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LOOKING BACK: Christmas behind bars for merry train passenger

LOOKING BACK: Christmas behind bars for merry train passenger

Friday 22 December 2023

LOOKING BACK: Christmas behind bars for merry train passenger

Friday 22 December 2023

Of all the places you’d want to be on Christmas Eve, appearing in court is not one of them. But this is where John Le Brocq found himself 120 years ago after his singing upset an honorary police officer who was travelling on the same train as him...

On Saturday 19 December 1903, the 28-year-old was aboard a train on the railway between St Helier and St Aubin. According to court records, Le Brocq was inebriated and when a fellow passenger asked him for a song, he was happy to oblige. However, not all of the carriage occupiers were amused by his musical attempts.

Centenier Le Poidevin, of St Helier, entered the train at West Park to discover Le Brocq with his feet on a seat and in full voice. He asked him to desist but, with encouragement from another passenger, Le Brocq refused.


Pictured: Postcard of West Park railway station. (Jersey Heritage)

Unhappy with this behaviour, Le Poidevin told Le Brocq to appear at the Police Station on Monday and when he failed to do so, he tasked Centenier Vautier, of St Peter, to arrest him. Le Brocq was charged with causing an interruption of the public peace and with refusing to obey the orders of a police officer.

In court, Le Poidevin testified that he had entered the 7pm train and on hearing the accused asked him to cease his singing. When he refused to do so, he was "compelled to show his authority as a Centenier".

Le Brocq told the Court that if Le Poidevin was upset by his singing, there had been a simple solution – he could have left the carriage and gone into another one.


Pictured: John Le Brocq court case record (Jersey Heritage).

Ernest Vincent, a witness, said that he was in the carriage at the time. He did not think that the accused was intoxicated. He also stated that he did not hear the Centenier warn Le Brocq to appear at the station on Monday.

Despite this testimony, the judge looked unkindly on the situation. He found Le Brocq guilty and fined him £1. If he was unable to pay this, he was to be sentenced to four days' imprisonment with hard labour.


Pictured: John Le Brocq's prison record. (Jersey Heritage)

It was not the first time that Le Brocq had appeared in front of the Magistrate. The previous year, he was in trouble for stealing a quantity of poultry and in February 1903, only months before his latest court appearance, he had been accused of being on a horse and cart that had been taken without permission from someone in St Peter and driven to Gorey, albeit returned the next morning.

Le Brocq did not pay the fine and was sent to prison. This meant that he spent Christmas Day behind bars, although hopefully he was free to sing anything he wanted whilst he was there, perhaps entertaining fellow prisoners with some carols.

This story was told as part of a series in collaboration with Jersey Heritage. To uncover more stories like this, visit Jersey Archive.

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