The Murder of Jeremiah Swift [1873]

On 13th June 1873, Jeremiah Swift of Halifax, was attacked by a group of 5 youths: James Daley [aged 17], James Duffy [15], Owen Ford [aged 16], Thomas Moore [16], and James Phillips [16].

The The Reporter [Saturday 21st June 1873] reported

Murder at Halifax by Five Youths.

Five youths, James Duffy (15) mill hand of New Bank; James Phillips (15) wireworker of Pump Street; James Daley (16) Old Bank, Owen Ford (16) King Street and Thomas Moore (17) Isle of Man Yard were charged with having murdered Jeremiah Swift (age 50) a dyer who lived at the bottom of Pineberry Hill, Halifax.

A little boy was doing damage to a tree at the bottom of the parish churchyard, and a man named John McGinn told him to come down, saying what the consequences would be if the police caught him. All the prisoners were there at the time and Daley and Moore began using insolent language to McGinn, at which time the deceased came up and asked

What was to do?

McGinn told Swift about their conduct towards him and then went down Berry Lane towards his home. Daley then said they should have done something with the expletive before he left, and Ford said

It's not too late yet

They followed Swift and knocked him down and kicked him with their heavy iron topped boots so as to fracture his shoulder in three places and leave him insensible.

He recovered consciousness some time later but was unable to speak and did not do so until his death a short time later. Chief Constable Clarkson and Inspector Birkenshaw took the five prisoners into Swift's bedroom where he was quite sensible but unable to speak.

On being asked

How many assaulted you?

he held up three fingers. When asked to point the parties out he pointed to Daley, Phillips and Ford.

When asked

What did they do to you?

he put his right hand to the plaster on his head and showed the wound.

When asked how many altogether he held up five fingers.

It was said that the prisoners were of the most ruffianly looking characters and were committed to the Assizes on a charge of wilful murder. They maintained the most callous indifference during the proceedings. The deceased left a widow and six children, on whose behalf a subscription is being set up


At the Inquest,

a verdict of manslaughter was returned on James Daley, Joseph Duffy [16], Owen Ford [aged 16], Thomas Moore [16], and James Phillips [16]

At the West Riding Assizes on the 14th August 1873,

the men were acquitted, there being no evidence to show that the prisoners contemplated a violent attack on the deceased, or to prove who delivered the blow or blows which caused his death

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 18:46 / 1st June 2021 / 5488

Page Ref: X509

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