Newspapers published in Wales in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have revealed a number of Heenan family members who had an encounter with the law. Some were the culprits. Others were the victims.
One family in particular seemed to be regular attendees at the petty sessions in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.
David Heenan was a seaman who married Phoebe Owens at Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire in 1890. They continued to live in Haverfordwest, making their home at Quay Street and raising a family of five sons and two daughters. David's brother James, also a seaman,
The eldest son Frederick got into trouble with the law as a young boy. By the time Frederick (also known as Freddy) was 13 he was up before the Haverfordwest police court on a charge of stealing apples. He and two other boys were unlucky enough to be spotted by a police constable as they climbed over the hedge from a garden. When ordered to empty their pockets they produced 47 apples. Each of the boys was fined and, according to the report in the Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser of 15th August 1902, “were warned as to the serious nature of the offence and of the consequences that would follow a repetition.”
Perhaps he heeded the warning because Frederick seemed to have kept out of trouble until 1916 when he was charged for being absent without leave from the army. He’d volunteered in November 1915 and had even been mentioned in the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph. But on a Saturday night in April 1916 he and another man from Haverfordwest absconded from the 23rd Pioneer battalion of the Welsh Regiment. They were found asleep in bed at their family homes in Haverfordwest and taken back to the battalion under military escort.
A few years later he was again in court, when his behaviour had apparently degenerated to the point his mother felt it necessary to take out a summons against him. She told the Haverfordwest police court in October 1919 that Fred “had been absolutely out of control”, had smashed crockery and said he would murder her. She told the justices however that she was prepared to give him another chance purely because she was his mother. The case was adjourned so whether they were reconciled is unknown but he was back before the court in December that year for stealing stout from a pub on Christmas Eve when he and a friend were drunk.
Joseph Stanley Ernest Heenan
Frederick’s younger brother Joseph Heenan was equally no stranger to the court room in Haverfordwest.
In November 1906 when he was 14 years old he and a friend were charged with damaging a garden after they were spotted breaking trees and crushing roses. The magistrates warned them they would be birched if they re-offended.
They never went through with the threat however, even when the boy appeared before them again the following year, this time charged with stealing lead from the roof of an old house in Quay Street. In the middle of the hearing, Joseph suffered an epileptic fit, according to the Pembroke County Guardian. His step-father came to his defence declaring that the boys were not responsible for the theft though he couldn’t prove it since he was away working at the time. The magistrates didn’t believe him and adjourned the case. Before they had the boys in front of them again Fred was taken ill while at a pleasure fair and fell out of a swing, wrenching his ankle. He was due to re-appear before the justices in August but when he failed to appear, the court learned that the local Education Authority had been granted an order to remove him to an institution for the blind in Swansea.
Percival (Percy) Heenan
In the summer of 1914, it was the turn of David Heenan’s youngest son Percival (Percy) Heenan to appear before the magistrates. He and two other schoolboys were accused by Pembrokeshire Tennis Club of stealing 24 tennis balls. Initially denying the theft, the boys later admitted they had gone to the courts on two separate occasions , using keys to get into the pavilion. They sold some to a school teacher and hid the rest. They were put on probation for 12 months.
Before the 12 months was up however, Percy was charged with another offence, this time the theft of a looking-glass from a steam barge. Giving evidence, the boy’s probation officer said he had been behaving well and there had been good reports from people for whom Percy had been running errands.
The magistrates ruled however that they were going to try and remove him from his present surroundings and “give him a chance to become an honest man”. Percy was sent to the Kingswood Reformatory in Bristol for three years.
Phoebe Heenan and David Heenan
It wasn’t just the Heenan children that felt the strong arm of the law.
Both David Heenan and his brother James served short prison sentences as young men. David Heenan was a bachelor when he was convicted of assault at Pembroke in 1888 and was sent to prison for a month of hard labour. His brother James, also a seaman, had been convicted of drunken behaviour and sentenced to 14 days of hard labour at Pembroke in 1886.
Phoebe Heenan had her own brush with justice in 1904 when she was accused of receiving stolen goods. Her step-son William Arran and two men were accused of breaking into a premises and stealing beer which was later found hidden in the ashpit at Phoebe Heenan’s home. When the case went to court however the presiding magistrate decided the evidence against her was weak and the charge was dropped.
She did however end up with a fine the following year for neglecting to send her children to school regularly.
The National Library of Wales, Welsh Newspapers on Line
The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser
Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph
The Pembroke County Guardian and Cardigan Reporter
Download the family tree for David Heenan and Phoebe Heenan (PDF format) HEENAN 1002WLS
Find individual records by using this Search for Families link