Thursday, 18 October 2012

18th October 1812: Joseph Mellor's servant, Mary Dyson, is examined by Joseph Radcliffe

Mary Dyson, a 17 year-old servant working in the household of Joseph Mellor, had been a witness to what had occurred at the house on the evening that William Horsfall was shot. Although she had already been brought in and questioned by Joseph Radcliffe, along with the rest of the household on 10th October, a longer and more substantive statement she gave 8 days later, on Sunday 18th October 1812, appears in the records of the Treasury Solicitor. Mary was the niece of Clement Dyson, one of the early targets of the West Yorkshire Luddites.

In her statement, the most striking thing is the different timings Dyson gave compared to the others in the household: she stated that George Mellor and the 'stranger' arrived at 5 o'clock, and stayed for only 15 minutes. I have already pointed out that Martha Mellor's statement fixed their arrival at 6.15 p.m., within 5 minutes of the time Horsfall was shot, making impossible the two men could have been there. Dyson's statement is equally problematic: given that it was to be the prosecution's case that George Mellor had brought the weapons used to shoot William Horsfall to Joseph Mellor's house after the incident, this would not have been possible either, as the assassination actually took place over an hour later than Dyson deposed they arrived.

In the statement, Dyson is clearly being asked if the 'stranger' was William Thorpe, whom she says she had seen stood before Radcliffe, but she is reluctant to identify him. She is also clear that this man had his coat on when he left, although she intimates that having to leave through the workshop would mean he could have taken it off.

Dyson was also adamant that the visitors did not wash themselves, as had been originally claimed by Francis Vickerman in his interview with John Lloyd, although she later said she 'would not swear to it' as Martha Mellor had said they had, and had asked her if she had been asked about it at her first examination.

Dyson was also vague about the 'stranger' having a cut or scar, again being reluctant to 'swear to it', but she was perfectly clear that George Mellor did not have an injured finger.

Dyson said she spoke to Frank Vickerman (the nephew of Francis Vickerman, and an apprentice of Joseph Mellor) about what had happened at around 7.00 p.m. that evening, as they were both in a outbuilding, he cleaning Joseph Mellor's horse. Vickerman wanted to know what the visitors had wanted, and Dyson said she thought they wanted work.

Mary went on to relate what else had occurred later that evening, the timings corroborating what the others had stated before Radcliffe. Crucially, she said that was not aware of the pistols being hidden until 11th October, when the apprentice Joseph Oldham had returned from giving a statement to Radcliffe.

Dyson then revealed the contact she had had with George Mellor more recently. She had given a statement about the whole affair before Joseph Radcliffe on Saturday 10th October, and had met George Mellor at a Sale at the premises of Joseph Hirst later that day. Mellor had asked her where she had been, and she told him, and also what for: Mellor told her she must "tell the truth". Later, on the way home, George Mellor had caught her up, and as they both walked past Clement Dyson talking to another man at the side of the road, Mellor asked her if it was her uncle that had sent her to Radcliffe - she confirmed to him that it was. When they arrived at Joseph Mellor's, George asked Joseph "what Clement Dyson had begun the stir for?" - Joseph said he did not know, and declared he would have a talk with him, and left to do just that.

Mary told George Mellor what she had said to Radcliffe - Mellor emphasised to her that the reason he and the 'other man' had called at Joseph's that night was because the man had wanted work.

As Brooke & Kipling point out (1993, p.110) Dyson was part of the web that trapped George Mellor, along with Francis Vickerman's nephew Frank. Parts of the information they gave - and not the whole, since it would contradict the Crown's case - were used to build a case against him and the other alleged accomplices. All that was needed was someone else to corroborate the case they had constructed, and two people in particular were soon to 'fit the bill' in that respect.

One last mystery is what happened to Mary Dyson after she gave evidence. Brooke & Kipling reveal (1993, p.45) that Joseph Mellor subsequently explained to the magistrate John Walker how a constable had 'taken her away' a few days after she gave her statement. She did not subsequently appear at the trial of George Mellor, and we know nothing else of her fate, or how & why this happened.

Mary Dyson's statement can be found in the Treasury Solicitor archive.

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