Monday, June 29, 2009

Bull Baiting

A delightful description of a court case in Christchurch, from the NZ Truth, 14 February 1914.

In the Magistrate's Court at Christchurch before Mr. T. A. B. Bailey, S.M., Henry James Wells sought to blight the fair name of Frederick Bull, by having recorded against him a conviction for assaulting the said Henry James on January 3.

To look at Bull a casual observer would conclude that he had about as much chance of committing' a fair-sized assault on Wells as a pup has of assaulting an elephant. Each of the parties in the case lacked confidence in their verbal punch, and Cassidy occupied the informant's corner, whilst Lawyer Donnelly defended the alleged bully.

Wells unfolded a gruesome story concerning the treachery of his brother butcher, Bull. While following his profession as meat artist at Hogarth's flesh foundry, Sydenham, one day Henry James had occasion to use


which he had in his hand when Bull entered tho establishment. Wells said, "This stuff doesn't smell like gin, Fred." Wells allowed Fred a smell. No sooner had he sniffed the ammonia than he hauled off and landed a double turbine, ginger laden bang on Well's eye. The injured optic assumed the color of a moonless night, and its wearer had to hawk it along to a doctor for repairs.

Mr. Cassidy handed in a doctor's certificate containing a pen picture of the injured eye. Lawyer Donnelly barked out: "Wh-what's this ?"

"A certificate," said Mr. Cassidy.

"You know you can't do anything with that. It's merely a certificate that Wells got a black eye. You can get that for a guinea." ("Truth" could not say whether the latter remark referred to the black eye, the doctor's certificate, or both.)

Mr. Cassidy's next exhibit was a picture post-card—a


On one side were depicted two men— one with a face like a flat-iron and the other with an elaborate bandage covering his optic. The ornamented one was offering words of advice to his chum with the black eye. The reverse side of the post-card bore the following poetic gem which Mr. Cassidy spitefully referred to as "doggerel" :—

"Ah well your eye is black.
There is no doubt I had a crack. . .
I'll stop gin smelling and take a pull,
Or else stop a crack from beastly Bull."

Waving the post-card aloft, Mr. Cassidy asked the witness if the card was delivered to him by the postman. He said it was. He and Bull had always been friendly prior to the morning on which the latter dealt out stoush.

Mr. Donnelly offered a bottle of ammonia to the S.M. and Mr Cassidy to smell. Mr. Cassidy brutally suggested that Mr. Donnelly should smell it, it might clear his head. Lawyer Donnelly, for the defence, said that Wells had played a scurvy trick on Bull, and could not expect anything but that Bull would retaliate. The defendant's story was that when he entered the butcher's shop, Wells took the cork out of the ammonia bottle and said to witness,


What do you think it is, Fred ?" Fred tested the fluid, and when he regained consciousness he hit Wells on the eye and told him not to play silly jokes. He admitted that he struck Wells on the spur of the moment, although that was not the part of his anatomy that blackened.

Since the dust-up, witness had met Wells and had merely said, "Good morning, Mr. Wells." Nothing was farther from his mind than to taunt the man and goad him into fighting. Witness did not write the post-card to Wells, and had never seen it before. It might have been a joke on the part of the shop boy.

The S.M., after sniffing the ammonia bottle and satisfying himself that it did not contain gin, said he did not want to lay it down that there was justification for the blow, but he was surprised that when one man played a practical joke and got a crack in the eye for his pains he should let it rankle in his mind for so long. The case was dismissed.

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