Billy Poole, a serial inebriate

On March 4th 1892, Billy Poole made his 170th appearance in front of the magistrate’s bench. He was charged with having been found drunk in charge of horse and subsequently assaulting a police officer. Billy was 70 years old. The Daily Post of March 5th carried the following report:

Billy Poole, Again – “Billy” Poole made his 170th appearance before the magistrates yesterday. He was charged with being drunk whilst in charge of a horse and cart and with assaulting the police. Police Constable George Hyde saw “Billy” in Duddeston Mill Road. He was drunk whilst in charge of a horse and cart, and the on the officer going to him, Poole struck him across the chest with a whip. Poole was so disorderly that the officer had to obtain assistance to get him to the station. – The Stipendiary:- “I shall give him a month’s hard labour for assaulting the police. He is a disgrace to the city. I don’t know what we can do with him. He is seventy years of age and it is a marvel he is alive. I suppose it is only the prison that saves his life”.

The month of hard labour appears to have had little effect in improving Billy’s drinking problem. In May 1892 (reported in the Daily Post as his 160th appearance – although perhaps easy enough to lose count!) he was again presented to the magistrates charged with being drunk in charge of a horse. Police Constable Hargreaves had seen Billy on Bromsgrove Street at 4 o’clcock in the afternoon, standing up in his cart, without a hat, and there were no reins to the horse. Poole admitted to the magistrates that he had been out all night but I had a drop of beer. He was again committed for a month. On hearing the sentence Poole declared I should thank the Lord to take me out of the world.

The earliest appearance I can find in the press, though reported then as his 143rd, appears in the Daily Post of November 26th, 1890. Again, he was reported drunk in charge of a horse and cart, on Smallbrook Street. This time, when asked by the magistrate if he had been drunk, Billy provoked laughter with his reply, well, I warn’t, as you may say, drunk, but I’d had some drink. He was fined 10 shillings plus costs, or 14 days – the report doesn’t say which option was taken.

The final report on Billy that I have found comes from June, 1893, again there appears to be confusion over how many appearances he had made at the Police Court:

An Old Offender:- “Billy” Poole made his 155th appearance on the old charge of being drunk and disorderly. Billy was in Longmore Street on Wednesday night with a handcart, with which he was prodding various people. He was taken into custody. – Poole now said he had had drink, but was not drunk. The Stipendiary:- “The man is more dangerous to himself than anyone else”. Inspector Hall:- “Oh yes sir”. Mr. Barradale (magistrate’s clerk):- “Fortunately, he has got rid of his horse now. He used to be always getting drunk.” The Stipendiary (to the prisoner):- “There is nothing to be done. Be off with you, back to business this time”.


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