Breach of Peace in Perth Town: John McGlade and his son Michael

On 11 August 1856, John McGlade was convicted of “Breach of Peace on Sabbath,” for which he paid a fine of £1 to the Town of Perth (Co. Lanark, Ontario, Canada). This was no doubt a hefty sum for a labourer, and especially for a recently married one, whose wife, Bridget Dunne, was expecting their first child (Michael James McGlade, born 28 December 1856 at Perth). Another man, Michael Lee, was likewise convicted of the same offence on the same day, but his was apparently deemed a more serious breach of the peace, since the fine levied against Lee was £3 10s. The charges were brought by George Graham, Chief Constable of the Town of Perth.

I’m not sure what exactly constituted a “Breach of Peace” on the Sabbath, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d imagine that it involved the consumption of alcohol on a Sunday. I have to wonder if the complaints against McGlade and Lee were connected to the conviction, on 12 August 1856, of Hugh McMullan, Inn Keeper, for “Keeping a noisy, riotous, and disorderly house in the Town of Perth on the Lord’s Day,” for which offence he suffered the loss of his tavern license (“License to keep an Inn in Perth abrogated”).1


By all accounts, local authorities in mid-nineteenth-century Ontario had broad latitude to suppress “disorderly conduct” and to enforce “the due observance of the Sabbath”. As enumerated in J. Balfour’s Municipal Manual for Upper Canada (1855), municipal governments had the authority to make and enforce by-laws covering a wide range of conduct both commercial and moral, from the regulation of highways to the prevention of “the use of deleterious materials” in the making of bread to the prevention of cruelty to animals, and including:

Ninthly. For enforcing the due observance of the Sabbath; for preventing vice, drunkenness, profane swearing, obscene language, and any other species of immorality and indecency in the streets or other public places, and for preserving peace and good order; for preventing the excessive beating or cruel and inhuman treatment of animals on the public highways of such Village; for preventing the sale of any intoxicating drink to children, apprentices or servants without the consent of their legal protectors; for suppressing and imposing penalties on the keepers of low tippling houses and houses of ill fame visited by dissolute and disorderly characters; for licensing and regulating victualling houses or other houses of refreshment where spiritous liquors are not sold; for the regulation of all public billiard tables, and for licensing, regulating or preventing bowling alleys or other places of amusement; for regulating or preventing, restraining or suppressing horse-racing and gambling-houses, and for entering into them and seizing and destroying faro-banks, rouge-et-noir, and roulette-tables, and other devices for gambling; for restraining and punishing all vagrants, drunkards, vagabonds, mendicants and street beggars, and all persons found drunk or disorderly in any street or public place in such Village; for restraining or regulating the licensing of all exhibitions of natural or artificial curiosities, theatres, circuses, or other shows or exhibitions kept for hire or profit.2

His conviction for “Breach of Peace on [the] Sabbath” was not the first time that John McGlade had come up before Perth’s justices of the peace. In the summer of 1854, William Butler brought charges against John McGlade and Robert Cowie for some sort of violent altercation. At this point, John McGlade, still single, had been in Upper Canada for perhaps three or four years, having emigrated from the parish of Forkhill in Co. Armagh, Ireland in 1850 or 1851. He may have still been working as a domestic servant in the household of William Canwith, where he is found in the 1851 census of Perth (Canada West [Ontario], Lanark County, Village of Perth, p. 5). In any case, on 1 August 1854 John McGlade was convicted of “Assault,” for which he was fined 5 shillings; Robert Cowie was convicted of having used “noisy, turbulent language,” for which he was also fined 5 shillings. 3
Yes, you could be fined for using “noisy, turbulent language” in nineteenth-century Perth, where the magistrates apparently ran a tight ship. You could also be fined for using “noisy, turbulent, and disorderly language,” of which offence Hugh McMullan (presumably the same Hugh McMullan who later lost his tavern license) was convicted on 15 July 1854. You could also be fined for “profane swearing,” for “drunk and disorderly conduct,” for “illegal fishing,” and for having your “Hogs running at large” and/or for allowing your Pig to “run upon the Highway.”
Twenty years later, John McGlade’s eldest son Michael James McGlade was also brought before the magistrates, although in this case he appears to have had the better of his complainant. In the spring of 1876, James Kearns brought a charge against Michael McGlade for “Leaving service,” for which McGlade was convicted (29 April 1876) and fined $1.00 (note the shift from pounds/shillings/pence to dollars/cents). At the same time, however, Michael McGlade brought a charge against James Kearns for “Non-payment of wages,” for which Kearns was convicted (29 April 1876) and fined $12.00, to be paid to the Complainant within 21 days. Advantage: Michael! by about 11 dollars, I guess (except that he must have had to find a new employer).4
mcglade_kearns_perthcourier_14july1876.jpg

Return of Convictions, with the names of James Kearns and Michael McGlade highlighted. From the Perth Courier, 14 July 1876.
All of the above information about fines and convictions is taken from the Perth Courier, Canada’s second-oldest newspaper, which has been putting the provincial into provincialism since 1834 (first as the Bathurst Courier, which was renamed the Perth Courier in 1857). But I love this paper, I truly do. Every summer, when I go up to Perth, I make a point of purchasing something from Shaw’s of Perth (which is probably now owned by a global conglomerate or something), just because I love their ads from the Perth Courier in the 1930s. And this newspaper has given me so much information about my McGlade relations and ancestors, from my great-aunt Noreen winning the prize for funniest costume at a masquerade held by the Children of Mary at St. John’s Hall in 1939, to my gr-gr-grandfather’s conviction of “Breach of Peace on Sabbath” in 1856.
All of which is to say: local newspapers can be a rich source of genealogical information. Read them, and be prepared to take notes.

1Return of Convictions made by Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace within the United Counties of Lanark & Renfrew from the July Quarter Sessions, 1856, to the November General Quarter Sessions, 1856. Perth Courier, 12 December 1856.

2J. Balfour, The Municipal Manual for Upper Canada. Fifth Edition (Toronto: Thompson & Co., 1855), p. 46.

3Schedule of Convictions, By Justices of the United Counties of Lanark & Renfrew, for the Quarter ending 21st November, 1854, as filed in the Office of the Clerk of the Peace at Perth. Perth Courier, 8 December 1854.

4Return of Convictions made by Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace within the County of Lanark, from the Eleventh Day of March to the Tenth Day of June, 1876. Perth Courier, 14 July 1876.