Her present to him - a poem by Harold Wanham

At the foot of the fir tree  the parcel lay, 

Bedecked with ribbon and silver spray.

He always looked forward to Christmas Day

Bells on the wireless and Tinker at play.

He lovingly stroked her, without more delay

He gave her the present and showed her the way

To pull at the ribbon, in case she should say

"I don't think I'll bother - it isn't real prey."

But Tinker was artful and staged a display

More fit for a kitten than one old and grey.

She savaged the wrapping, rejoiced in the fray

And, seizing her toy she was up and away.

Her owner sat watching, content with her play

Her present to him on that lone Christmas Day.


The trial of John Randell held at the Old Bailey on the 15th November 1740 - a story by Tony Randall

The clerk called the court to order.

John Randall, you are charged with the theft of:

"7 handkerchiefs to the value of 3/6d" 

"1 silk handkerchief to the value of 12d"

In the dock stood a miserable creature, by name one John Randall of St. Brides. He was about five foot five inches tall, with long straggly black unkempt hair, unshaven and with a mouth full of rotten teeth. He was dressed, if you can use such a phase, in a long ragged blue coat with a tear in the right sleeve and a dirty shirt, a pair of equally dirty brown breeches and pair of odd sized black shoes. His coat had no buttons  and his extended belly was exposed and could be seen, possibly the result of malnutrition, certainly not from good living. His eyes were deep set and one was half closed  and his face was bruised, possibly the result  of a cruel warder whilst he had been held in custody.

At times Randall's demeanour gave the impression he was not realising the seriousness of the situation that had befallen him. He kept wringing his calloused hands and when addressed by the court he leaned forward, perhaps to hear his questioner better. He spoke slowly and  stuttered in his words. At times  during his trial he muttered to himself and  moved his head from left to right.

His defence (such as it was) was that he had met with an old shipmate in a public house who had given him the said handkerchiefs for his wife to wash. Witnesses were called to give good character but to no avail. The shipmate could not be called as he was now back on the high seas.

The judge was in his splendid wig and crimson gown and had well lunched on claret, venison and apple pie which had been served to him in his chamber. He now began his summing up.

Firstly, he pontificated  on Randall's appearance and character then, satisfied  with his lecture at the expense of the accused he passed sentence.

"John Randall, you have been found guilty of Theft and Grand Larceny. You are herewith sentenced  to serve seven years deportation."

John Randall seemed not to understand; he was dribbling from the mouth and his hands were visibly shaking. Two warders  turned him around and led him downstairs to meet his fate.

A lanky lawyer in the well of the court  remarked to one of his fellows "He will never last the voyage."

As John Randall was led below, a loud scream arose from the public gallery; a large woman  wearing a fetching  blue bonnet and heavy with child  was shouting foul abuse at the judge.

The Clerk now called for the next case.