Unsolved Murders

James Black

Age: 3

Sex: male

Date: 31 Dec 1910

Place: Forth

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

A woman was tried for murdering her 3-year old son James Black by throwing him into the sea but was acquitted.

James Black was drowned in the Forth at a point between Granton and Newhaven on 31 December 1910.

The court heard that it was impossible to draw any other inference from the evidence than that the body found was the woman's child.

However, the judge added that it was clear that the child's death was not accidental.

The defence stated that at the time the mother's time was so limited that it could not be imagined that she would have had the time to throw him in the sea.

However, the prosecution said that the mother had had ample time to go from Princes Street to Newhaven and put the child in the water saying that the time by car was only 17 minutes and that the breakwater was only 190 yards.

It was also heard that the mother had told no one of the child's existence, including her family or the man that she married on 9 December 1910.

When the child was born, the mother had answered an advert placed by a woman and had taken her child to the woman to be looked after for three years at the rate of a pound a month. However, it was later heard that the payment fell into arrears and the mother later told the woman that she had got the offer of a home for the child and she asked the woman to give the child up.

The woman that had been looking after the child said that she had got a telegram in December 1909 from the mother asking her to take it to a woman in Aberdeen which she said she did, saying that the woman in Aberdeen gave her four pounds out of the five pounds owed her. It was also heard that the mother had also later sent the woman the remaining pound by letter with a note stating, 'James is quite a changed boy, getting fairly strong on his legs now'.

It was heard that the woman in Aberdeen had offered to look after James Black for sixteen shillings a month. At that time the mother had been in service in Linlithgow. The woman in Aberdeen said that the mother had remained in service in Linlithgow until March 1910 and had told her that she was to get married and was going to tell the man about the child. The woman also said that the mother had told her that there was some talk of getting James Black adopted.

The woman in Aberdeen said however that the woman's payments then got into arrears and said that the mother then asked her to adopt James Black for £25 but said that the mother had difficulty in raising the money.

The woman in Aberdeen said that the mother wrote to her on 27 December 1910 asking her to bring James Black to Edinburgh with the promise of settling the debt. The woman said that she and her husband took James Black to Edinburgh on 31 December 1910 and handed him over to the mother.

However, on 18 January 1910 the woman said that her attention was drawn to a newspaper paragraph about the finding of a child’s body in the sea and said that when she went to the police she identified the body of the child found as James Black.

The judge said that it would not do to convict the mother merely upon strong and pregnant suspicion, and that nor should they find a verdict against her which would mean that she had committed the crime in the manner charged merely because they were unable to explain to themselves how otherwise the unfortunate child met his death.


see Dundee Courier - Wednesday 12 April 1911, p5

see National Records Of Scotland - JC26/1911/118

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Monday 10 April 1911