A FERRY COINCIDENCE?
In the early1950’s, Wirral had two County Boroughs - Birkenhead and Wallasey - each with their own police force. They also had their own separate ferry services from Woodside, Birkenhead and Seacombe, Wallasey, respectively. The ferries crossed the River Mersey to the George’s Landing Stage at the Pier Head, Liverpool..
I was Constable 112”A” in the Liverpool City Police and was on duty on the gate at the Prince’s Landing Stage where the passenger liners berthed in those days and now where the cruise liners berth.
The telephone in the police hut (now no longer there) commenced to ring and I went and answered it.
The call was from an officer in the Force Control Room, Dale Street. He said to me in great haste, “A bus conductress has seen three scruffy lads on her bus and one of them had what she thought was a ten pound note. She saw them board the ferry boat to Liverpool. The boat should just be arriving at the Pier Head. Can you get along to it straight away?” I replied I would do so.
A £10 note in those days, rarely seen by the common man, was printed on special white paper and was
more than twice the size of a current £10 note. £10 in the 1950’s would have been worth two or three weeks wages for some workers!
I left the hut and quickly walked along to the George’s Landing Stage to see a Wallasey ferry boat with its black and white funnel approaching the Stage. The Birkenhead ferry boats had a black and red funnel. There were not many passengers on the boat and I looked for the three boys on board but could only see two. On the two boys disembarking, I went to them and asked them were they with a third boy? One of them replied “Yiss Surr, deery he is “ and he pointed to a boy standing on the upper deck of the ferry boat who was watching us and I motioned him to come to me which he did.
I told the boys (all three were 13 years of age) to come with me and they readily did so with no attempt to run away. I took them inside the police hut and told them to empty their pockets on to a seat. To my surprise they produced 35 packets of Rizla cigarette papers, 3 bars of chocolate, 6 small cartons of sweets, a new toy pistol, 4 puzzle games, a packet of 20 cigarettes and five half pennies.
I asked them for their explanation as to their possession of these items and was told that they had found them ‘on the hollow’ in New Brighton, Wallasey. I then asked them who had a £10 note but received negative replies. I searched their clothing but could not find any £10 note. I told them to take off their ‘wellies’ or pumps and then as a last resort their socks to see if the note had been hidden but no note was found. I told them to quickly put their footwear back on in view of the unpleasant smell emitted from their dirty feet in the confines of the small police hut.
I rang the Force Control Room and spoke to the officer who had given me the message. I informed him
that I had with me three boys that were on a ferry boat but that they were not in possession of a banknote. He said “O.K., I’ll tell the Birkenhead Police“. I immediately said “Birkenhead Police? These boys were on the Wallasey ferryboat from Seacombe” There was a moment of silence then he said “Oh gosh, I should have told you that the three boys seen with a £10 note got on a Birkenhead ferry boat!”
The three boys were taken home and subsequent enquiries revealed that all the items in the possession of the boys had been stolen from a shop in New Brighton. They did not go to court but received a ‘caution’.
A fortunate or unfortunate coincidence?