While all this was going on Ethel was active elsewhere. On 29th November 1912 the Scottish Liberal Association conference in Aberdeen was to discuss taxation. Well, women were taxed as well as men, so at least five women went along. They were a lively group. Ethel on this occasion took her mother’s maiden name and said she was ‘Mary Humphreys’. She was now forty three and the oldest of the five; slim, dark haired, bespectacled, a little deaf. Fanny Parker, currently WSPU Organiser in Dundee, was the only one who gave her own name. The fiery Olive Wharry said she was ‘Joyce Locke’; she was the youngest, at twenty six. Emily Davison said she was ‘Mary Brown’; she was tall & slender, with a small narrow head and red hair; her whimsical green eyes and tiny half-smiling mouth bore often the mocking expression of the Mona Lisa. She was later to become famous as the woman who threw herself under the horses at the Derby the following summer. May Pollock Grant (‘Marian Pollock’) was the daughter of a respected Dundee minister, and was not long returned from teaching in India. Fanny, Olive and May managed to get in to the meeting. Outside, Emily and Ethel turned their attention to the speaker, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George. But they both got the wrong person: Emily attacked a Free Kirk minister with a whip and Ethel threw a stone at the wrong car. They were all arrested.
Next day, Saturday, Baillie Robertson heard Ethel’s case. The Dundee Courier reported: The charge was Breach of the Peace in Rubislaw Den North. Ethel asked to read this over, then said: “I look upon that charge as stupid. You charge me with breaking the window of a motor car. You must surely say whose car it was.”
Fiscal replied: “Not necessary.”
Ethel: “My protest was a political protest … therefore it was not malicious mischief.”
Fiscal: “Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
Ethel: “I am not guilty. That charge makes me out to be a malicious and disorderly person. Lloyd George was in that car and I had no intention of injuring anyone else.”
Fiscal: “Are you guilty or not?”
Ethel: “I won’t plead at all.”
Fiscal: “Do you wish the case adjourned?”
Ethel: “I want the witnesses – Mr Lloyd George and those other two who were in the car.”
Magistrate: “The case will be continued till Tuesday.”
The accused was then being removed when at the door she turned and, eluding her guardians, returned and shouted to the Magistrate. The police closed in on her… When Fiscal asked what she wanted to say Ethel replied: “May I ask in a word why you put me in a drunk’s cell last night? Why should I not be allowed out on bail? May I say, if bail is not to be allowed we ought to get proper sleeping accommodation.” Fiscal: “The Magistrate is allowing you out on bail of 40s.” The other three were then tried. The newspaper had described Ethel as ‘a tall, fashionably dressed lady’ but the others were ‘dishevelled’. Olive Wharry threw her shoes at the Magistrate, but missed and was removed by a posse of police. [i] Lloyd George was clearly somewhat nervous. Dundee Courier also relates that on leaving Aberdeen by train for Kirkcaldy he was alarmed at group of women on Stonehaven platform; one got into the next carriage, 2 shoes were thrown in after her – but it was just a wedding! At Dundee station there were many calls of Votes for Women among cheers from Liberal supporters.
On the day of the trial a large crowd gathered outside the Aberdeen court to watch the arrival of the accused; twenty ladies in furs and sealskin were packing the gallery by quarter to ten. While on bail Olive had had time to tidy up, and was now described as ‘prepossessing, with a buttonhole of violets and primroses’. Ethel was no doubt dressed as modishly as ever. Baillie Robertson turned his attention first to the three who got into the Music Hall. The caretaker witnessed that at 3.30 he found Miss Joyce behind a door and the other two in the ticket box. There was much cross-questioning; the suffragettes’ counsel accused various witnesses of lying and the women insisted they had offered to go quietly and only struggled when they were assaulted. Also, they pointed out, no breach of the peace had occurred because no witness had admitted to being at all alarmed. They were found guilty anyway. Twenty shillings or five days. “No surrender!” shouted friends from the gallery.
Ethel’s turn came next. Tom Bartlett, Mr Crombie’s chauffeur, said he drove Mrs Crombie and two men from the Palace Hotel towards Glenburnie in a dark blue car. As he slowed near Glenburnie Park ‘Miss Humphreys’ ran up to the car, threw a stone and broke the car window (worth £1). Bartlett couldn’t identify Ethel. She suggested sarcastically that in that case maybe the car was red? The Prosecution wasn’t having this. “The charge is malicious damage, not of a specific car.”
“The prisoner will rise,” said the magistrate. Ethel sat tight. He sighed, let it go, and pronounced sentence. “The prisoner is found guilty of malicious mischief. Forty shillings or ten days imprisonment.” Ethel could not hear him, so she had to have it repeated. She was then manhandled out of the dock, resisting and shouting “Shame!”.
The five prisoners caused no trouble about being taken off to the prison, but demonstrators banged on the horse-drawn Black Maria with flags and then schoolboys snowballed the supporters – it was great for the press! The group arrived at Craiginches Prison at one o’clock, carrying pillows & much baggage, which was all taken away to the store. The doctor examined them and recommended they should have their own clothes and pillows, so back it all came. There was something of an argument about the fact that May and Emily were not allowed out to exercise because they hadn’t had a medical exam. The other suffragettes sat down in yard and had to be carried indoors. “Fair enough” said all but ‘Mary Humphreys’. She, instead, smashed a gas box, threw the shards around and was put in the strong cell. At this point police didn’t realise she was Ethel Moorhead, though they twigged soon after. All the women went on hunger strike, but after four days they were released, their fines having been paid by an unknown sympathiser; they were let out at 6.40am into a taxi within the gates to avoid a demonstration. It was reported that the other prisoners said “good, now we can have some peace.” Emily and Ethel were not pleased about the fine being paid, and in fact denied it, claiming it was a cover-up because “Bonnie Scotland will not accept the barbarity of forcible feeding”. Ethel was awarded a suffrage medal on this occasion.
About a fortnight later ‘Marian Pollock’ revealed herself as May Grant and gave her views on the event at a meeting in Forresters Hall, Dundee, Mrs Renny presiding. May was a skilled orator and milked her audience: “Some of her hearers, she thought, had known her since she was a little girl, as the daughter of a clergyman and as having taken part in mission work. Now she appeared on the platform as a gaolbird! Perhaps some of them hadn’t heard the call of the oppressed, sweated, betrayed women. Nothing but political power would give their sisters the help they needed in the struggle for existence.”
Ethel gave an account of the bad conditions and treatment in the Aberdeen gaol in a letter to The Scotsman on 16th December – a letter so damning that the Secretary of State had to answer a question in Parliament. She followed this up with a letter to the Master of Polwarth, drawing attention to the above letter. “I refer to the recent practice of the police in Polwarth of refusing bail to the suffragettes and imprisoning them for the night in drunks’ cells at the police station, where there is no sleeping accommodation and where men warders come in and out of the cells all night. In England this is not done. … It seems to me this is a matter for the Prison Commissioners – surely the police have not complete power over untried prisoners?” ‘Marion Pollock’ backed her up. “I desire to homologate everything said by Miss Humphreys in her letter published in your issue today concerning scandalous treatment of unconvicted prisoners in Aberdeen.- a warning to other suffragettes. In Craiginches Prison where we were taken after conviction I have nothing but praise for our treatment – with one exception – the Chairman of the Police Commission threatened [me] with “artificial” feeding although this was unnecessary for a four-day imprisonment.”
In January 1913 the suffrage movement nationally was dealt a severe blow when the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that any women’s suffrage amendment to the Franchise Bill would so alter its character that it could not continue its passage through parliament. At this, the suffragettes lost patience and started burning buildings and generally creating mayhem. As Fanny Parker wrote to the Dundee Advertiser: “Militancy has its uses… we cannot give or withhold votes, but we can offer peace or war.”
Asquith, always an inflexible opponent, was in Scotland preparatory to being given the freedom of the City of Dundee on 30th January. The day before, he gave a speech in Leven, Fife. Four suffragettes tried to rush the town hall, including Ethel who this time was masquerading as ‘Margaret Morrison’ and was armed with a pot of cayenne pepper. She was arrested in spite of her liberal dousing of the police and was carted off to Methil Prison, charged with Breach of the Peace, where she was searched and a hammer and two chunks of lead were found in her belongings. She proceeded to cause havoc by locking herself in the police cell, breaking all the windows with a spade that was in there, throwing water from the privies, flooding the corridor by turning on all the taps and throwing a bucket of water over policeman William Anderson. Then she smashed a cup and threw hatpins at the wall. “Altogether her conduct was not that of a person of sound mind,” said the Official Report. Sgt Anderson broke down the cell door with an axe and Ethel was removed to Dundee police cells. She came with a warning from the authorities; and the Procurator Fiscal warned the Governor of Dundee Prison: “There is reason for thinking, owing to her behaviour in Leven Police Office last night that she suffers from mental derangement.” In contrast, Dr Stalker M.O. reported: “She is I find in a fairly sound mental condition, sounder perhaps than several others I have previous experience of.” “She is good tempered and reasonable.”
Asquith was duly honoured on 30th January in Dundee. Some suffragettes gained entry to the Kinnaird Hall despite the guards; they were soon ejected but organised protests outside. Their activities had become quite a public attraction: May Grant told of a conversation: ‘“Why are you going?” “To see the suffragettes.” – shades of the old gladiators!’
The next day, following a visit to prison from friends (who no doubt related the details of Asquith’s honouring), Ethel turned ‘from a lamb to a lion’ and smashed more glass, though “she had promised not to.” So the Medical Officer forbade any visitors, and revised his opinion to “a weak minded person of defective self control and barely responsible for her actions”. She wrote to the Prison Commissioners about this: “I broke four panes of glass because I was denied the privileges of a remand prisoner, e.g. to see friends in my own cell,” and went on hunger strike next day. The matron was probably the most accurate in her assessment: “She has periodical fits of temper in which she does as much damage to the prison as she can.” Ethel also wrote to Arabella Scott at 88 Marchmont Rd, Edinburgh, but the Governor suppressed her letter (3rd Feb) because it contained “indecorous and improper matter”; she said she was being treated like a convicted criminal, but “having to fight all the time keeps me from being dull. There is a plot hatching – was visited today by a blurry-eyed doctor (I think smelling of whiskey) and with an affectionate manner!”
February 4th was the day of Ethel’s trial. She was taken by car from Dundee Prison to Cupar accompanied by a policeman and a wardress. They arrived at the Sheriff Court at 11.15; Ethel was reported to be looking well despite 5 days’ hunger strike [sic]. though walking with “measured tread and slow”. She wore a dark costume with a black hat and heavy white veil. She was allowed to sit near the front because of her deafness.
“Prisoner, stand!” She refused.
“Are you in poor health?”
“No, I am perfectly able to stand.”
Sheriff Stewart Grace Kermack: “It is very disrespectful to the court.”
“Yes, I mean it to be.”
Sheriff: “Guilty or Not Guilty?”
Ethel: “I refuse to plead. I deny the justice of these proceedings.”
Fiscal intervened: “That is a plea of Not Guilty, my Lord.”
Ethel was offered, but refused, an adjournment, so the case proceeded and evidence was heard. Sgt Anderson was asked to identify the prisoner, but she refused to remove her veil for identification; “Don’t touch me!” she yelled.
A struggle ensued, Ethel’s veil was torn, and the attempt was eventually abandoned, meaning the constable had to go down and peer at her.
Fiscal asked him if her behaviour was very bad?
Witness: “It was. We treated her too gently. We treated her like a lady….”
When it came to Ethel’s turn she responded: “I am not taking part in these proceedings. I have no witnesses to call.” Then she made long statement including charges against the police, at which point the sheriff pointed out she could have cross-examined the police but chose not to.
Ethel snorted. “This administration of injustice is done by one big family party, beginning with the Home Secretary.” “I was put in a cell with a drunk and a thief.” Before sentencing, Sheriff Kermack said: “I have listened to all you have said with great respect and I think the least you can do is to stand up when I’m speaking to you.”
Ethel: “That would be absurd. Sentencing is part of the proceedings.”
She was found guilty on four charges – for assault with pepper on police, Breach of the Peace, Malicious Mischief (12 panes) & assault with water. The sentence was £20 or 30 days; she chose days.
“May I see my friends?” The sheriff said that would be a matter of arrangement. Then she was hustled out shouting “No surrender!” and managing to bop two policemen on the way. And it was back to Perth Prison.
She had been fasting four days by time she got to Perth on the Tuesday. She wouldn’t let the doctor examine her and he said he couldn’t examine her by force and nor could he risk feeding her after a four-day fast, especially as he felt she was “up to all the tricks about feeding resisting”. So she was discharged on Thursday 6th at 10.10pm, after 2 days to Mrs Crichton, 7 Charlotte St, Perth. After this incident Ethel was awarded a bar for her suffrage medal.
The Dundee Advertiser at this time was often full of news and correspondence about suffragettes and hunger strikes. A week or so after Ethel’s release it reported that four suffragettes in Ireland had smashed windows at Dublin Castle and had been imprisoned in Tullamore (where Ethel’s cousin was a magistrate). One woman was released because she was ill, but the other three were given political prisoner status – an endorsement of the British women’s stand. Not everyone approved however; on 22nd January the Dundee Advertiser Leader advised readers to stop giving money to suffrage funds because ‘Such a highly organised movement … cannot exist without money.’ …’In the dock some yawned, some read the latest novels and all made speeches after the now familiar model.’ Rev Hugh Watt of St Enoch’s wrote in: ‘If a virago in gaol wants to starve, why hinder her?’. Less militant campaigners wrote that though they deplored violence they totally opposed force-feeding. The column named ‘London Letter’ described suffragettes as ‘chartered rowdies’; it pointed out that window smashing cost £5000 damage plus £1250 for trials and imprisonment. A. Gow’s letter asked: ‘Are men or women to rule the nation? Starving oneself to get out of prison is not true courage.’ May Grant promptly replied, mentioning Ethel and saying: ‘The second day of hunger strike is the bad one; after the third no one would dream of giving in’… ‘You entirely underestimate the determination of women who know they are in the right, and you greatly over-rate their fear of death.’ Lila Clunas alleged: ‘Lloyd George paid the suffragettes’ fines because he was embarrassed to have them in gaol.’ (The editor added a rude note).
At the same time Ethel had embarked on an acrimonious correspondence with the Prison Commissioners, which has been kept on record. On 24th February she wrote from Frederick Street: ‘In case I did not make matters clear in my interview today with reference to the rug and cushions sent to me at Dundee Prison, which were not given to me there and were not given to me when I left, I herewith send you written particulars.’ There follow details of how her maid had sent belongings on 31st January, the matron had said they’d come, and had given some things to her on the 2nd. When she was taken to Cupar on 4th she was given all but a rug and a cushion. She examined her baggage and they were not there; she had said so but was seized and held until the cab had driven off. She wrote to matron on 5th but received no reply. The maid sent a parcel on to Perth, but there was no rug in it. She wrote to the Governor on 15th; he replied that, first, Ethel couldn’t see inside the box and secondly “the rug had fallen off the cab on the way to Cupar!” ‘I take this opportunity’ she continued, ‘to remark on the treatment I received as a prisoner on remand. On arriving I was placed in a strong room [until I complained and was moved.] I was required to see my friends after the fashion of ordinary criminals, in a cage, and because I protested privileges were withdrawn and petty tyrannies practised during the rest of my stay…. I understand the Governor was at one time a warder – he is still a warder, possessing all the qualities of a first rate bully, bullying not only suffragists but his staff – notably the matron who is a kindly woman were she allowed to be.
I am Yours faithfully, Margaret Morrison.’
This string of letters went on for quite some time, with M. Hutton the matron contradicting Ethel, and the cabbie saying that Ethel asked him to take items to Dundee (to Fan Parker at 6c Nethergate) along with other stuff, a Jaegar rug and a silk cushion. The Governor was fed up. His letter on 18th ran ‘…she means to give as much trouble as possible….’ There was a list of Ethel’s property: boots, hat, bodice, costume, knickers, coat, combinations, blouse, stays, stockings, 2 purses, 3 pencils, knife, wrist watch and £7.8.9. Another list was similar but included also a veil, spectacles and a testament. Clearly she was not one to give up lightly. History does not relate whether she ever got her rug back, but it appears not. Perhaps Fan had it.
On 7th March 1913 Ethel’s Bill of Suspension (asking for suspension of her November 1912 sentence) finally came to the High Court of Judiciary. The news hit the papers. Edinburgh Evening Dispatch tells the earlier part of the story: ‘Counsel then stepped down so that if Ethel Moorhead were found guilty (presumably this means if the complaint were disallowed) she could address the court. She unfolded a voluminous manuscript, but she was not allowed to speak.’ Dundee Courier continues: The judges refused to interfere with the magistrate’s decision, saying ‘[he] had dealt very leniently with the case’.
‘Suffragette Creates Wild Scene in Edinburgh Court. [ii]
The court had just concluded delivering their decision … when Miss Moorhead, who occupied a seat on the public benches beside several other ladies, rose and in a loud voice said: “I want to say this is another Court of Injustice and (addressing Lord Chief Justice) you are an unjust old man.” A number of plainclothes officers at once seized hold of the disturber. She resisted strongly and shouted: “Leave me alone. I will walk out.” At the same time she hit at the police who held her arms and hit one in the face. Lord Justice Clerk said: “Treat her kindly. Take her gently.” She was dragged towards the exit, then called out: “How can you treat this court with respect? You can treat it only with contempt.” She was taken across Parliament Square to the charge room and depositions were taken, but she was not locked up.’
At the end of this month Superintendent Fraser of Dundee City Police made a rather inaccurate report to the Chief Constable Carmichael [iii]This included:
“It is said there is a son in the family but he never was here as far as known. …her father was in delicate health. “She was an artist but it is not known whether she sold her pictures or not…. She frequently complained to the police about her servants, and oftentimes made frivolous complaints… thought to be a little eccentric and no doubt easily advised to commit any act of violence. She got into an excited state on many occasions and while in that state did not seem to be responsible for her actions.”
The suffrage campaign was definitely hotting up. In April Perth Cricket Club was set on fire, in May Farington Hall in Dundee, just along the Perth Road from where Ethel had lived, was burned to the ground, and Ethel’s friend Arabella Scott was caught and imprisoned for having a go at burning Kelso race course. On 30th June Leuchars Junction suffered the same fate. (There are some Scottish Home & Health Department records for July 4th & 7th which suggest Ethel had been arrested and imprisoned at this time, but no other evidence. [iv])
As for the more militant section, at the end of 1913 the Secretary of Dundee Liberal Association had been assaulted by suffragettes and a follow-up letter in the paper warned: ‘the thrashing you received last night was part payment for the way you have assaulted women and men suffragists at Liberal meetings. Change your methods or it will get worse.’ In April Eliot Rd Hospital was burnt and two months later an attempt was made to set fire to Dudhope Castle, making the police authorities thoroughly nervous: “… all strange ladies who come to town are viewed as possible militants… Women who look out of the ordinary have been watched and also some strange motor cars have been seen….”
Not altogether surprising, then, that Ethel’s next reported exploit was an attempt at arson. On 24th July Ethel and Dr Dorothea Chalmers Smith, wife of the minister of Calton Parish Church in Glasgow, targeted an unoccupied mansion house at 6 Park Gardens (Glasgow). Armed with firelighters, wood and paraffin, and pretending to be prospective purchasers, they arranged to be shown round the previous day; one of them pretended to be an old lady and awfully tired, and they managed to hide and stay on in the house. But a policeman passing at 2.00am must have seen a flickering light. He found Dorothea inside, and next morning caught Ethel escaping, covered in soot. She had probably been hiding up the chimney; she gave her name as ‘Margaret Morrison’.
The police files include a less than flattering picture of the pair. Dorothea is large and imposing, with an aquiline nose and strong chin held high, a veil pushed back over her hat; Ethel, in her pince-nez and a bowl-shaped hat, seems a good six inches smaller and has her mouth tentatively open. The Glasgow Herald was more flattering, describing Ethel as ‘a woman of means, resident in the Liberton district of Edinburgh. She has attained some distinction as an artist, and is associated with a ladies’ art club in Edinburgh. Her work has been frequently shown at exhibitions in that city. Miss Moorhead who is an ardent suffragist will be tried as Margaret Morrison…’
Dorothea, who was two or three years younger than Ethel, was born into a comfortably off family. She graduated in medicine from the University of Glasgow in 1894, and five years later married Reverend William Chalmers Smith. They had six children. She and her sister Jane became interested in the suffrage campaign and she joined the WSPU in 1912, presumably when she was no longer fully occupied with her children. Her husband was not at all supportive; he was also known to be a drunk. This escapade was her first.
The pair were arrested and held on remand in Duke Street Prison, where they promptly went on hunger strike. They were not amenable prisoners. Prison officials visited and said if they wished to enjoy the privileges granted to prisoners awaiting trial they would have to conform to the rules. “I desire no privileges,” said Ethel, “but I will insist on my rights. And take your hat off when addressing a lady!” She then smashed three cell windows with her shoe and was removed to strong cell. The Prison Governor reported: “I was asked why she had been removed there. I told her because she had broken her cell windows. That, she replied was because she had not got her ‘rights’ and when asked what rights she replied by attempting to knock off my hat ‘because I dared to stand in the presence of a lady with it on’” However both women were later moved again, to more comfortable cells. Untried prisoners were allowed to pay a small sum and get a chair and a bed (rather than a plank and a pillow). This they did, and also ‘made liberal use of the rule which permits prisoners of that class to order newspapers and other literature.’ Members of WSPU visited them and arranged for their defence. Ethel later ate food which had been sent in, but Dorothea didn’t. No warder would tell them what the other was doing.
The Dundee Advertiser enjoyed detailing ‘Miss Morrison’s Lively Behaviour’. And Ethel set pen to paper once more, complaining to the Prison Commissioners of the governor’s treatment of unconvicted prisoners: “He is astonished that we are rebellious, being accustomed to tame convicts – Kindly instruct him that it is not his duty to endeavour to tame the suffragettes and quite a hopeless task to undertake during their stay in HM prisons.”
On 28th she was transferred by taxi to Western Police Court where there were a dozen suffragettes who presented her with flowers; when an officer tried to stop her speaking to them Ethel said haughtily: “Don’t push me. If you put your hands on me again I’ll have you in for assault.” The press was amazed by her ‘audacity’. Baillie Campbell said the offence was too serious for him to try and remanded it to the sheriff court. “You are evading your responsibility,” snorted Ethel. By this time the officials had worked out that Margaret Morrison was the well-known artist Ethel Moorhead; they deduced it from her hand-writing, they said, but they must surely have known her face by now. She was to be tried as Margaret Morrison anyway. She was liberated on £50 bail. Dorothea was by this time unfit to appear, but was released next day into the care of her husband. She did not return when she should have done on 5th August so she was put under house arrest, to the dismay of William’s godly parishioners.
The Cat & Mouse Act of 1913 was passed to deal with the dilemma of hunger strikers; the government did not want dead suffrage prisoners on their hands, and this was a way of releasing them temporarily, on licence. It said that women must give their address and not move and not be out of the house for more than 12 hours. Once they recovered their health they were to return to prison. Anyone sheltering a “mouse” – a woman on the run – was also liable for punishment.
Arabella Scott had been released under this Act and had been dodging the authorities, but on 24th August she was caught again and returned to Calton prison. Ethel and another suffragette wrote to James Devon, the medical member of the Scottish Prison Commission, asking him to intercede. Arabella was released on 29th; she refused to go unless she was released unconditionally so she was ejected by force. The papers (which had previously described her as ‘a sweet faced young lady’) changed their tune, said she acted ‘uproariously’ and questioned whether she was really ill. She went to Ethel’s house in Liberton, and was gone by the time her licence expired on 10 September.
A few days later Ethel received a letter from her brother Arthur in Lucknow. (He was a major by now.)
I got your Post Card announcing news of George in S. Africa. I am glad he is doing well and popular and I wish you would go out and pay him a visit.
I have seen your escapade in Glasgow and don’t feel a bit proud of my name appearing in the Police Courts. I have appealed to you before to keep our name out of the papers but you take no notice. If you cared a d-m for me you would do what I ask you. What would the people I loved best Pa, Ma and Cis, think of you setting fire to private property to bring yourself and your party to notice. You complain that I don’t write. I think it jolly good of me to do so and if you want me to do so you had better turn over a new leaf.
I suppose you will be given 3 months by the Sessions and then be released on hunger strike. You will come out a wreck and require nursing and I hope it will cure you.
I return to India to-morrow and hope the heat will have gone.
You say I dont write so I wish you would acknowledge this letter giving the date on it.
No more from your fed up brother, Arthur.
It should be said however that Ethel thought of her brother as ‘the faithful Arthur of the good Irish heart’.
‘MARGARET MORRISON, Argyle Cottage, Midlothian and ELIZABETH DOROTHEA LYNAS or SMITH otherwise ELIZABETH DOROTHEA CHALMERS SMITH 13 Broompark Drive, Denniston, Glasgow, you are Indicted at the instance of the Right Honourable Alexander Ure, His Majesty’s Advocate, and the charge against you is that you did, on 23rd July 1913, break into an unoccupied dwelling-house at 6 Park Gardens, Glasgow, and did convey, or cause to be conveyed, a quantity of fire-lighters, firewood, a number of pieces of candles, a quantity of paper, cotton wool, cloth and a number of tins of paraffin oil, and did place these along with three venetian blinds at or against a wooden door in a passage on the first flat of said house, and this you did with intent to set fire to said door and to burn said house. [Signed] “Stair N. Gillon” (? illegible)
At Glasgow the 4th day of October the said Margaret Morrison and Dorothea Lynas or Smith, otherwise Elizabeth Dorothea Chalmers Smith, having been called on to plead to the fore-going indictment, severally refused to plead.’
Ethel probably rented Argyle Cottage; in 1912/13 it was registered as being the residence of W.H. Greenaway but it is not recorded at all in the subsequent two GPO Directories. Ethel was there in August 1913, and still there in March 1914. Fan had moved from Dundee to be the Edinburgh WSPU Organiser in August 1913; perhaps they were living together. (By 1915/16 it belonged to a Mrs Scott.)
The case came to trial on 15th October, and received just the extensive publicity that Arthur deplored. Dorothea’s husband turned up and the court was crowded – over a hundred, with many well-dressed ladies. Both women appeared ‘remarkably self-possessed’; Ethel was, too, well prepared – she brought with her a kit bag and a travelling rug. They told Lord Salvesen they would defend themselves; when asked if they’d be better with a lawyer Ethel said: “We usually find they make a muddle of it”. One must presume that the WSPU help consisted simply of advice.
The jury was empanelled. “Objection,” said Ethel, “the only jury able to try us would be one of voteless women.”
“Objection dismissed. If we went along with that,” harrumphed Lord Salvesen, “every trial of a woman in the past would be illegal.”
It was a big trial, involving twenty two witnesses for prosecution – eleven civilians (two of them women), seven constables and six more senior police. Then there were thirteen ‘productions’; along with the firewood etc. listed above (presumably the blinds were for firewood) there were a cape, a stole and a quantity of hair (presumably for disguise). And finally, a lamp, a watch, a book and two postcards. The defendants maintained that they did not ‘break in’, but the judge directed the jury that entering fraudulently counted. Evidence included the two postcards found on the scene with messages “A protest against Mrs Pankhurst’s re-arrest” and “To British Tyrants Asquith & Co. Beware! The destruction of property is but the beginning.” Some evidence about identification was led. Ethel said “It is most improper proceedings to bring this man to our cells in that way and suggest we were the women who were in the house… Is it not the case that when there is anyone who ought to be identified that they should be placed among a number of people?”… Lord Salvesen replied with a cheap crack: “It is desirable, but I should fancy it would be very difficult to get other ladies similar to you in the Glasgow police office.” (laughter) And on went the trial.
In summing up the judge commented on the accused’s cool demeanour. At one point he was interrupted again by Ethel. “My Lord,” she said, “You are making suggestions that are not in the proof. I do not think you are dealing quite fairly.” My Lord brushed this aside. As sentence was about to be passed she tried again. “You have misdirected the jury, my Lord, and they have brought in a verdict of guilty as you desired. They could not have done otherwise from your summing up …. You can still retrieve yourself: you have done unjustly but you can do justice now. You can refuse to sentence us. Do your duty.” This was greeted with applause from the public benches.
“Order!” “Ladies,” said the judge, “I must warn you that you are accused of a grave crime.” Ethel brushed this aside. “Now just give us your sentence. We don’t want to hear any more; we refuse to listen. Please sentence us.” She was removed for contempt of court. Dorothea interrupted: “Why am I not being removed for contempt of court?” but was ignored. They were unanimously found ‘guilty as libelled’; Lord Salvesen magnanimously declared that he would pass a deterrent, not a vindictive, sentence. “I shall not allow myself to be influenced adversely by the attitude which has been taken up by one of the accused.” Decent of him! But he thought it right that Miss Morrison should be personally informed of the sentence passed on her, and he ordered that she should be brought back to the Court for that purpose.
‘What do you want? Be quick now.’ demanded Ethel
Lord Salvesen: “You are brought here to hear your sentence, which is one of eight months’ imprisonment.”
Turning round impatiently Miss Moorhead paused as she faced her friends in the court, and waving her hand to them she shouted “No Surrender!” The words were taken up in chorus ‘No surrender’, ‘Shame, shame!’, ‘The fight will go on’, ‘Death to the Liberal Government’. The court erupted, and suffragettes bombarded the Bench with apples, shouting “Pitt Street!” (the police HQ) and singing a suffragist song set to The Marseillaise. Police eventually subdued the row and three women were arrested. The Glasgow Herald described ‘a disturbance without parallel in a Glasgow Court of Justice’ and published a cartoon entitled ‘Hallowe’en at the High Court’.
Ethel and Dorothea went on hunger strike again. Next day the prison commissioner’s minutes read: ‘Dorothea Smith is being treated as a civil prisoner. Margaret Morrison is not, except as regards clothing. In England suffragettes are treated harder as soon as they go on hunger strike; they are “misbehaving prisoners”. Ethel fainted on the 19th but refused to let a doctor examine her. They were released from Duke Street on licence on 20th after five days, under the Cat & Mouse Act. Dorothea was discharged home to 13 Broompark Drive. She escaped from there on 19th November; the kirk session was scandalised! She eventually left her husband and resumed her successful career as a doctor, even though the divorce meant she was not allowed to see her sons again. Ethel was released to a nursing home in Blythswood Square, which she left some time before the 27th. She was believed to have gone to England, but she relates that she was sheltered by Fanny Parker:
‘Fan and the ‘Mouse’ [i.e. Ethel] spent Christmas 1913 in the “Mouse hole” – probably a safe house in Edinburgh. Fan relaxed from her schemes and they roasted by a Yule fire. The Mouse hole was safe but damp. They had a screen of Scotch blankets airing from which damp was steaming. Only Dr Mabel Jones (from Glasgow) and Enid Rennie (from Broughty Ferry) were allowed to visit, which suggests Enid had become a particular friend. They feasted on a roast chicken which the Princess J (Janie Allan) sent… It was about Christmas time that the Mouse received a bantering letter from George the Huguenot in S. Africa: She reports: “Dear Mrs Ormond [her pen name in her memoir Incendiaries] – you silly ass what nonsense etc.” and ending up “mais vous êtes quand même ma petite soeur…” Fan’s greatest schemes were planned in the Mouse hole and carried out successfully from there. Finally Fan herself got badly wanted and they had to go further away across the border.’
Ethel thought the world of Fanny.
[i] Dundee Courier 2/12/12
[ii] Courier & Edinburgh Evening Dispatch 8/3/13
[iii] SRO. HH 16/40]
[iv] 4/7/13 [minute in SRO HH] “Commissioners desire … all the privileges possible … dependent on behaviour.” Letter from Margaret Morrison, reg. no. 3980/13: “Because I refused particulars the governor withdrew privileges: I smashed 3 panes. I am entitled to rights of unconvicted prisoners. Regarding outbursts (previously, in Dundee) Dr Scott: called Ethel “somewhat abnormal in type” which meant he wouldn’t force a medical examination
6/7/13 Ethel got out at 10.00pm, fetched by Mrs Crighton. Sore throat “aggravated by .. some obstruction to proper breathing by the nose”. She said she was all right but she would “rest for 2/12 before coming into prison again”.
[v] Martyrs in our Midst Leneman