were gone, and nothing was heard of either of them till Monday last, when the child was found in a close off the Canongate. Her name is Agnes Blackie, and she is three years of age—too young to give any account of the parties who carried her off, or as to where she had been. The police, however, have succeeded in apprehending two women who were implicated in the transaction, and they tell the following story:—Some eighteen months ago, a girl named Ann M'Kenzie, residing in Richmond Street, parted with a young man with whom she had been for some time acquainted, telling him that, on his return from Australia, whither he was going, she would present him with a child of which he was the father.

It turned out that she was not in the interesting situation in which he was led to believe; but it would appear that she had informed him of the birth of a child, and on his return to this country early in October, instead of telling him that no such event had happened, she determined to take a child from the streets, and pass it off as her own. Accordingly, her sister, Johanna M‘Kenzie, and a woman named Ann Ross, undertook to get a child apparently about the age of eighteen months, and they succeeded in the manner above described. Agnes Blackie, although double the necessary age, was very delicate, and looked much younger than she was in reality; and they passed her off to the young man as his child. The neighbours, however, knew how the matter really stood; and a quarrel having taken place between them and the M‘Kenzies, they threatened to give information to the police, whereupon the M'Kenzies removed to Leith, where they lived for some time, still retaining the child.

A week or two ago, the young man enlisted, and went to a port in England to embark for the East. He promised to marry M'Kenzie if she would follow him to the port in question and sec him off. This she did, and is probably married by this time. The child was now unnecessary, and it was set adrift, as we have stated. The police have apprehended Johanna M‘Kenzie and Ann Ross, who were examined, and remitted to the Sheriff from the Police Court on Thursday. They admit their share in the transaction, but declare that it was done at the instance of Ann M‘Kenzie, for whose apprehension a warrant has been issued. The child has been restored to its mother. The crime of child-stealing, or plagium, is a capital offence by the law of Scotland.

Caledonian Mercury, Wednesday, January 2, 1856

THE CASE OF CHILD-STEALING.—A few days ago we mentioned some facts connected with the disappearance and recovery of a young child named Agnes Blackie, showing that she had been carried away by three women—Ann M'Kenzie, Johanna M'Kenzie, and Ann Ross—their object being to pass it off on a young man as his child with the view of getting him to marry Ann M‘Kenzie, who pretended that she was the mother, The man enlisted in the Land Transport Corps some time ago, and embarked from Plymouth for the East about a fortnight since. MacKenzie joined him at Bristol, where he promised to marry her, but she arrived too late—he had left for the port of embarkation. After some difficulty, Lieutenant Milligan and an officer named M‘Pherson succeeded in apprehending her on Saturday last, and she was remitted to the Sheriff on the serious charge of child-stealing. The two other women were previously remitted.

Glasgow Herald, Friday, February 15, 1856

HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY,—Anne Mackenzie, convicted of plagium, or child-stealing, was sentenced to fifteen months’ imprisonment; the presiding judge remarking that the offence was one justly punishable with transportation, from the agonised feelings caused to the parents, and the effect the abduction might have had on the destiny of the child. Seeing, however, that it had been voluntarily restored and well attended to, the Court would not inflict so severe a punishment as it would otherwise necessarily have done.

(I think the presiding judge must have been in a very good mood when he sentenced this woman. It’s mentioned elsewhere that the child, Agnes Blackie, was the daughter of George Blackie, gardener, Hope’s Land, Canongate.)

Elgin Courier, Friday, April 27, 1860


Margaret Williamson, an indifferent looking young woman, was charged with this offence, in so far as she had, on the 18th December last, carried away from the house of William Sharp, a labourer or lodging-house keeper residing in the parish of Cromdale, a child, seven months old, belonging to John Carline, a hawker. The panel pled “guilty, but not to the stealing,” which was accepted as a plea of not guilty. Mr Robertson appeared as counsel for the prisoner, and Mr Colvin as agent.

Eliza Carline, mother of the child, was examined, and gave evidence that on the Tuesday evening in question, while in the lodging-house in Grantown, the prisoner took away the child from her knee, that she did not particularly miss the child for a while, but she ultimately got alarmed and gave notice to the police. Her husband, accompanied by a constable, set off next morning in pursuit, and found the child in her possession in Abernethy. It did not care much about the breast when it came back to her. John Carline was next examined, and merely corroborated the evidence of his wife.

Mary Mackintosh, wife of Angus Mackintosh, Culreach, Elginshire— The prisoner came to her house on the Wednesday forenoon with the child. Witness remarked to the prisoner at the time that the child was cold, and to warm it. She said the child was her own, and that she was going to Tulloch, to James Grant, who was the father of it. Witness told her to give it suck, and try and quieten it, and she opened down her breast, but remarked she had not a drop.

James Grant, shepherd at Ballimore—On 13th December last, about two o'clock, he saw the prisoner upon the farm of Ballimore. She asked him first why he had his coat buttoned, and then held up the child to him and asked him if he would take this. He said he would not, and she said she would require to leave it with his mother. He told her she would not better try that, or he would send the constable to her. She then went away as if she were going away to his mother. He went to his mother’s house on the Wednesday, along with John Carline and the constable, who came to Ballimore. The prisoner had been at his mother’s, but had gone away. She came in to his mother's house again at night, when Carline took the child from her.

Mr Aitken read the prisoner's declaration, which set forth that she got the child to hold, and that she then took it away the length of Mrs Grant's house, where at night she was caught by the father of the child and the constable, apprehended, and brought to Grantown. She also set forth that she knew James Grant, but said nothing about the child to him.

Mr Robertson addressed the jury in behalf of the prisoner, explaining that the girl appeared merely to take the child away for a short time for the purpose of extracting some money from James Grant, with whom she appeared to have some intimacy. He would recommend the jury, in the event of their finding a verdict against the prisoner, to couple their verdict with a recommendation to the leniency of the Court.

Lord Neaves then summed up the case, setting the whole facts before the jury, stating that there was no evidence that she meant to come back with the child, leaving no trace of it behind her. Making use of a child for such a purpose, and that, too, in the middle of the month of December, was against the law, and he saw no other verdict than guilty which they could return with such evidence before them.

Provost Simpson of Springfield, the foreman of the Jury, intimated their verdict, finding unanimously, with the exception of one dissenting voice, the prisoner guilty, and recommending her to the leniency of the Court.

Lord Neaves then addressed the prisoner, remarking that the Court, upon the recommendation of the Jury, were disposed to treat the case with leniency, and pronounced a sentence of “nine months’ imprisonment.”

(In this article she is described as “an indifferent looking young woman.” When the case was first reported she was described in some newspapers as “a masculine looking young woman” and “one of the tinker tribe who have been a pest to the country for years.” In others she was described as “a very muscular young woman, evidently of the tinker tribe.”)

Dundee Courier, Saturday, October 14, 1865


A case of child-stealing took place in Edinburgh, on Wednesday last, under circumstances well calculated to excite the sympathy of the public. The only child of a young married couple belonging to the labouring classes and residing in Blackfriars’ Wynd, was entrusted to a neighbour girl of twelve years of age, while the mother was engaged in outdoor employment. The girl was carrying the infant in the High Street, when she was accosted by a woman who entered into conversation with her, and decoyed her towards the railway station. The stranger there asked the girl to go into the station to enquire when the next train left for Glasgow, saying she would hold the baby for her while she did so. The girl suspecting no evil surrendered her charge for the moment, and was told by the railway clerk that the five o'clock train had just gone. She immediately returned to where she had left the woman and child, but no trace of them was to be seen. In vain she searched and inquired, but she had at length to go back and report the loss to the unfortunate parents. Unavailing efforts have since been made by the parents and grandfather for the recovery of the child, and every inquiry has been made by the police and Procurator-Fiscal, two detective officers being specially employed in the case, but hitherto without success.

A description of the woman and of the infant has been published by the police, requesting all police officers and other persons to make inquiry, and search for the child, and also assist, if possible, in the apprehension of the thief. The following is the description of the woman who is charged with the theft:—‘‘She is from 30 to 35 years of age, tall, stout made, pale face, fair hair. Dressed in a dark grey wincey gown, white straw bonnet, trimmed with black silk ribbon, red stripped shawl, with brown border.” The child, named James Dollan, “is about 12 months old, stout of his age, fair hair and complexion. Dressed in a grey wincey frock, fastened with hooks and eyes, a red flannel petticoat, a white flannel petticoat, a dark cotton pinafore, and a small tartan napkin; was bareheaded and barefooted when carried away; has a beam on right eye and two vaccination marks on left arm.” A reward of £10 has been offered for such information given to the police, or to Michael Dolland, 27 Blackfriars’ Wynd, as may lead to the recovery of the infant.—Courant.

Southern Reporter, Selkirk, Thursday, November 30, 1865

THE STOLEN CHILD.—It is now seven weeks since the child James Dollan was stolen at Edinburgh, and still there is no clue to his whereabouts. The Procurator-Fiscal for the city has taken a precognition in the case, for the purpose of laying the matter before the Lord Advocate. Meanwhile a new distribution of handbills has been made throughout the city and county. A fortnight ago the mother and grandfather of the child made a visit to Irvine, from which they walked back as far as Glasgow, inquiring at all the police stations on their way, but the clue they supposed they had in that direction turned out unsuccessful. The suspicion is entertained by the police that the child must have been taken away by some woman who desired to establish a claim for aliment as a mother—a supposition more probable than that the infant was taken for purpose of mendicancy,
in which case anything like concealment or privacy would be impossible.

Stirling Observer, Thursday, December 21, 1865

THE STOLEN CHILD.—In answer to several correspondents, we regret to have to state that no trace has yet been had of the child James Dolan, stolen nine weeks ago.—Edinburgh Courant.

Southern reporter, Selkirk, Thursday, August. 23, 1866

THE STOLEN CHILD.—The Daily Review of Saturday says:—Our readers will remember the painful sensation created during the month of October last by the announcement that an infant of a year old, son of Michael Dolan, labourer, Blackfriar’s Wynd, had been stolen from a young girl named M‘Girle at the Waverley Bridge Station. No clue was left to lead to the recovery of the child, and the utmost efforts of the police to discover the delinquent were unsuccessful. The bereaved parents had, therefore, given up hope of ever seeing their lost one again, but that hope is again renewed; for, on Thursday last, a woman, who gave her name as Margaret Robertson or Graham, called at the house of Mrs Dolan, and said that when in Glasgow recently she had seen a child answering the published description of the one stolen, and she professed her willingness to render every assistance in her power to trace it out.

It occurred to Mrs Dolan, however, while she was conversing with the woman, that she had before her the child stealer, for her features and general appearance corresponded exactly with the description given by M’Girle and the girl who accompanied her of the person who took the child, and who had disappeared ere they returned with some small purchases she sent them for. Mrs Dolan accordingly caused her informant to be apprehended, and on being confronted with the two girls they at once identified her. She denied all knowledge of the child beyond what she had already communicated to the mother, and protested that she had resided in Glasgow with her husband for two years. She was brought up at the Police Court and remanded, and in the meantime the police officials have communicated with the Glasgow authorities with the view of tracing the child.

(That’s all I could find on the Dolan, Dollan, Dolland, whatever, case. I suspect the Robertson woman was just a con artist after money. The infant appears to have been born 9 October 1864 to Michael Dolan and Mary M’Girl so perhaps the girl M’Girle was a relative. I think I saw somewhere her name was Bridget but not really sure.)

Hope that was interesting and there’s probably more to come.


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Re: The Crime Of Plagium.

Post by Currie » Mon Feb 22, 2021 11:00 am

A bit more to wind up this Plagium thread.

Paisley Herald, Saturday, October 8, 1870

MAN STEALING OR PLAGIUM.—Maria Cox was charged with having, on the 4th June, 1870, stolen, from or near Holmhead Street, a child, aged four years, named John Henderson, son of John Henderson, jun., bootmaker, residing there. Prisoner pled guilty, explained that she was in a state of intoxication when the crime was perpetrated, and therefore did not know what she was doing. The child was recovered some six hours after it was taken away. Lord Deas passed sentence of two months’ imprisonment.

Edinburgh Evening News, Tuesday, January 27, 1874


At the High Court of Justiciary, yesterday—Lord Ardmillan presiding—Elizabeth Reid, a woman twenty-four years of age, pleaded not guilty to the stealing of a boy two and a half years of age. She was defended by Mr Duncan. It came out in evidence that the prisoner took the boy from a public-house in St Mary Street, and went with him to Leith. According to her story, she got drunk at Leith, and took the steamer for Newcastle, at which place she lost the child while she was under the influence of liquor. The child was discovered by the police, however, and restored to his parents in Edinburgh. After hearing the evidence, the jury found the panel guilty. She had been three times previously convicted of theft. Lord Ardmillan passed sentence of seven years’ penal servitude,

Edinburgh Evening News, Saturday, March 7, 1874


On Wednesday, a boy about two and a half years of age was stolen from 15 John Street, Glasgow, by a girl named Elizabeth Anderson, 17 years of age, and belonging to Kilmarnock. She was captured in Paisley yesterday. She came there on Thursday with the little fellow, whose name is John Brown Ferguson. The accused is a pleasant-faced girl, and the boy and she appeared to be greatly attached to each other, he refusing to go to any one but his enforced nurse. The girl says she found the child crying very bitterly on Wednesday night when coming from her work, and with the view of finding his parents she took him away with her down Paisley Road. She failed to discover the little fellow’s home, and having no apparent desire to go near the Police Office she went to Paisley and took lodgings, where she passed the boy off as her son. She was preparing to go to Kilmarnock when she was apprehended. The little boy has been restored to his parents.

Southern Reporter (Selkirk), Thursday, April 16, 1874

CASE OF KIDNAPPING IN GLASGOW.— On Saturday, at a pleading diet of the Sheriff Criminal Court, Glasgow, Elizabeth Anderson pleaded guilty to a charge of “theft, particularly man-stealing or plagium,” and was sentenced to nine months imprisonment by Sheriff Guthrie. It seems that on the 4th ult., as prisoner was passing along Main Street, Bridgeton, she observed a child named John Brown Ferguson, aged two years and six months, playing, and did immediately lift him up, and him “theftuously carry away.” The prisoner next proceeded to the house of a Mrs Middleton, the wife of a pattern-weaver in Main Street, from whom she borrowed a woollen plaid for the pretended purpose of taking the child home to its parents. She stole the child, however, as well as the plaid. The child was recovered by its parents.

Glasgow Herald, Wednesday, September 4, 1878


Mary Foster pleaded guilty (1) to having on Sunday the 19th May last stolen a quantity of wearing apparel from the house of William Irving, labourer, Green Street, Calton; (2) to having on Tuesday the 21st of May last stolen Williamina Bonar, a child 3 years and 10 months old, daughter of Margaret O’Brien or Bonar, residing in Newton Street, Renfrew; (3) to having stolen a vest and jacket from Bonar's house; and (4) to having on the 23d of May last stolen several articles of wearing apparel from the house of Edward Colligan, Shore Street, Gourock. It was stated on behalf of panel that when she carried off the child she was under the influence of liquor, having been drinking to excess with the infant’s mother. She did not intend to steal the child, but after she went away she had not sufficient money to pay her fare back to Renfrew. Panel was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

And to finish up here’s a 100 year old documentary about the evils of Plagium. (Theft by finding.) Written, produced, and directed by, and starring, a cinematic genius.

That’s All Folks,

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Re: The Crime Of Plagium.

Post by SarahND » Tue Feb 23, 2021 11:12 am

Thanks, Alan! I wonder if Mrs Middleton ever got her plaid back?

That was quite an entertaining film, even if it got a bit odd towards the end with all the winged people flying around :shock:


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Re: The Crime Of Plagium.

Post by Currie » Tue Feb 23, 2021 2:36 pm

Thanks Sarah,

Chaplin was a genius. I have a few of his silent movies on my phone, The Kid, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, etc, and a couple of Buster Keaton’s, The General etc. They are handy for watching a movie when you’re not watching a movie, or sitting in a waiting room, or whatever.

All the best,

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