The young man named George Frederick Wright, who was recently through the hands of the Edinburgh police for a remarkable series of frauds on Edinburgh shopkeepers, and whose arrest was effected while he was dining with friends in one of the Princes Street hotels, came before Sheriff Rutherfurd at a pleading diet of Edinburgh Sheriff Court to-day, and admitted the charges against him. It appeared that on the 21st of last month, while pretending to reside in the Balmoral Hotel, and having assumed the name of E. Scott Maxwell, he had induced certain Princes Street shopkeepers to forward to the address given seven cigarette cases and three silver rattles, and that he had a weakness for rattles was evidenced that on the same day he obtained a further supply of rattles from shops in Castle Street and Leith Street. On the same date he victimised a Princes Street bookselling firm, and on the 2d of this month obtained a valuable engagement ring in Leith Street, by false pretences, appropriating all the articles.
THE PRISONER'S CHEQUERED HISTORY.
Mr John Robertson, solicitor, who appeared on behalf of the prisoner, said that the prisoner's story was the saddest he had ever had anything to do with. He was the son of an eminent English lawyer, he had a brother a solicitor in the north of England, and another brother a clergyman. Unfortunately when the prisoner, who was now 28, was younger he exhibited signs of mental derangement, and on the advice of a specialist, Dr Jackson, of Manchester, he was confined for about a year in a private establishment in order to give him a chance of recovering his mental balance. Since then he had been out in South Africa engaged in various occupations. On the outbreak of the Matabele war he joined Rhodes' Field Force and continued throughout the first campaign, then he went through the second campaign, and in this he was wounded.
WOUNDED AT SPION KOP.
Following on this he went back to business, but on the outbreak of the recent South African war he joined Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry, having received a good character from the commander of his previous regiment. He continued with the Infantry until Spion Kop, where he was severely wounded, and lay out all night, and was only brought into camp next morning, when he was treated for about five weeks. He again joined the Infantry, and continued until another engagement, when he was wounded, and, as a result, was invalided home. On coming home, he was idle for some time, but afterwards got a position with the National Telephone Company in London. He was latterly transferred to Glasgow, but here he seemed to have lost his occupation, and came through to Edinburgh in April last. It was then he was in trouble, and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and during his incarceration in the Calton he had exhibited rather marked peculiarities. After leaving prison he was started in business by his brother, but he was not many days in business when he gave up the situation, and had been more or less kept by his friends since. He had since been engaged in coaching in mathematics, and was at the time of his arrest engaged tutoring the son of a well-known Edinburgh professor. From inquiries made by himself, Mr Robertson said he had engaged a bedroom in one hotel, another in Cockburn Street, another in High Street, and, in addition, had lodgings in Ferry Road, but notwithstanding these he had engaged another bedroom in the Balmoral Hotel with the apparent view of carrying out these frauds. Mr Robertson drew attention to the very small value of the goods obtained, and that the most of them had, through information given by the prisoner, been restored to their rightful owners. With regard to the engagement ring, that was in a different position. It was valued at £23, and was sent to the house of some people he had made acquaintance with, and the ring was left, ostensibly to be fitted to the lady's finger. The lady, however, did not receive the ring, but he, on the other hand, went and pledged it. Through spending the money thus obtained on the ring in a reckless manner the attentions of the police were drawn to him, and as the result of inquiries made, he was arrested in the North British Hotel, where he was dining with some friends.
A PLEA OF MENTAL WEAKNESS.
Mr Robertson submitted that no one in full possession of his senses and intending to commit such frauds would have gone about it in the manner in which the prisoner did, and he could have imagined that a man with the intentions of committing serious fraud would have contented himself with one bedroom. It was, he suggested, rather the impulse of the moment. On Saturday he had the prisoner examined by Dr Clouston and Sir John Batty Tuke. Both of these gentlemen agreed - while their certificates had not come forward - that, while they could not certify him insane, there was no doubt traces of mental weakness, and they authorised him to make the statement, but more than that they could not do. He was proceeding to argue that the accused might be benefitted by being sent to a private asylum, when the Sheriff interposed with the remark that that might be said of a great many prisoners. Most criminals, the Sheriff said, exhibited mental weakness - that was a very general symptom, but was it contended that he was a victim of uncontrollable delusions? Mr Robertson: I cannot go so far. That was why his friends wished him examined by those specialists. He himself knew quite well he was doing wrong, but he could not help himself.
The Procurator-Fiscal (Mr Renton) said that the amount taken was £48 13s 6d, made up chiefly of the first and the last items, and the frauds had been committed, he said, in a very ingenious manner. Some of the articles had been recovered, and the diamond ring, pawned, had raised £11. A good many of the circumstances now brought out had been brought before Sheriff Adam at the previous charge, and the amount there charged was £139. Mr Robertson, in replying to the Sheriff, said accused had been out of prison only a few weeks.
The Sheriff said that it was pretended here that accused was not responsible for his actions; it was said he was of weak mind, but that could be said of nine-tenths of the criminals brought to the bar. He trusted that after coming out of prison he would be put out of temptation's way by his friends. The sentence was nine months' imprisonment.
I assume this would actually be 4449 Private George Frederick Beresford Wright one of Alex Thorneycroft's lads as shown in WO127 and WO100/277.
I think that Mr Robertson's use of the phrase "but, he could not help himself" is particularly amusing, interestingly, Wright does not appear in the published NFF roll as being "severely" wounded, any extant paper in WO126/142-144 might prove revealing.
Notwithstanding, that said, I do think his medal, if extant, would certainly be worth having in any Natal collection.
Robin Droogleever's "Thorneycroft's 'Unbuttoned'" shows George Frederick Beresford Wright as 4449 in TMI and he served as Corporal with B Squadron between 21/1/00 and 4/6/00. His QSA medal bore the clasps "Tugela Heights" and "Relief of Ladysmith". Previous service noted was with Worcestershire Yeomanry Volunteers.
I had a look through the Owen roll for the BSACM roll and there are quite a few Wrights listed. However, none with the initial "G" or "G.F."