A criminal in the family

Well actually two, but the main one is a very direct ancestor, so rather shocking!

I was reminded recently of Graham and Emma Maxwell’s Scottish Borders prison database. Obviously I searched for Cavers, and found a few. And then I thought I’d try other family names.

And I found my great-great-great grandfather Hugh Hall (ca1822?-1907) appeared in the database as a prisoner in Jedburgh prison in 1857. I was sure it must be my one: described as a spinner at Wilton Dean, Hawick, and with the right age, and birthplace, it could hardly be any other one.

I’ve just got the full details of his prison register entry, from Graham and Emma, for the 5 pounds lookup fee. Hugh Hall was admitted to the prison on 14th May 1857, having been convicted of smuggling, and sentenced to three months hard labour or 30 pounds fine. Clearly he was in there for the hard labour duration, because he left the prison on 14th August 1857 at expiry of his sentence.

Luckily the prison register entries give lots of extra details about ancestors you don’t usually get. So I now know he was 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall, dark haired, with hazel eyes. And he put on weight while in there: 152 pounds on admission, rising to 167 pounds on liberation. His religion was Church of Scotland, which fits with the family baptism references we have. And he was described as “Can read a little; Can write a little”. He spent 92 days in prison and his conduct was described as good.

The other relative who showed up in the prison registers was a distant relative of Hugh’s daughter-in-law Agnes Fair. This was Thomas Fair (b. 1816) who inherited the Fair family farm at Swansfield, Coldingham parish. He was convicted of “Malicious Mischief”, which I’m not quite sure about yet, but have the court papers as well to hopefully expand on what exactly he did. He was 36, married, 5 feet 11 3/4 inches, fair complexion, fair hair, and gray eyes. And his education was described as “superior to merely reading or writing”. He spent 60 days imprisoned with hard labour. His conduct was good.

Fascinating records anyway. And a shock for the family history!

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About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.
This entry was posted in prisoner records and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A criminal in the family

  1. valerie leet says:

    Hello Viv, it is such a long time since we have been in touch but I was putting names into Google this evening in the hope I might find something interesting, and after googling “hugh hall hawick” I was directed to your blog and story about Hugh. What an interesting little tale, and something you would not find in the usual run of the mill research efforts. I always thought smuggling was a coastal activity – my Dad would have found that story very amusing. I hope all is well with you.

    Val Leet

    • vivdunstan says:

      Oh wonderful to hear from you! I’m sorry but I lost your address when I moved house (the first of many moves) 11 years ago. I’ve tried to get in touch with you since. I have your email now though, so will be in touch shortly. I’ve also been blogging about some of the family on a separate Cavers blog and will email you some articles from there too.

      • valerie leet says:

        Thank you for getting back to me Viv. I lost my former email address a couple of years ago thanks to a hacker, so I think I also lost a few contacts in the process. While looking for anything on my family members I often see your name pop up, so know that you are still hard at work. It is amazing the amount of new records that are available now and the social picture of our families are getting clearer. I would love to hear from you again when time permits – I am Secretary of our local Family History Group and know how hard it is to find time to do your own thing.

      • vivdunstan says:

        I emailed you shortly after posting the earlier comment. Did you receive it ok? It was sent to your hotmail address. If not drop me an email and I’ll resend. My address is viv.dunstan@one-name.org

  2. Pingback: An ancestor’s illicit whisky still in 1850s Hawick | Viv's Ancestry Blog

  3. james hall says:

    Hi viv my name is James hall from Glasgow my dad was James hall we are related I found your website very interesting my dad was born in hawick I have been trying to find information on the family but no luck till l seen your blog regards Jim xx

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