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Making Light of Old News — Whalley Meets Mayberry

November 18, 2015

In the heat of August, in the year 1926, a little dramedy, starring George Whalley, was played out in the district jail, in scenes more reminiscent of Mayberry than Cloverdale.

“Charged with attempted arson, G. A. Whalley, proprietor of a service station at the corner of the Pacific Highway and the Grosvenor road, was committed for trial by Magistrate H. Bose in Cloverdale police court on Tuesday.
The accused is alleged to have made an attempt to set fire to the Cloverdale jail recently, while he was held in custody on a charge of assault.
According to the Surrey police, Whalley, after he had been placed in a cell, asked to be permitted to go to the wash room.
Shortly after his request was granted, Constable L.E. Collishaw, who was in charge of the police station, noticed smoke coming from under the door leading to the jail quarters.
Investigation revealed that a number of papers near the door were on fire.
Questioned as to the origin of the blaze, it is stated that Whalley made the assertion that he would burn the place down.
At the hearing on Tuesday, however, the accused stated in evidence that he did not start the fire intentionally and that it must have been caused by a match which he had struck and thrown away after he thought it was out. He said he was attempting to extinguish the fire when Constable Collishaw entered.
Geo. L Cassady of New Westminster conducted the prosecution, while E Meredith of Vancouver was defense counsel.”


The case came up for trial at the fall Assizes.

“George Whalley of the Pacific Highway, Surrey, was found not guilty of attempted arson by the petit jury at the assizes yesterday.
The jury were out only five minutes and their finding was received with evident relief by the numerous friends and acquaintances of the accused who crowded the court room.
Chief of Surrey police, Alex Matheson, together with Constable Len Collishaw and W. Mortimer, were the chief witnesses for the prosecution.
Whalley admitted setting alight to the few papers which constituted the alleged arson attempt but claimed that his act was entirely accidental and the jury evidently agreed with him.”


Cast of Characters

The Accused: George A Whalley, proprietor of Whalley’s Corner Gas, after whom the Whalley area of Surrey was named.

The Jailor: Constable Len E Collishaw of the Surrey Police had been on the job only a year.

The Prosecutor: George Livingstone Cassady, prosecutor in the Whalley arson case, was the son of George Cassady of the Cassady & Co Sawmill on False Creek  (see map)  mentioned in our post about the Leamy & Kyle Mill).  GL Cassady was a partner in the law firm of McQuarrie, Martin & Cassady at New Westminster. As a Navy Lieutenant in the First World War GL Cassady won the Distinguished Service Cross for sinking a German U-boat on August 8, 1918. A curious sidelight of this adventure, reminiscent of buccaneering, was that the crew was awarded $3,000 in “head money” by the British government. After the war, Cassady obtained his Master Mariner’s ticket, but returned to the practice of law. In 1952 he was appointed police court magistrate in New Westminster and in 1962 was sworn in as a judge of the Admiralty Court.

Defense Counsel: Elmore Meredith of the Vancouver law firm Congdon, Campbell & Meredith.

The Magistrate: Henry Bose was a pioneer farmer on 64 Ave, (Bose Road), near Cloverdale.

Disclaimer:  In making light of this old news we in no way condone setting fires, accidentally or otherwise, smoking in the can, letting prisoners have matches, or letting them come and go from their cells unescorted, and we applaud tidiness in public premises and subscribe to the modern adage “every newspaper you don’t recycle tells something about you.”

Note: For those too young to know the Andy Griffith TV show, Mayberry is a fictional town with a Sheriff, Andy, a Deputy,Barney, and a cast of characters that included a drunk who was allowed to let himself in and out of jail.


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