Updated: Dec 8, 2020
“The public ought by all means to protect the police, who are daily risking their lives and limbs to protect the public”.
Those words were written in 1880 in response to an attack on PC Matthew Long described as a ‘murderous assault on a Constable’.
Matthew Long was born in Carlingford, Louth, Ireland in 1839. The 1861 English census shows that the then twenty-two year old labourer had moved into Walsall lodgings with his wife Ann. Joining the police on 25th November 1864, Constable 143 Long, at the time of his assault was serving in Dudley, then part of Worcestershire Constabulary.
A contemporary newspaper article described that on Monday 6th September 1880, ‘two brothers named Parkes were charged with brutally assaulting Police Constable Long’ while being drunk and disorderly the day before in Dudley. ‘The policeman Long was at the time of the assault protecting the rest of the public, and his interference probably saved a free fight among a congregation of hop pickers who were starting off on the Sunday morning to walk to their picturesque but insanitary employment’.
‘Full of “fo’penny” and therefore pot valiant’, the intoxicated brothers scorned Constable Long’s words of advice to go home quietly. Instead, stonebreaker William Parkes aged 21 years, and John Parkes aged 25 years, a blast furnaceman, both of 33 King Edmund Street, Dudley, chose to murderously assault Constable Long.
Constable Long told the court that at half-past one on Sunday morning, he took John into custody and William went into the house, returning with a toasting iron fork. A news article asserted that this was not a small object, instead being described as ‘a Britannic trident’ such as seen on the reverse of a penny-piece and the work of an amateur blacksmith, so ugly and heavy was it.
William Parkes admitted striking the officer so fiercely that the policeman’s helmet was cut through and Constable Long received a severe wound to his head. The brothers Parkes then threw the stricken policeman over a fence and into a field, rendering him insensible. Constable Long told the court that he believed they intended killing him.
Standing accused before Magistrates Mr John Aston, Mr John Bateman and Dr James Fisher, and following prisoner John Parkes’ questioning of Constable Long, Parkes was asked if he had any further questions. At this point, Parkes accused Constable Long of tripping him up and giving him a blow to the eye, pointing to a small cut. Mr Chief Superintendent Burton replied, ‘It’s a pity he didn’t give you some more’.
Witness John Bowater, also of King Edmund Street, described how he was stood at his door at the time of the row and saw William Parkes strike the constable three times with the fork, once in the horse-road and twice in the leasow before John assisted his brother in depositing the constable over the fence into the field. Another witness Sarah Reid, told the court how she witnessed William Parkes strike the constable four times as he lay. She shouted ‘murder’, but ‘he didn’t stand off for any talking’. He was then bounced over the rails and into the adjoining field before she went to his assistance, taking him to her home and washed his wounds from which blood was flowing freely.
On hearing the evidence, the Magistrates concluded that due to ‘a very serious offence which might have resulted in the death of the officer’, William would be sentenced to three months hard labour and John fined forty shillings, alternatively one month’s custody.