Unsolved Murders

Patrick Docherty

Age: 70

Sex: male

Date: 14 Oct 1905

Place: Clifton Smithy, Overshiel Farm, East Calder, Edinburgh

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Patrick Docherty was found murdered in his cottage, Clifton Smithy, near Overshiels Farm in East Calder on Saturday 14 October 1905.

He lived in a lonely spot close to Overshiels Farm and Clifton Farm with his skull battered to pieces. It was thought that he had been battered with a hammer which was found bloodstained nearby.

He was described as a thrifty old farm labourer and had lived in what was described as being a solitary thatched house on the farm of Clifton situated in a lonely part of the country about midway between Newbridge and East Calder. He had lived alone, his wife having died eleven years earlier and was said to have lived there for about the previous 20 years.

It was noted that he had not made it a hermitage and that he often hosted his fellow workers at his cottage in front of his fireplace, especially in the winter evenings. It was said that he had interesting conversation and that he was frequently visited by young farm lads.

He had been allowed to live in the cottage rent free by the farmer and in exchange he cut hedges and did other odd jobs about the farm but also occasionally found employment with other people in the vicinity, especially during the potato harvest and at the time of his death he had been engaged by a potato merchant from Camps in East Calder and on the Wednesday had been potato lifting in a field on Overshiels Farm about half-a-mile south-west of his dwelling.

He had finished for the day sometime between 5pm and 6pm and was last seen alive by a maid at Overshiels Farm at 5.30pm when he called for milk. She said that when she saw him he had remarked to her that he had felt rather tired to go along to Clifton Farm, which was about a quarter of a mile further on than his cottage, for his usual supply of milk and that he was taking it from Overshiels Farm on his way home.

Patrick Docherty failed to show up for work the following day and his body was found later that night at his cottage.

Following news of his murder it was said that it became the subject of much interest resulting in numerous people from the surrounding villages and towns visiting his isolated cottage on the following Saturday and Sunday.

His cottage was noted as having been occupied about 30 years earlier by a blacksmith who did work for neighbouring farmers who had had his smithy next door, the smithy itself being a continuation of the cottage except that the smithy had red tiles on the roof whilst the cottage was thatched. The vacant space in front of the property, which was about 10 yards square, which was noted as probably having been in the passed well trodden down with horses bringing in carts with implements to the smithy for repairs, was at the time of the murder just a patch of heavy turf and a larger piece of the ground, partly in front of the cottage and stretching westward, being enclosed by a beechy hedge studded here and there with oak and other trees, offering evidence that there had at one time been a well-tended garden. It was additionally noted that it appeared that even at that time Patrick Docherty was in the habit of cultivating it, there being at the time present a large part of it containing a crop of potatoes, as evidenced by some declining shaws.

The cottage itself was described as being a typical old country labourer's house that had, no doubt, a row of flowers bedecking its front during the summer months and which had a tall honey-suckle bush, its leaves showing the yellow tint of winter at the time, overhanging the doorway. The cottage was small, with a single room, with light afforded through two small windows about two feet deep by eighteen inches width in front and by a slightly larger window at the back. It had one door to the front which was in the western corner.

The old smithy, which was said to have been disused for about 30 years, marked the eastern end of the building and had recently been used by the farmer to store old implements. It had straw littered here and there and was entered through a large aperture in front and was thought to have been often used by members of the tramp fraternity to sleep in and that as such it was said that it was not unsurprising to find that Patrick Docherty's dwelling had been unlawfully entered on several occasions by itinerants that were passing and it was suspected that that was how Patrick Docherty came by his death.

It was noted that it wasn't known how Patrick Docherty was attacked, but it was thought that he had either been assaulted by a man that had forced an entry to his cottage whilst he had been out and who had then waited for him to return and had then attacked him suddenly without warning as he entered, or that Patrick Docherty had had a knock at his door and that when he went to answer it that the murderer forced their way in and attacked him.

However, it was stated that it seemed fairly clear either way, that he was murdered on the Wednesday evening or night as the milk that he had got earlier at Overshiels Farm, which was thought would have been for his breakfast, was still there untouched.

It was noted that a butcher from Mid-Calder who had sheep grazing in a field behind the cottage, whose fold for them was close up to the back of the smithy, had been there up to about 5pm with one of his men and the foreman from Clifton Farm and that they said that they had heard no sound in the house or in the shed. However, it was supposed that the murderer might have arrived after that or might have already been in the cottage without their noticing.

Nothing more was known about what happened at the cottage until the following night, Thursday, when two young lads who were employed on Overshiels Farmhand who knew Patrick Docherty intimately, having learned that Patrick Docherty had not been at work that day, had gone to his cottage to enquire whether or not he was feeling unwell and to possibly have a chat with him.

It was said that when they got there they got no response to their knocking and that one of them then got in through his back window and found Patrick Docherty's dead body lying behind the door.

They said that when they crept into his cottage with the aid of a lamp, they saw that Patrick Docherty had been murdered and that the floor was stained with blood and that no the top and back of his head there were two ugly wounds that appeared to have been caused by a mason's mash that belonged to Patrick Docherty that was lying nearby.

They said that his milk can, which was covered in blood, stood on the table and that his bank book was lying on the floor. They said that one of his boots and socks had been taken off and that there was some spilt milk on the floor as if a struggle had taken place.

They said that they thought that his murderer had got in through his window and murdered Patrick Docherty and then gone out through the door. They said that they searched all over for the key to the door but couldn't find it until they eventually saw it half-way under the door.

They then went off to the farm and told a ploughman who went for the police who arrived at the cottage at midnight.

It was thought that his death would have been instantaneous and it was reported that he appeared to have apparently succumbed under a continued rain of merciless blows inflicted by a muscular arm wielding a heavy mason's hammer that had belonged to Patrick Docherty.  The blood-stained hammer was found lying beside his body. His skull had been battered in. There were no signs of a struggle.

It was said that there were no traces left behind that would lead to the murderer's identity other than his own jacket which was of a brown tweed check pattern that was made by the Shettleston Co-Operative Society Ltd.

The police also found a bloodstained pair of greyish brown tweed trousers in a field about 300 yards away along with another pair of dark trousers with a piece cut out of them and a red pocket handkerchief with the Royal Arms stamped on them.

It was thought that the motive had been robbery and that he had been murdered by someone that he knew. Patrick Docherty it was said that whilst living a recluse's life, was of a saving and thrifty disposition and it was thought that the murderer might have, upon knowing that his cottage had been burglarously entered on previous occasions, been of the opinion that what money Patrick Docherty didn't keep in the bank, he had carried about on his person.

It was noted that when Patrick Docherty was found, one of his feet was stripped of both his boots and socks and that his pockets had been overhauled. It was determined that his watch, chain and purse were all missing and near his dead body the police found a Post Office Savings Bank book showing deposits to the amount of £20.

The watch, which was described as a gun metal watch with the serial number 2.219,394 had been accompanied with a two-ply twisted brass wire albert chain and with a bar attached to the other end by a piece of string or cotton tape.

Other items that were said to have been taken from his cottage included two jackets, two pairs of trousers and two vests.

The rest of his cottage also showed evidence of having been ransacked and it was observed that his murderer had apparently gone about the matter as if there was no immediate hurry.

It was said that after committing the crime that the murderer had then closed up the windows of the cottage from the inside and had then left by the door which he had then closed and locked behind him and had then pushed the key back in underneath the door.

It was said that the police made extensive investigations to find the murderer and that for days and nights the whole district had been scoured by constables on bicycles and that woods and other likely places had been watched carefully by policemen and detectives.

Two tramps were arrested, but no charges were made.

Patrick Docherty was noted as not being timid of burglars and to have said to his fellow farm hands after a former occasion that his cottage had been broken into that he wished that the thieves would attempt to enter when he was at home as they would find him more than their match.

The police later issued a £250 reward for information that led to the apprehension and conviction of the murderer in later December 1905.

Patrick Docherty's funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon at Kirkliston Churchyard where his remains were lain next to those of his wife. His funeral was said to have been well attended.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 18 October 1905

see West Lothian Courier - Friday 20 October 1905

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Monday 16 October 1905

see Kirkintilloch Herald - Wednesday 27 December 1905