Sheffield's First Probationer - John Black burn

As part of the Sheffield Star's newspaper's Centenary in 1987 it published a series of papers that were in effect a digest of local news stories. In the paper that covered 1887 (part 1 Tuesday January 13th 1987), there was the following article which attracted my attention

I was unaware that probation was first introduced in the nineteenth century, and that the first act of parliament - The Probation of First Offenders Act 1887 - was passed as a result of the efforts of a Sheffield MP. I have tried to find out a bit more about John Blackburn but my efforts have come to nought. What I really want to know is whether or not this first time offender was saved from a career of crime by this act of "well -timed mercy".

The other area of note is that Sheffield had a "oyster merchants" - another defunct occupation!

Unlike John Blackburn, Howard Vincent's life is very well documented. The most amusing account is in "The Making of Sheffield" which was published in 1924 and is transcribed on Eric Youle's excellent Family History Site. In chapter 4 The Storm of Politics, it states 

SIR C. E. HOWARD VINCENT. Sir C. E. Howard Vincent, so long Member of Parliament for Sheffield's Central Division, died at Mentone in April, 1908. He was born May 31st, 1849, at Sinfield in Sussex, and educated at Westminster School, entering Sandhurst when 16. For some time, however, he could not make up his mind as to his future, and Sheffielders who remember him may be surprised to know that early in life the Church appealed to him a great deal. He was on the fringe of diplomatic service when, in 1871, he went to Berlin as Queen's Messenger, and afterwards the craze for roaming overcame him. However, generally speaking, it was roaming with a purpose. He visited Russia, and whilst there learned the language; he went to Italy and picked up the Italian tongue as part of the trip; and went to Australia to study its remodelled army. All this time
he was writing, earning something of a reputation on military matters, and, just as a variation to all this, he was called to the Bar in 1873. Two years later he was wandering again, visiting the Danubian provinces and Constantinople. He was appointed war-correspondent in the Russo-Turkish War by the London Telegraph; but on attaching himself to the Headquarters of the Grand Duke Nicholas he was sent back, as no correspondent was allowed who knew Russian. When appointed Director of Criminal Investigation in town he was only 28 years Brussels, and he completely reorganized his department. In fact, he made no small success of his reign there at a time when difficulties were constant, especially over the Fenians and the forgers of rouble notes. He did not hold the office long. It was perhaps natural that, to such a man, Parliamentary life appealed, and he resigned his position at Scotland Yard to seek another at St. Stephen's. About this period came his very markedly-successful command of
the Queen's Westminsters, which was to some extent interfered with by another extended tour, this time to Australia, India, Egypt and Canada. In 1885 he came to Sheffield and wooed the Central Division, fighting his first election against Mr. Samuel Plimsoll--two men facing one another in opposite camps, each of whom was at one time or another the chosen hero of the Telegraph and Mr. Leng's very  powerful pen. Sir Howard took an active part in the Fair Trade movement, was very prone to waving the flag, and established the United Imperial Trade League.

Still, as was said of him, "he was largely looked upon as a dreamer in commercial matters and lightly regarded." In social legislation he did much in
regard to the restriction of immigration of destitute aliens, Old Age Pensions, Judicial Trustees, and the Small Dwellings Act of 1899. He was, as will be readily assumed after the foregoing, a man of great versatility, and held many public offices.

A VARIED LIFE. In 1899 he was appointed Commander of the C.I.V., that fine force sent out by the City of London to the Boer War, and though he failed to pass the medical test he still went out to South Africa. In Sheffield he was generally liked. He had a cheeriness and bonhomie which told heavily and won him many votes in spite of his politics, and the kissing of babies was to him part of the political religion. Sheffield took him good humouredly rather than seriously;yet in Parliament, though at times he blundered in his zeal, he put Sheffield in the forefront "at every end and turn," to use a well-known jocalism. One of my own recollections of his election methods may be permitted. He was addressing a fervid meeting of workingmen in a public-house room in Broad Lane, and I happened to be reporting that meeting. Sir Howard, in the full flow of his peroration and realizing that it was the football season, grasped his chance. "What I would say to you electors of the Central Division is, play up centre-forward, play up centre-back --." He got no further. The meeting broke up in roars of laughter, for he was addressing an audience expert in football.

A more sober account of Sir Howard Vincent, KCMG, CB, MP (1849-1908) can be found on Wikipedia.


Sheffield Star's newspaper's Centenary Part 1 January 13th 1987


The Making of Sheffield

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This page was last updated on 26/07/10 13:17