Orsam Books

A Bee In His Barnett

During the glorious period of my membership of the Censorship Forum, fondly remembered by all, I started a thread entitled 'Lechmere/Cross "name issue" Part 2' (following on from a thread of that title - part 1 - which had been created by another member).  This was on 11 March 2017.  In that thread, I made a string of 20 posts which included 16 case studies relating to men who had two alternative names or, perhaps more accurately, one birth name and one alternative name.  The reason I created the thread was set out in the Opening Post where I explained that it was a response to the post by Christer Holmgren (made under the username 'Fisherman') who had categorically claimed on the Forum that any name 'not officially registered' is a 'false name'.

One person who read that thread back in 2017 was Gary Barnett.  But he posted not a word in reply at the time.  A year after my resignation from the Forum, however, and fresh from making a fool of himself with his serious but daft response to my lighthearted 'New JTR Suspect Identified!' article, Mr Barnett suddenly plucked up the courage to attack my conclusions about the name issue, resurrecting a thread in which no-one had posted for over two years, in the full knowledge that I was unable to respond in that thread.   Here is what he said in the first sentence of a two sentence post in his usual charming fashion on 12 August 2019 (#32 in the thread):

'Thanks to David for proving the blindingly obvious: that some people use alternative names.'

Pausing there, it would seem that the great researcher hadn't properly read my opening post.  For, as I've already mentioned, I was responding to a claim that there was no such thing as an alternative name, unless that name was officially registered.  It was being said (by Christer Holmgren a.k.a Fisherman), in other words, that any name not officially registered was not an 'alternative' name at all but a false name.  When applied to the Ripper case, the suggestion was that, when Charles Lechmere gave the name of 'Charles Cross' at the inquest of Mary Ann Nichols, he was giving a false name.

It was not 'blindingly obvious' to Mr Holmgren, therefore, that some people legitimately use alternative names.  He was, to repeat the point, under the impression that any name not officially registered was false. The 16 case studies that I provided, along with an additional post relating to the legal aspects of alternative names, proved beyond any doubt (and Barnett doesn't dispute this) that Mr Holmgren was wrong.  This leads to the inevitable conclusion that 'Charles Cross' was in no way a false name.   

Anyone who follows the discussions about Lechmere will know that this is an extremely important point in the case against him. To say that Charles Cross was using a false or assumed name when giving evidence as a witness at an inquest gives the clear impression of a man with something to hide.  An alternative name, however, would be one which was not only perfectly legal but one which he was fully entitled to state as his name at the inquest.  For that is what the word 'alternative' means.  You can use one or the other.  As we shall see, in his discussion of my posts, Mr Barnett prefers to use the wholly inaccurate word, 'assumed', thus working on the misguided belief that 'Charles Cross' was an assumed name.

So Barnett's opening line was false. What I had shown wasn't blindingly obvious at all.  It was disputed and important.   Does it get better in his second sentence?  No, it does not is the answer.  For this is what Barnett goes on to say:

'I didn't trawl through every example provided, but those I did read were cases where both names were disclosed.  How is that relevant to the Cross/Lechmere case.'

Saying 'I didn't trawl through every example provided' is not a particularly good start, is it?  One has to ask, why not?  Why is he responding to a series of case studies two years after the event which he hasn't even read properly?  One imagines that it is going to seriously affect the quality of his response, and of course it does.  For Barnett says that the only cases he read were 'cases where both names were disclosed'.  This means, oddly, that he read no more than three out of sixteen cases and, of those three, he didn't even read one properly!

In only three of the sixteen case studies can it be said that both names of the men in question were 'disclosed'.  These were the cases of Armstrong/Dixon, Taylor/Jones and Anderson/Holland.  Only two of these were disclosures in court.  Anderson/Holland 'disclosed' his name in a letter to a newspaper in which he obviously wanted both his names to be printed so that anyone who knew him by both names would know who he was.

I expressly referred to the case of Armstrong/Dixon in my concluding post (#20) when I said that a person with two names 'might, as Ralph Dixon (otherwise Armstrong) did at the Morgan inquest, have given both names, with an explanation of why he used two names, but there was no obligation for him to do so'.

In the case of Taylor/Jones, the so-called 'disclosure' was made during divorce proceedings when it was obviously relevant to those proceedings to clarify what the man's name was.  But, in his race for glory, Barnett seems to have missed the most important fact to emerge from this case study.  For, as I stated in #6, the Isle of White Observer reported on 11 May 1878 that one of the witnesses in a criminal hearing was:

Charles Taylor, of Monkton-street...


But 'Charles Taylor' was not the birth name of this witness who was born as 'Charles Jones'. Taylor was the name of his stepfather.  So what we have here is the exact equivalent of Charles Lechmere giving evidence as 'Charles Cross'.   In fact, in this case, evidence was actually being given against an accused person, so the proceedings were more serious, yet, according to the newspaper report, Charles Jones gave his name as 'Charles Taylor'. 

So was this gentleman using a false or assumed name?  Did he have something to hide?  The answer to both questions is obviously, no.  He was entitled to use either name.  Unless there had been some issue about his identity, there was no need for Charles Taylor to 'disclose' that he was born as Charles Jones and that he sometimes used the name Charles Jones. It wasn't relevant to the proceedings.  The magistrate at the Ryde Petty Sessions would not have been interested that Charles Taylor had another name, just as Coroner Baxter would not have been in the slightest bit interested that Charles Cross was also sometimes known as Charles Lechmere.  Hence, he didn't need to be given that unnecessary information.

Amazingly, Barnett refers to the case of Jones when he provides 'a few of DOs examples' in #33 but he doesn't seem to have noticed that this case provides a direct parallel with the case of Lechmere where the alternative name was not 'disclosed' in court.  

As for the other examples in my case study, six of them were dead.  The fact that they were all known by two different names was only being revealed by others after they had died.  There was no element of 'disclosure' going on here.  It was information being mentioned by people other than the men in question, which is the only reason we we are in any kind of position to know about it today.  Obviously, when talking about a dead person, or writing their obituary, the (different) names they used during their life is important in order to make clear exactly who has died.  But the point of the case studies is that, while they were alive, people were going about their lives quite legitimately, not having anything to hide, but still using two names, simply because of the circumstances which they found themselves in, which involved having two different fathers with two different surnames.  

A seventh person in the case studies was believed to be dead. An eighth name was only discussed in the context of the death of his wife.  So that is 8 names out of the 16 being revealed by others in the context of actual or assumed death.

A ninth was revealed through anonymous letter.

A tenth was absent from court and the alternative name mentioned by his grandfather.

Two others were accused and/or charged of criminal offences (where their use of two names was not relevant to their criminal offending but simply relevant to their identity).

That's 15 of the cases and the 16th was a man who, while mentioning that he had two names when writing to a newspaper, did not 'disclose' them.  In fact, this was 'R.A.' who said that he ONLY ever used his alternative name, even when registering with the army and even when dealing with Social Security.  Indeed, so insistent was he on only using his alternative name that he refused to provide Social Security with his birth certificate showing his birth name.  So what does Barnett think R.A. would have done if he had appeared at a witness at an inquest?  There's no way in a million years he would have disclosed his birth name.  It just wouldn't have happened.  Nor was there any requirement or obligation on him to do so.  It just wouldn't have mattered.

Now R.A. was a case of adoption which is slightly different to having a stepfather, and, unlike, Lechmere, R.A. NEVER used his birth name during his lifetime under any circumstances which is, of course, perfectly understandable.  He was under no obligation to reveal to anyone that he had been adopted, something which he evidently regarded as completely private, and he had every right to keep it private.  But while the circumstances are different, the principle is the same.  He was legally entitled to call himself by his adopted name regardless of the name on his birth certificate and regardless of the fact that his adopted name had never been officially registered.  As to that, it should be noted that not all adoptions were officially recorded.  In Victorian times, and even during the twentieth century, babies could just be given away for adoption without official records being kept.  Does Barnett think that in such circumstances a witness to an inquest or criminal case needs to reveal his personal life story to the court before giving his evidence?   He absolutely does not.  He just gives the name by which he is commonly known.

Anyway, the point is that out of the sixteen examples, in only three did the individuals concerned reveal that they used alternative names and one of those did not do so when giving evidence as a witness in magistrate's proceedings.

Barnett obviously knew this because he used an odd formulation in his conclusion in #33 after listing some of my examples when he said:

'In every example above it was thought appropriate to mention both names.  Lechmere didn't mention the name he used in all his other dealings with officialdom.  Did it not occur to him that it was appropriate to do so.  I very much doubt it, he must have chosen not to for some reason.'

So Barnett quite deliberately used the expression 'thought appropriate to mention' (without saying who thought it appropriate to mention it) despite around half the examples I gave being instances where the man in question was dead or thought be dead, so of course it was 'thought appropriate' to mention that the dead men had two names.   What I was showing in my posts was that all these men used two names quite naturally and legally during their lives, being known by some people as one name and by others as another, with nothing being wrong with this at all or surprising.  When it comes to giving evidence in court as a witness, I provided an example of one witness being reported as giving one name only, being not his birth name, and there was nothing wrong with this either.  

Barnett's question about Lechmere therefore proceeds on a false basis.  A better question is: Why would it have been 'appropriate' for Lechmere to mention to the coroner that he had an alternative name?  What possible difference would it have made to anything?  He had given his address and name of employer and his name was, indeed, Charles Cross.  He had answered the question(s) which must have been asked of him to state his name, address and occupation quite truthfully.

Barnett then goes on in #36 to state:

'If you research a little further you will find that the name in which a person was registered at birth, and which revealed their paternal ancestry, was commonly deemed or considered their real or proper name'.

This really must be some quite fantastic research to know what was 'commonly' deemed to be the case in the nineteenth century.  It's a shame that Barnett doesn't feel the need to share what this research was. But he must have found an opinion poll from the period because I can't think of any other way of finding it out.  I don't doubt that to most people a "real" or "proper" name was considered to be a person's name at birth (and, of course, this applies most certainly to criminals who would use assumed names or aliases for the purpose of hiding their identity, as opposed to their real names) but those words need to be placed heavily into inverted commas in the cases of men with stepfathers because it is certainly not true in those cases that their alternative names can be, or would have been, considered false or improper.  But Barnett refers to my own research when he says:

'That's why you find so many examples of people who had gone by an assumed name for decades deeming it appropriate to reveal their birth name in a court of law or some other dealing with authority (example above)'.

It's not clear what specific 'examples' he is referring to, but I didn't find multiple examples of people deeming it appropriate to reveal their birth names in a court of law or when some other dealing with authority.  In any event, the fact of the matter is that it was optional whether a witness wanted to inform a coroner, magistrate or judge that he was known by two names. In some cases, one can see that it might be useful information, especially if the witness was going to be referred to by other witnesses during the proceedings by a different name, which would have been confusing.  In the case of Charles Cross and his discovery of the body of Nichols while on his way to work, this wasn't going to happen.

How does Barnett deal with the scenario, which, I think, is accepted by most people, that Charles Cross entered employment with Pickfords while he was living with his stepfather and was thus known as Charles Cross to his employers and work colleagues.  The answer is that he ignores it!  But Charles Cross is certainly the name that was recorded for him on the 1861 census at the time he was living with his stepfather.  When he got married in 1871, and needed to enter his father's name onto the marriage certificate, it would seem to be the case that (like many others in this situation) he preferred to enter the name of his birth father so that he, himself, married under the name 'Lechmere' and subsequently used this name for purposes of official written documentation like voter registration and the census.  His children obviously also took the name of Lechmere and so school documents would bear that name too.  Yet, in his daily life, at Pickfords, he might well have still been known to everyone as Charles Cross.  All perfectly normal and it was just this kind of double name existence that I was providing examples of in my posts. 

Elsewhere, Gary Barnett has been seduced by one of Ripperology's greatest myths, namely that there is evidence of Charles Cross using the name Lechmere on more than 100 occasions.  This is clearly rubbish because I have no doubt that it includes every year of the electoral list during Lechmere's entire lifetime thus simply repeating the same category over and over again in circumstances where he was never going to give an alternative name in a different year.  Those who repeatedly claim that there are more than 100 examples of it flatly refuse to provide any evidence to support that figure.  Why? Because they know that, once they do so, it will be subjected to ridicule.  There is basically no way that anyone has found 100 examples of Charles Cross personally using the name Lechmere. But the most important thing is that we have no idea by what name he was KNOWN to most people who knew him.  The examples I provided show that he could easily have been commonly known to others as Charles Cross while the official documentation that has survived records his name as Charles Lechmere. 

In his posts on the Censorship Forum, Gary Barnett alludes to only one actual example to support his argument, namely an unidentified Hampshire voter who used two names of which, apparently, a barrister overseeing the process commented that it was 'queer' and said that he did not approve of a man having two names.  I don't know why Barnett is so coy about giving any source regarding this example or even the year in which it occurred. He must know that this is not how one properly presents information.  But his example actually rebounds on him because he doesn't seem to notice that he was giving an example of a man who registered to vote by using not his birth name but the surname of his stepfather, something that Barnett here calls the man's 'assumed' name, which is quite wrong.  In other words, when registering, the man didn't say, "My name is Mr Brown but my real name is Mr Smith", he just said "I'm Mr Brown".  It was only when his registration was refused that the thought occurred to him that he should make the attempt as Mr Smith.  If a barrister 'didn't approve' of a man having two names that can't be helped but, in law, a person was perfectly entitled to have two names and to register to vote under either one of them.  Barnett doesn't seem to dispute this from a legal perspective so I don't quite know what his point is. 

But here is Barnett's conclusion in his own words (from #36):

'The point I'm making is that whatever the legality of using an alternative name may have been, it was not the norm, and it was expected that when dealing with the authorities a person should either use a real name or disclose that the name they were using was an assumed one.  Charles Lechmere chose not to do so.'

My response to this is that Gary Barnett is just making it up as he goes along and it's based on absolutely nothing.   His conclusion is very poorly worded because, of course, it's blindingly obvious that the use of an alternative name was 'not the norm' , bearing in mind that it has never been the norm for men to have alternative names. It's always been a minority of men with alternative names, and always quite rare, but much more rare now than in the nineteenth century where not all births had even been officially registered. The real question is: Amongst men who had alternative names, what was the norm?  My research suggests, to the extent it is knowable, that it was the norm for men who had alternative names either to use both names at different times on different occasions, or to use primarily their alternative name or to use only their alternative name.  And the individuals I identified were only identified because their alternative names were revealed at some point in the press (usually by other people).  How many more must there be who we don't know about where those double names were never mentioned in the press?

In saying that 'it was expected' when'dealing with officialdom' or 'presenting themselves to the authorities' (whatever that means) that a person should use a "real", name or disclose that the name they were using was an assumed name, Barnett has gone badly wrong because the men we are talking about were not using assumed names.  They were using alternative real names.  It's not good enough for Barnett to casually say 'whatever the legality' because it was absolutely legal for men to use alternative names as long as they were not trying to conceal their identity.  So when Charles Lechmere said under oath that his name was Charles Cross he was being totally truthful, acting legally and could be neither prosecuted or criticized for doing so.  If Barnett wants to show that this was not normal behaviour he needs to provide some actual evidence and, frankly, to show what is or is not normal and 'generally' done, it needs to be bloody good evidence.

Barnett told another poster in the thread that he finds it 'difficult to believe' that it would not have occurred to Lechmere that he should disclose his "real" name in a coroner's court (and those are my inverted commas around the word 'real').  But it's neither here not there what Barnett finds difficult to believe.  He hasn't produced a single example of a man who has a right to use his stepfather's name, or an adopted name, being criticized, even mildly, for not disclosing his birth name in a coroner's court or any other court of law when giving evidence as a witness.   Until Mr Barnett can find such an example or until he can find any rule, statute or guidance which required such 'disclosure', he's whistling in the wind, offering up merely unsupported, uninformed and unfounded opinion.

Finally, you may be wondering how I know that Gary Barnett read my series of posts in 2017 but delayed commenting on them on the Censorship Forum for two years.  Well it's easy.  On JTR Forums, on 2 July 2017, he posted this (and, let me repeat, that this was posted on JTR Forums, not Casebook - something I didn't even see until recently): 

'I have to say, the research on Casebook, in respect of alternative names seems to me to have been misinterpreted.'

Pausing there, yes, it certainly was misinterpreted by Gary Barnett, as we have seen, but everyone else seems to have understood it perfectly.  Then he went on: 

'Yes, people used alternative names, but the research suggests that they generally felt it necessary to reveal the fact when presenting themselves to the authorities.'

If by 'the research', he meant my research, as he seems to, then clearly that research did not suggest anything of the sort 'generally' but it certainly did provide an example of a man not feeling the need to reveal that he was using an alternative name when 'presenting himself' to the authorities and plenty of examples of men who used two names at different times, places and occasions in their lives: sometimes known to others, sometimes not.

Applying his misinterpretation of my research to Lechmere, Barnett then concluded:

'As far as we know, Charles Lechmere used the name on which his birth was registered on every occasion he had dealings with officialdom - at least a 100 times - with the one exception of the time he was a witness at a murder inquest.  And there is no evidence that he then disclosed that the name Cross was one he used informally.'

Well, Gary Barnett subsequently found a second likely example of Charles Cross using the name 'Cross' when giving evidence as a witness at an inquest so that's no longer true, while the '100 times' is a pile of unsupported and meaningless nonsense and there was no obligation or requirement or reason for Lechmere to have 'disclosed' at any time to 'the authorities' that he was known as 'Cross' (or vice versa) or used that name informally.   

As far as I can tell, all Gary Barnett is doing is telling us what he THINKS the position should have been in 1888 based on nothing more than his own imagination and his modern day prejudices.  When he finds some good reason to explain to us why Charles Cross needed to state both his names to the coroner then perhaps he can come back to one of the forums and tell us all what it is. 

Lord Orsam
20 August 2019