Unsolved Murders

Henry Blyth

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 15 Apr 1903

Place: Burngrange Cottages, West Calder, Midlothian

Henry Blyth was stabbed on the public road between West Calder and Addiewell near Burngrange Cottages on 11 April 1903.

A 22-year-old man was tried for his murder but the charge was found not proven.

Henry Blyth had been part of a group of people that had been walking home together from West Calder at about 8.30pm. As they had got past the football gate just outside of West Calder and before they arrived at the cemetery they saw some people. At that point one of the group went back for newspapers and whiskey.

When the group got to the other side of Burngrange Cottages, one of the men, a 34-year old miner, said that he got his feet knocked from under him by a 23-year-old miner. He said that at that moment Henry Blyth had just gone across the road and that when he fell he brought down the 23-year-old miner with him and that they rolled about on the road together.

He said that Henry Blyth then lifted him up and that another man lifted the 23-year-old miner up, noting that they didn't fight.

He said that he then heard a voice behind him saying, 'Pick out your man' and that he saw another from the other group go across to one in their group and saw hands go up but could not say whether blows were delivered or not.

He noted that the night was not very dark and that there was a moon.

He said that he then saw the 22-year-old man that was tried for murder go over to where Henry Blyth was but didn't see anything occur but said that the man walked close up to Henry Blyth and pressed against him for a second and then came back and towards him.

He said that the 22-year-old man then said, 'You ----, I'll have your life'. He said that he couldn't see whether he had anything in his hand but said that when the 22-year-old man passed by on his right side that he was stabbed in the right hip.

He said that he then cried out to two of his friend that he had been 'jagged' and that immediately afterwards he heard Henry Blyth cry out that he had been stabbed.

He said that he then fell to the ground but was afterwards able to crawl along to a cottage.

He said that he subsequently identified the 22-year-old man as the man that stabbed him. He said that two days later his wife drew his attention to a puncture in his watch which showed that the knife had penetrated the works.

He said that he was confined to bed for three weeks with his wounds.

Another miner that had been part of the group said that he had been walking in front of the group when he heard a noise behind and then saw the 34-year old miner and another man lying on the roadway next to the footpath. He said that he then went to see what the trouble was and heard someone say, 'Pick out your man'. He said that shortly after he heard the 34-year old miner cry out that he had been stabbed and pointed to the 22-year-old man and said, 'Look out, chaps, there is something in his hand. I have got a jag'. He said that he then looked at the 22-year-old man and saw what looked like a knife in his hand and that the 22-year-old man then ran off and that he and another of their group chased him.

He said that they were closing in on the 22-year-old man when the 22-year-old man suddenly turned around and stabbed his friend in the chest, noting that he saw the flash of a blade. He said that he and his friend then stopped and that the 22-year-old man ran off towards West Calder.

The friend that was stabbed said that he had been chasing the 22-year-old man and that he had first turned whilst 20 yards ahead and 'swaggered' a knife at him and that he had continued to chase him and that as he was closing on him the 22-year-old man wheeled round and stabbed him in the breast. He said that he lost a lot of blood and was confined to bed for a month.

The 23-year-old miner, a pitheadman from near West Calder said that he knew the 22-year-old man by sight and had been out in West Calder on the night in question with a friend with whom he had a drink and that they later headed off for Addiewell at about 9pm when they came across a party of eight or nine men. There had been about four of them. He said that as they were passing the group that he was shoved into the group and came down with one of them in the street. He said that the attack was quite unprovoked and that the 22-year-old man and some other friends came forward and asked what was wrong.

He said that some of the other group then made a rush for him and that a scuffle ensued and two men were knocked down and the two crowds got mixed up.

At the trial the 22-year-old man said that he had lived at home with his mother in Addiewell and that during the scuffle he had been hit on the back of the head but didn't know who by and that he then got out of the row as quickly as he could and made off with his brother and another friend across some fields. He said that he used no threats and saw no knife used and didn't carry a knife and had been sober. He denied having stabbed two of the other party along the road and denied stabbing the man in the breast whilst being chased or having gone up to Henry Blyth. He said that he didn't have a knife in his hand and didn't smoke and so didn't need one.

When the judge addressed the jury he said that he did not think that they had got from any of the witnesses who were present at the brawl any clear account of what had taken place.

The jury retired for 25 minutes before returning their verdicts, finding the charge of murder or culpable homicide of Henry Blyth or of stabbing the man in the hip not proven but guilty of stabbing the other man that had chased him in the breast.

The judge then sentenced him to five months' imprisonment.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see National Records of Scotland - AD15/03/14

see Edinburgh Evening News - Monday 06 July 1903

see Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 15 April 1903