On the 20th October 1879, George Boland, a young lad, who according to accounts appeared to be 12 years old appeared before the Wrexham Court. He had been held on remand, charged with stealing a Meerschaum cigar holder and four cigars from the shop of Mr T. F. Davies Tobacconist in the town.
It is likely that George Boland had been held on remand because this was not his first time before the courts. A mere fortnight before the current hearing he had stolen caps from the town’s market. On that occasion, the court had found him guilty of theft, and as a sentence, they had decreed that he should be whipped.
George Boland pleaded that he was not guilty of stealing the Meerschaum cigar holder and four cigars. He denied the allegations before the court stating that he had gone into the tobacconists’ shop for some tobacco dust.
The court obviously did not believe his denials, as he was found guilty of the theft. George Boland was sentenced to one month imprisonment with hard labour. However, that was not to be the end of his punishment. The court additionally sentenced him, at the expiration of his prison sentence, to be sent to either a reformatory school or industrial school for five years. The court stated that they wished that at the end of his sentence that he would be, “a good and useful member of society”.
It would appear that George Boland, as a Roman Catholic, was sent to the Birkdale Farm Reformatory School, Birkdale, Lancashire, as he was shown as an inmate at this reformatory school at the time of the 1881 Census. The Birkdale Farm Reformatory School was a Roman Catholic Institution managed by the Liverpool Catholic Reformatory Association.
Birkdale Farm Reformatory School, like many others, had a tendency to send their pupils overseas to start a new life. It is likely that George Boland was one such example.
On the 5th March 1915, George ‘Gabriel’ Boland, was in Canada, signing his Attestation Papers to join the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. George stated that his date of birth was the 29th October 1870, and that he was born in Wrexham, Wales, details that are maybe questionable. The Attestation Papers add the following details: He gives his occupation as Sailor; his marital status as being single; that he is 5’3”; that he has a dark complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, and a goddess of liberty tattooed on his left arm; his religion is Roman Catholic.
Wrexham Court’s wish that Reformatory School would make George Boland, “a good and useful member of society”, appears to have been totally fulfilled!
Source: Written and researched by Wayne Cronin-Wojdat, B.A (Hons.), MSc – Historical Gems.