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Squibby - Poacher turned Gamekeeper?

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  • Squibby - Poacher turned Gamekeeper?

    You'll remember Squibby, Walter Dew's 'pocket Hercules' who was almost lynched by the Spitalfields mob. I've always thought that this was his criminal record:

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    You'll notice the various aliases he used. They have proved quite useful in tracking him down on Ancestry. Various trees have a George Henry Squibb born 1865 whose mother's maiden name was Spooner and whose stepfather's surname was Cullen. Must be him, surely?

    The interesting thing I've just discovered is that by 1911 he was apparently managing a lodging house at 42, West India Dock Road, Limehouse. This is the man Billy Maher chased out of a house in Dorset Street after he had made the mistake of pulling a knife on Billy.

  • #2
    Dew describes Squibby as being covered from head to foot in tattoos. These are GH's distinguishing marks:

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    • #3
      This is Dew's account of Squibby's rescue from the mob:

      I was standing in Commercial Street with a fellow detective named Stacey when my attention was attracted by a young man standing close to the entrance to Dorset Street. I recognized him at once as a young scoundrel nicknamed "Squibby ", who had given the police a lot of trouble at one time and another, and was now " wanted " for assault on a child.

      "Squibby " was an associate of notorious young thieves, and although short of stature he was stockily built, and so powerful that we used to call him the Pocket Hercules.

      Whenever this " charming " young fellow was arrested it took six or eight policemen to get him to the station, and by the time he was brought in he was usually devoid of every stitch of clothing, and the policemen pretty well hors de combat.

      This " mighty atom " of the East End was covered from head to foot with tattoo designs.

      Some time previously "Squibby " had engaged in one of his periodical battles with the police. It was as a result of this that the child was injured. The assault on the girl was not deliberate. "Squibby" was amusing himself by throwing bricks at a policeman. One of the missiles was badly aimed and hit the child.

      Knowing he would be "wanted" for that, the miniature giant went into hiding, and the morning following the Hanbury Street murder was the first occasion following the offence that he had come under the eyes of a police officer. I have a shrewd suspicion that it was not mere curiosity that caused " Squibby " to mix among that throng of morbid sightseers. He was not the type of fellow to let an opportunity like that pass.

      Unfortunately for me, " Squibby's " eyes were as sharp as my own. Recognition was mutual. He knew I would be after him, and was determined to give me a hard chase. He made a sudden dash, dived between the legs of a horse,', crossed the road, and ran as fast as his short legs could carry him along Commercial Street, in the direction of Aldgate.

      Stacey and I gave chase, drawing our truncheons - plain-clothes men carried truncheons during the Ripper murders - as we went.

      The sight of a man running away from the scene of a Ripper crime with the police officers in hot pursuit sent the crowd wild with excitement. They jumped to the conclusion that the man on the run was a murder suspect.

      "Jack the Ripper ! Jack the Ripper ! Lynch him!" The cry was started by a few and taken up by hundreds.

      Behind us as I ran I could hear the tramp of hundreds of feet.

      As I was passing Fashion Street a great, burly brute did his best to trip me by thrusting his legs in front of mine. He possibly thought I was the man the crowd was chasing, but more probably knew me as a police officer. I dealt him a heavy blow with my truncheon and he fell back into a baker's window.

      Meantime our quarry had reached Flower-and-Dean Street, and realizing that he was bound to be caught if he continued running, he entered the front door of a house, jumped over a low wall, and entered the adjoining house.

      Stacey and I dashed in after him. He led us up the stairs and into a bedroom where we grabbed him just as he was making his way through a back window.

      I was done in. So was Stacey. Now for a rough time, I thought. "Squibby " had never been known to be arrested without the most violent resistance.

      But this was a different "Squibby ". Instead of finding, as we expected, an animal of a man, foaming at the mouth and ready to fight to the last breath, his face was of a ghastly hue and he trembled violently.

      In a flash I saw the reason. It was not of Stacey or myself that the wanted man was afraid but of the howling mob outside.

      They were crying for his blood. Their cries reached us.

      " Lynch him. Fetch him out. It's Jack the Ripper," came from a thousand throats. The crowd now stretched to Commercial Street.

      "Squibby " saw the danger, and so now did I. His life wouldn't have been worth twopence once that mob got their hands on him.

      I told him we would do what we could, but I have often wondered what would have happened had not a number of uniformed police officers followed and, as I discovered afterwards, with great difficulty held the door of the house in which we were marooned.

      Precautions had also been taken against a demonstration of mob law. Urgent messages had been sent to the surrounding police stations-Leman Street and Commercial Street -and soon reinforcements of uniformed police arrived on the scene.

      The baffled crowd became more bloodthirsty than ever. The very precautions the police were taking confirmed them in their conviction that the man whose life they were demanding could be none other than the East End Terror.

      The cries of "Get him ! Lynch him!" " Murder him !" became more insistent than ever, and I am sure little "Squibby " was convinced that his last hour had come. No policeman who had previously had the unpleasant task of arresting him would have believed that such a change could come over a man. Abject terror showed in his eyes as again and again he appealed to me for protection.

      I myself wouldn't have given much for " Squibby's " life at that moment, and I was not at all happy as to what might happen to Stacey and myself if the mob reached us.

      Presently, however, the yells of the crowd became more subdued, and I ventured down to the front door of the hovel into which our prisoner had led us. The sight I saw filled me with relief. Scores of lusty policemen were clearing a space in front of the house.

      Never in all my life have I more warmly welcomed the sight of the blue uniform.

      Several officers came into the house, and it was only with their assistance that our scared prisoner could be induced to descend the stairs and face the street.

      On emerging into Flower-and-Dean Street I realized that our dangers were far from over. At the sight of the little man being shepherded by a posse of police officers the mob seemed to go mad.

      They made one mad, concerted rush which threatened for a time to break down the police barrier. Their cries became louder than ever, filthy epithets being intermixed with the demands for " Squibby's " summary execution.

      We gained Commercial Street, but beyond that, despite the strong force of police, we found it impossible to go.

      One thoughtful young constable solved our immediate problem by getting a four-wheeled cab from Aldgate into which we bundled our prisoner and proceeded with the police forming a " guard of honour ".

      At last it seemed that our troubles were over. But, oh dear, no! Several ugly rushes were made at the cab, and more than once it came within an ace of being over-turned.

      A big, burly inspector named Babbington came to our rescue. He suggested that we should be much safer on foot than in our precarious vehicle, and with this I agreed. So out we scrambled, just along Spitalfields Market.

      The whole of Commercial Street was now packed by a yelling, hooting mob of frenzied people. Some, I have no doubt, regarded the opportunity as a heaven-sent one to have a go at the police.

      A lane was formed all the way to Commercial Street police station, and after what seemed to me an interminable time, and likewise I am sure to "Squibby ", we fought our way into the grimy-looking building which for once looked really beautiful to me.

      This station is, or was, an island. It was immediately surrounded by the mob, now more infuriated than ever because the man they believed to be the " Ripper " had been delivered safely at the police station.

      Even now they did not abandon hope of taking the law into their own hands. The police station was attacked again and again, and it was only the indomitable pluck of the men in blue which prevented an innocent man being crucified. There were many sore heads in Commercial Street that day.

      I was told afterwards that from the very first police officers shouted to the crowd to say that the man who had been taken in custody had nothing whatever to do with the Ripper murders. They would have none of it. Their blood was up.

      For a long time the shouting crowd surrounded the police station. A few seconds after a space had been cleared it was filled again.

      Inspectors went to the upper windows of the police station and tried to explain who the prisoner was, and why he had been arrested. Several other ruses were adopted in order to induce the people to go to their homes. But nothing would convince them they had made a mistake, and it was not until many hours after " Squibby " had been placed under lock and key that the streets in the vicinity of the police station reverted to their normal peacefulness.

      The moment he was put in a cell "Squibby " began to regain his composure. Much as he hated policemen he had confidence in their ability to protect him in their own police station. Eventually he was sentenced to three months' imprisonment and was quite happy about it.

      " I shall be much safer in Pentonville for a bit," he said with a smile.

      After this experience "Squibby " was a changed man. Whenever he met me he never failed to thank me for " saving his life ", and as far as I know he never again gave trouble to police officers whose duty it was to arrest him.

      I have seen many riotous crowds in my career, but none quite like the one I have described. Every man and woman in that mob was ready to tear a fellow-creature to pieces because some fool, seeing a man pursued by police officers, had shouted "Jack the Ripper "


      • #4
        Dew's reference to Pentonville is interesting because Squibby had been sentenced to 15 months there in September, 1886. However, there is no record of a conviction for the assault on Betsy Goldstein which resulted in his being chased by the mob.


        • #5
          I nabbed this from Casebook (originally posted by Chris Scott):

          Lloyd's News
          9 September 1888

          ASSAULTING AND THREATENING A CONSTABLE. - George Cullen, alias Squibby, 25, was charged with assaulting Betsy Goldstein. - Police-constable Bates, 166 H, said that on the 1st inst. the prisoner accosted him in Commercial-street, and threatened that the next time he was interfered with he would "do for him" (the constable). The constable explained that the prisoner was a notorious street gambler, and had been chased the previous Sunday. After this threat he took up a stone and flung it at the constable. It missed him and struck the young girl he was now charged with assaulting. On Saturday morning the prisoner was seen in Commercial-street, and chased by Detective Dew, H division. He dodged under market carts and horses' legs, and presently other constables took up the chase, the prisoner giving them a smart run through Spitalfields, where the cry was raised that it was "the murderer," and some thousands of persons gathered in a state of the greatest excitement. - Previous convictions for assault on the police were proved, and Mr. Bushby sentenced the prisoner to three months' hard labour.


          • #6
            His widow and some of the family were at 4 Grenade St in 1939.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Robert Linford View Post
              His widow and some of the family were at 4 Grenade St in 1939.
              Thanks, Rob.

              I've got multiple reasons for starting this thread:

              1) To try to conclusively nail down the identity of Dew's 'Mighty Atom'. The A-Z provides a couple of other candidates.

              2) To explore the Limehouse connection. I'm sure I once found a John McCarthy as the owner of a lodging house in the WIDR.

              3) To explore the connection between Squibby and the Squibbs who lived in Pereira Street, Bethnal Green. You may remember they were neighbours of the Tarbuck clan, one of whom died alongside the Lechmeres in the BG tube disaster and another of whom was an associate of my grandad.

              4) And last, but not least, the hounding of Squibby by the mob supposedly took place at more or less the same time and at definitely the same location as the attack by the blind hawker on his female guide.


              • #8
                Over on the Rich Street thread (Maywood etc) I found the reference to the John McCarthy who ran the doss house in the WIDR - and it was at no. 42. I apparently found it in the 1915 Kelly's directory.

                If the manager of the doss house was the same GH as the one with the lengthy criminal record and Dew's man it gives us an idea of the sort of characters who were deemed suitable to run such establishments.

                And if this JMc was the Dorset Street one, he was operating where the mob from Breezer's Hill had moved ca 1890. Small world.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                  Dew's reference to Pentonville is interesting because Squibby had been sentenced to 15 months there in September, 1886. However, there is no record of a conviction for the assault on Betsy Goldstein which resulted in his being chased by the mob.
                  GH assaulted a PC during his 1886 arrest, which also ties in nicely with Dew's assessment of 'Squibby's' character.


                  • #10
                    This is from The Hackney and Kingsland Gazette of 17th September, 1886.

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                    • #11
                      Other reports of GH's exploits describe him as a 'dark-complexioned' man, a 'well known and violent character' and 'one of the most persistent and violent criminals' the court had to deal with. On one occasion he broke a constable's jaw, on another he knocked an old man's teeth down his throat.

                      Oh, and he was 5ft 3 and a bit.

                      Surely he's got to be Dew's Squibby, hasn't he? And yet there's no mention of the 1888 incident on his criminal record - just as there appears to be no record of the attack by the blind man on the same day or the same day of the previous week. Odd.


                      • #12
                        I knew several Squibbs living in East London/Essex back in the days before I retired, I wonder if they are related?


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Phillip Walton View Post
                          I knew several Squibbs living in East London/Essex back in the days before I retired, I wonder if they are related?
                          Now that's interesting, Phillip. A few weeks back I looked up the details of a business owned by someone connected to my family and discovered that one of the directors was a Squibb. It was a Romford business BTW.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                            Now that's interesting, Phillip. A few weeks back I looked up the details of a business owned by someone connected to my family and discovered that one of the directors was a Squibb. It was a Romford business BTW.
                            There is a building firm under the name of Squibb, I've seen their trucks and vans around.


                            • #15
                              George Henry Squibb, 44, married Mary Ann Burke, 35, at St John's Limehouse on 26th January, 1909.

                              The 1911 census shows them running one of Jack McCarthy's lodging houses - Dunbar House at 42, West India Dock Road, an establishment that catered largely for dock workers and seamen. They were then claiming to have been married for 7 years, and had 4 children, aged 6, 3, 2 and 4 months.

                              Squibby died in 1938 and his death was registered in the Poplar registration district.