Friday, 24 June 2011

The Case of George Briarly

George Briarly was born in Tullamore, Kings County in the mid 1840s. As a young man he joined the Royal Irish Constabulary and served for seven years before resigning on 15 November 1870. George travelled to London and six months later joined the Metropolitan Police as a 4th. Class Constable. He was issued with warrant number 54384 and posted to “T” Hammersmith Division – his collar number was T470. The following spring he was passed over for advancement to 3rd. Class Constable. Towards the end of the year Metropolitan Police Orders called for volunteers to serve in the Hong Kong Police and twenty constables, including George, resigned and set sail for the Far East.

During the recruitment process George asked to see a copy of the Regulations governing the Hong Kong Police but they were not available and he was simply told that they were similar to those that he was serving under with the Met. During the long sea voyage the constables became aware that all European and Indian police in HK were obliged to undergo a monthly examination for what we now refer to as STDs. To make matters worse they heard that the examination was normally conducted with the assistance of a Black Turnkey at the Gaol – or sometimes even convicts – I think we all know how facts can come become distorted!

However, the new recruits were horrified and when they arrived in the Colony they refused to submit to the examination on the grounds that they hadn’t been made aware of this prior to leaving London. They were all told they would be up on charges if they didn’t have the examination and so they gave in. But George had been the ring leader and it was his head that was to roll. He was instantly dismissed and refused the cost of his passage back to the UK. Fortunately the press came to his rescue but that meant that the whole nasty incident received a lot of publicity. A public subscription was raised and this brought in enough money to pay for his passage back to London. As he had been dismissed from the HK Police the Met. refused to take him back but fortunately he managed to find a job as an Inspector with the Water Works.

A few months after Briarley’s dismissal two of his colleagues from the same Met. intake caused another stir by asking to resign. They cited lots of reasons one of which was that they were compelled to learn a language which they saw as being completely useless and which they had absolutely no interest in acquiring. They were dismissed for Gross Misconduct.

George served for many years with the Water Works and earned himself a nice pension. He retired to Bedfordshire where he died in 1913. I wonder if he ever told his grandchildren of his adventures overseas !

Service details of officers who served with the RIC, Metropolitan Police and Hong Kong Police can all be found at The National Archives - although coverage is not necessarily complete for all years.

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