Old Neilsland House1

On Wednesday the 3rd of September 1902 The Hamilton shooting case, which caused quite a sensation at the time of its occurrence, came up for disposal before Lord McLaren, in the Glasgow High Court. Justiciary Buildings, Jail Square. This Shooting had taken place on the Third of July 1902 at the Old Neilsland House.
The accused was a pleasant looking servant girl called Janet Laird, who was 20 years old and was smartly attired in a blue costume, and had felt her position keenly, and wept bitterly while she sat in the dock. She was charged with having, on the 3rd July in that year at Neilsland House, Hamilton, occupied by Colonel Rutherford, discharged a breech loading gun, (A Shot Gun) charged with cartridges containing powder and pellets at Alfred Annette, who was an officer’s servant, with intent to murder him.
Mr Morton, who appeared for accused, tendered on her behalf a plea of guilty assault with intent to do serious bodily harm. This plea was accepted by Mr Dove Wilson who prosecuted. The Accused, he said, was about 20 years age, and went into domestic service with Colonel Rutherford, commanding the 71st Regimental District, 28th May that year, bearing good recommendations from her previous mistress.
The only other servant in the house was Alfred Annett and after Janet entered Colonel Rutherford’s service her habits became somewhat idle and dirty, and this led to friction between her and the other servant, who had occasionally to some of her work. Eventually Annett complained to Colonel Rutherford and the complaint was made about June 27, however, Colonel Rutherford seemed to have postponed his decision to dismiss Janet until the 3rd of July where Colonel Rutherford sent for the young woman and dismissed her from his service, giving her a month’s wages in lieu of notice.
The Colonel left that evening do some regimental duties, and shortly after his departure Annette, who from the evidence did not appear to have been on good terms with the Janet Laird, went into a small room to write some letters. He sat down with his back to the door, which shortly afterwards was opened by Janet, who said: “You have done me harm; I will now do you harm.” At this time, Janet Laird had in her hand a double-barrelled Shotgun which she had taken from the wall Colonel Rutherford’s bedroom.
The gun was not loaded it the time, but three cartridges happened to be on the table, and Janet had evidently taken them. As soon as she had spoken she discharged the gun, and from the position of the chair in which Annette sat, it was little short of marvellous that he was not killed on the spot with the pellets from the cartridge just missing him. His face, however, was marked with powder.
Mr Morton said that the case was in some respects as sad a one as had ever engaged the Court. Although he could not set up plea of Insanity there was doubt that Janet was distinctly weak-minded from the time she entered Colonel Rutherford’s service until she left.
It would have come out in evidence that Colonel Rutherford himself came to the conclusion that Janet was not right in her mind, not that was insane, but that she was weak. He then gave instances of some extraordinary things that Janet had done while at Hamilton and argued that they seemed to point to the fact that Janet was somewhat erratic in her behaviour.
On the morning of the affray, she gave one of the silly little laughs which were characteristic her. She was not in a temper and did not appear like one to commit a crime. It was quite clear that she was not at all a person of ordinary mental capacity, and the Colonel although he did not say as much to her, had evidently formed that conclusion also.
The gun had two cartridges, but after firing the first cartridge she threw down the gun and ran off. Janet had never been in trouble before and the Judge thought that the ends of justice would be met with a short sentence.
Lord McLaren in sentencing the accused said that he was sorry to see a respectable girl like Janet to be in court. He was willing to give all the weight he could to what had been said in her favour. If the case had gone to trial, and she had been found guilty of assault with intent to murder, he would have dealt seriously with Janet. But as it was, it was a case for substantial punishment. Lord McLaren could not take it that the gun went off by accident, but it had been discharged with intent to do mischief. In these circumstances, he sentenced her to Six Months Imprisonment. Janet was carried off to Jail in a sorry state.
It was also noted that some of Janet’s friends were prepared to take care of her when she got out of prison. She had already spent the past two months in jail.
How things have changed since 1902! Today if you tried to kill some with a double-barrelled shotgun, you would most certainly get life in prison and not just six months. I wanted to know what became of Janet Laird and Alfred Annett so I decided to go and see what I could find.
Alfred was born around 1876 at Banbury, London. He was the son of James & Charlotte Annett; his father was a butcher in London. He came from a large family and in 1881 he was living at Islington, London. He joined the Army in 1894 and this is possibly where he met Colonel Rutherford. At some point between 1895 & 1902, he left the Army and gained employment at Neilsland House working as Colonel Rutherford’s servant.
After the shooting incident, a year later in 1903, Alfred married Janet McGregor in Hamilton. In 1905, he later moved to 27 Kirk Road in Cambusnethan where he is now working as a Postman. In this marriage, he had 5 children.
Between 1906 & 1907 Alfred moved back down to England he settled at Sunbury in Middlesex. He died on the 17th of January 1952 at Sanbury.
Unfortunately, after the court case, the trail go’s cold and I can’t find any further info on Janet Laird.
** The word Slovenly is what your great aunt Mabel might call you if you came to high tea without a necktie. It means “messy or unkempt,” but is a word you probably won’t hear messy or unkempt people using. This is not a word often used in modern day.