SUCH was the furore that a fight between an enraged ship’s fireman and an officer extended among shocked passengers.
But it was only with the utmost reluctance that his employers, the Union Castle Line, brought him to court.
E R Ensor, prosecuting on the company’s behalf, explained to the town’s magistrates: “In view of the increasing difficulty in preserving discipline among that class of seamen they feel it is necessary to take action.”
Tom Newton’s court appearance on November 1, 1907, was sparked by a disagreement with a senior engineer on the Kenilworth Castle, pictured.
Newton stopped work late afternoon, complaining that he was feeling unwell.
However, engineer Walter Boden was sure he had been drinking and called for the ship’s doctor who, examining him, confirmed his suspicions.
Newton then directed a stream of expletives at both men and, taking off his shirt, challenged the second officer to a fight and punched him. Newton then lashed out at all and sundry until he was finally detained.
Newton pleaded guilty before Southampton Magistrates to assault.
“Where did he get the liquor from?” chairman H.G. Wilson inquired.
“From an area of the ship where he was working,” Boden replied.
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” Wilson asked Newton who said he had apologised to the officer and thought that was the end of the matter.
But the town’s acting chief constable told the court this was not the first time he had been in trouble.
“We regard this as a serious offence,” said Wilson, jailing him for six weeks.