THOMAS
DANDY

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THE GAOLER WHOSE LIFE WAS SAVED BY AN INMATE

Thomas Dandy had been in post for about a decade when he died either in late August or early September, 1831.  

 

We know of his activities through pieces in local newspapers. 

 

One of these told the tale of Dandy's life being saved by a prisoner. That prisoner was Thomas Lovelady, the “squire” of a group of strolling gamblers.

 

Strolling gamblers were akin to strolling players. Both travelled around performing an act. Players performed theatre to entertain; gamblers performed theatre to deceive. 

 

Lovelady's group of gamblers had been apprehended in Buckingham. Lovelady, as the gang’s leader, was given three months imprisonment in the Gaol.

 

About a month into his sentence, Lovelady was in the Gaol’s yard with another prisoner, a soldier in the 58th regiment who had been arrested whilst drunk and quarrelsome. One day, as Gaoler Dandy entered the exercise yard, the soldier ran at him with a pitchfork. There was no way of escape, we’re told, but the “squire” (Lovelady) made a “sudden spring of several yards” and tore the pitchfork from the soldier’s hands just as he was about to plunge it into Dandy’s chest.

 

Dandy reported to the Magistrates that Lovelady had saved his life. The Squire was immediately released two months early, in September, 1831. 

 

The following year Dandy had refused a Mrs White permission to speak to her husband, William, who was in Dandy’s Gaol awaiting trial on a charge of attempting  to murder with a “paddle”* James Cadd (note his surname that remains so common in N. Bucks). Cadd was the Duke of Buckingham’s Gamekeeper in Hillesden.

 

* A paddle was a local name for a form of bill-hook specially designed to cut thistles.

 

Although Cadd had suffered no more than a cut on his forearm, things were looking bad for White and he was facing a possible capital sentence. Mrs Dandy bumped into a drawn, cold Mrs White just after the Gaoler had refused permission for Mrs White to meet her husband. Mrs Dandy felt sorry for the distraught lady, and took her into the Gaoler’s room to warm up. A little later, Mrs Dandy opened a window that overlooked the Prisoners’ exercise yard, enabling Mr and Mrs White to exchange a few words. Mrs Dandy heard where White had hidden his paddle weapon whilst William was whispering to his wife.

 

No doubt, Mrs Dandy felt burdened by the tale for she confessed to her husband what she had done, and what White had told his wife. Thomas Dandy wasted no time but rushed on his horse to Hillesden where he found the bloodied weapon wrapped in straw and carefully concealed.

 

Did the story have a happy ending? Well, the Judge told the jury that if they thought that White had attacked Cadd with the  intention of killing him, they must find him guilty of attempted murder. The Jury did so but recommended mercy as White, on Cadd’s testimony, had never been a poacher and Cadd had earlier threatened to kill William’s working dog, Loo Loo. William White was spared capital punishment.

Things were not always quite so “neat and Dandy” for our esteemed Gaoler.

 

Forward to May, 1829 and Dandy was on a nice little earner: conveying two prisoners to Aylesbury Gaol. The men were poachers caught in the act of casting a net into a “river” to catch fish near to Stowe House. They had been sentenced to two months in The County Gaol by the Reverend Coker.

 

Dandy put Cross and Mends in the back of his cart and drove off on a bright, summery morning. No doubt, as was usual practice, the men were covered with tarpaulins to avoid prying eyes and coarse comments.

 

With a cheery, polite “Good Day, Mr Dandy,” Cross, who had already quietly slipped over the back of the cart,  was away, vaulting a gate as he raced, successfully, to freedom. Meanwhile, Mends, too timid to join his chum, stayed and, probably, saved Dandy’s bacon.

 

The story I like best about our intrepid Dandy happened in January, 1826 and was reported in the Windsor and Eton Express. Dandy popped to Winslow in his gig to apprehend a young man suspected of fathering an illegitimate child. The arrest caused no concern but Dandy had an appalling return journey to Buckingham Gaol. Firstly, his gig ran over a young, innocent girl, breaking her arm. Dandy was probably badly shaken and he hadn’t gone much further when his gig collided with another driven by farmer Worley. The farmer and his daughter were thrown out but neither was badly hurt. Their gig, however, was seriously damaged. Dandy was thrown from his gig, and was, we’re told “punished for his carelessness” by suffering a broken collar-bone. OUCH!

 

Wasn’t it kind of the young suspect to help each victim in turn back into their gigs? Well, you can judge for yourselves, for he didn’t climb aboard Dandy’s battered gig, but ran and ran and ran! I guess Thomas had a bone to pick with him.

Whatever the ups and downs in Dandy’s uneven career as Gaoler his obituary suggests that his own family, or local well-wishers, thought highly of him for the announcement termed Thomas as the GOVERNOR of Buckingham Gaol, quite a lofty expression for the poorly paid, part-time Gaoler of a small borough’s lock-up.