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A Strabane Adventuress

Transcribed by Teena from the Tyrone Constitution Friday 14 May 1897.

A Strabane Adventuress. Before the Lurgan Magistrates.

A respectably attired young woman, apparently 20 years of age and giving her name as Mary CROWE, was charged by district-inspector HILL, at petty sessions with being, in legal language, a rogue and a vagabond, going about obtaining goods and money under false pretences.

The district-inspector said the girl had, so far, a wonderful career. She was known by the name of Mary CROWE, also TOLAND and also COULTER. Her history commenced at Castlederg, where she was born, 1875. She was brought up in the workhouse at Strabane and subsequently, went to live with her sister, who was married and resided with her husband, a short distance from that town. During her residence with her sister she obtained, by false pretences, goods to a considerable extent from local shopkeepers, but failed to pay for them. After this she went to Derry, where she obtained several situations. On the strength of representing herself to be an heiress and about to come into a large fortune by the decease of an uncle, she ordered about £20 of wearing apparel, she also ordered £60 piano and a set of false teeth, to cost £9 10s. These, however, she did not succeed in getting hold of.

In March ’96, she was heard of in Belfast and again representing herself to be an heiress about to come into a fortune, she ordered from Mr. SHIELDS, the well-known Belfast dentist, a set of teeth at £15. When, however, a deposit was asked for, there was some lame excuse and the order remained unfulfilled. Coming under the notice of the police about this time, she was sent to the Elim Rescue Homes, where she remained until a situation was again obtained for her and in this, she remained, giving satisfaction to her employer (the principal of a ladies school) until the end of the year, when she had to to be parted with on account of her peculiarities.

She then went into lodgings and started a new game, calling on Roman Catholic clergymen, stating she was anxious to change her religious views and to Protestant clergymen with a story to the same effect, passing herself off as a persecuted Roman Catholic, who had seen the errors of her ways and was anxious of turning to be a missionary to the far away heathen, in benighted India. It would appear she obtained pecuniary assistance from some of the clergy on whom she called.

About the end of January she contrived to get to Galway and managed to get conveyed there, free, by the Great Northern Railway Company on representing that her pocket had been picked while in the train. On the 23rd February, she once more turned up in Belfast and ordered goods to the extent of £40, again representing herself as an heiress. Belfast, becoming too hot for her, although none of the aggrieved parties would prosecute her, she next turned up in Lurgan, at the house of Mrs BYRNE, Victoria Street. Here she explained she had come off from a boarding school, unknown to any but her brother Jack. She said she had taken some other person’s umbrella instead of her own, which, most unfortunately, contained her purse. A few days, however, would remedy this and on the strength of her story, she stopped with Mrs BYRNE for four days. No letters arrived and she left without paying her bill and besides, obtaining 4s. from a neighbouring girl named Mary HAMILTON, who believed her story.

Next she turns up in the Primatial city, where she honoured Mrs HARTE with her patronage from 23rd March to 5th April. When leaving, she forgot the little bill and, strange coincidence, a young lady living in the house missed £1 from her room, that same morning. On the 5th and 6th April, she stayed at a Miss MULLENS in Armagh and before leaving the city, called on the Rev. Mr QUINN, C.C. and to him she told a bundle of stories, all false.

Next day as Mr. LAMB (of jam fame) was driving homewards to Richhill, he was hailed by the young lady and on that gentleman good-naturedly giving her a lift, she poured into his sympathetic ears a circumstantial story of how she had got stranded on running away from a boarding school and was even then, walking to Portadown, where a cousin of hers, the Rev. Mr LINGHAM, a Presbyterian clergyman, resided. Mr LAMB insisted on her staying for dinner and afterwards paid her fare to Portadown. She got no money from him, although she very frequently referred to the loss of her purse, etc., and how inconvenient it was for a young person of her habits and education to be “stone broke’’on the road.

From the 10th to the 12th April, she stayed with a Mrs BEST in Balteagh and this lady appeared to have been very kind to her. She told Mrs BEST she was the daughter of the Rev. Mr TOLAND, Presbyterian clergyman, Strabane and had left the ladies school she was at in Derry, without acquainting her parents. She gave her address to Mrs BEST as “May Eva Gladys Coulter TOLAND, Ladies Collegiate School, Derry. Mrs BEST brought her into Lurgan and purchased a railway ticket for her to Lisburn, then telegraphed to her supposed father, Mr. TOLAND, Strabane, telling him where to find his runaway daughter. Prisoner was arrested in Belfast on 23rd April.

Mr MENARY said the girl had written to him an intelligent letter, expressing regret for what she had done and promising amendment, but after such a catalogue, he scarcely knew what to say or do. He could not think she was quite of right mind.

Mr HILL said they had a number of letters about the girl, among others, from her brother-in-law; from the Rev. Mr. TOLAND (who had been put to the trouble of warning the public about her through the newspapers); and also one from the petty sessions clerk at Strabane, which he would read. It was as follows;

“In reply to yours received today re: Mary CROWE, l knew her parents very well. Her father, who was a labourer, died in the Omagh Lunatic Asylum some six years ago. Mary CROWE was a servant in Castlederg and professed to have been converted and tried to get out as a missionary to India. She obtained quite number of dresses from local shopkeepers, some of which she afterwards returned, but the greater part of which is still unpaid for. She has not been here for years and there is no relative of hers here, except one sister, who is not able to do anything with, or for her. I really do not see what can be done for her. I see an account of her doings and representations today in local newspaper, all which representations are, of course, pure fabrications. (signed), John CROCKETT, O.P.S.” (or C.P.S?)

Mr. HILL added that in the information he had about the girl from the Belfast police, they had there some doubts as to her mental condition.

Mrs BYRNE proved the statement made by the district inspector as to prisoner’s conduct while in her house. In reply to the chairman.

The girl acknowledged her guilt, but pleaded that if allowed off, she would be good and she could get a situation in Belfast.

The chairman said she must be confined where she could not be preying on the public as she appeared to be doing.

They could not overlook the fact that she knew quite well, she was doing wrong and she would therefore be imprisoned for three months. Later in the evening the girl was removed to Armagh.