Friday, 12 February 2016

James Coffee Docking

How does that old saying go - "You can choose your friends but not your family?"

Over the course of the past few years I have discovered rather a lot of so called Black Sheep in both my and my husband's ancestors. This blog will be devoted to sharing their stories. Maybe they are your ancestors as well - it would be good to hear from you and hear your stories too.

Newspapers are the source for most of my learnings about my Black Sheep as well as trial and court records.

James Coffee Docking seemed an ordinary sort of person - he was born in October 1824 in St Margaret, King's Lynn, the son of William Docking, Victualler and Mary Wilkin. William and Mary had baptised 2 children prior to James with this name - so third time lucky. He had an elder sister Mary Ann born in 1813.

James and his sister Mary Ann are living together in the 1861 census in St Margaret, King's Lynn - I have not been able to find death records for his parents but presume they are deceased. James occupation is that of a Wine Merchant's Clerk, and spinster sister Mary Ann is a dress maker.

In 1866 James' story  appears in newspapers up and down the country - and he is declared an embezzler and forger. So what happened?

James Docking was confidential and managing clerk to one of the most respected wine merchants in King’s Lynn, namely Everard & Sons. He had held this position for a number of years and was a highly respected member of his local community.

James Docking had managed the business for approximately five or six years but after the death of the proprietor, Mr. Everard in 1866 the business and the property fell into the hands of Mr. Everard Hutton who decided that we wanted to sell the business.

James Docking said that he had support from a local Baronet so wanted to buy the business himself. None of his friends thought that this was unusual although they were taken aback by his failed suicide attempt shortly after this.

As the time approached to conclude the deal Docking proceeded to London to the London & Westminster Bank to obtain the £3,000 to pay for the business but due to some hitch he had to arrange a further visit to the bank.

On the subsequent visit to the bank, the solicitor entered the bank first, but James Docking turned tail and ran so the solicitor had to return to Lynn with no money and no James Docking.

An investigation into the company’s affairs then took place revealing that James Docking had falsified accounts and embezzled four thousand pounds from the business. A warrant was issued for his arrest and Lieutenant Reeves of the Borough Police was sent to apprehend him.

James had written to a friend trying to borrow money and it said he was staying in St Ives, Huntingdonshire. Lieutenant Reeves set off to capture him and bring him back to King’s Lynn to stand trial.

We don’t know what transpired when the policeman arrived in St Ives but in the newspapers it said he was in such a state when he returned he couldn’t tell them anything and he was subsequently dismissed from the force.

Another policeman was put on the case but James Docking simply vanished and the missing money was never recovered.

There does not seem to be any follow up story in the papers - and nothing is known of his whereabouts. His poor sister Mary Ann continued to live in Lynn making ends meet by working as a dressmaker and she died a spinster.

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