Thursday, 4 August 2011

Porter who told porkies had previous

In Porter tells porkies to the police I wrote about how my great-grandfather, John McCarthy, lied about his age in order to join the Metropolitan Police.

Before joining the police, John had been a porter and signalman with the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. Yesterday Ancestry released a new database of Railway Employment Records, 1833-1963 and I was very pleased to find John McCarthy's service record amongst them.


Shadwell Station 1910


The details can be briefly stated: John joined the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway as a porter at Shadwell Station in March 1880, on a salary of 16 shillings a week (about £400 today). On 13 September 1880 he was promoted to signalman and his pay went up to 22 shillings (about £550). He resigned on 25 November 1881, a month before he started his new career in the Metropolitan Police.

What intrigued me was to see that John had also lied about his age to the railway company. In March 1880 John was 16 but told them he was 19. The reason for the deception is baffling, as the records show other boys taken on as porters on the same salary as John, aged only 15. Whatever his motives, it is clear that he had "previous" when it came to pulling a fast one on the Metropolitan Police.

The staff records also reveal that he was recommended to the railway company by Hyam & Co. They were a large and very well known firm of outfitters, with headquarters in Oxford Street and branches in all the main British cities. In 1851 they advertised themselves in the official catalogue of the Great Exhibition as "the most extensive tailors and clothiers in the world". My assumption is that John McCarthy worked for them before joining the railway. Perhaps it was from them that he acquired his taste for elegant clothes, which led to his nickname: The Beau Brummell of the Yard.


Hyam & Co

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