“Wait till I come out”
This courtroom threat was made by scuttler Alexander Pearson just days after William Willan had been sentenced to death. It seemed nothing could stop the scuttlers.
The judge recommended the police flood areas known to be gang dominated. The police knew this ineffective. The Home Secretary demanded an end to scuttling. He suggested making membership of a gang a sackable offence. The mayors of Manchester and Salford suggested, predictably, for laws to allow flogging for scuttling. Neither of these was done. But policing and sentencing did increase. And parallel to this, there was the rise of the working lads’ club movement.
The club motto of The Salford Lads Club
Founded by the middle class, social reformers, and the liberal elite, the Lads clubs offered working class teenagers alternative activities such as football. They targeted school leavers, 12 and 13 year olds, in the worst areas. Ancoats had four Lads’ Clubs set up in just five years. The clubs began to divert recruits away from the gangs. On the opening night of the Salford Lads’ Club, 700 boys tried to join. One of these schemes resulted in the formation of St Mark’s Football Club. It is now known as Manchester City FC. Sports rivalry had replaced the fighting rivalry.
By the time William Willan was released in 1900, scuttling was already starting to fade. Scuttlers were no longer kings of the street. Their 30 year reign was over.
And many scuttlers would go on to become fine soldiers. It was in fact the Boer War that revealed only 10% of recruits were completely fit. It emphasised again the need for The Lads Clubs. The health of urban youth had become a national concern.
And with the demolition of the worst slums, the environment that had helped breed the scuttlers was largely destroyed.
In 1908, The Children Act created juvenile focused courts and regulated the sale of alcohol to minors. It also prevented them from being sent to prison, the fate of many a scuttler…
...Gangs would not terrorise the streets of Manchester to such an extent for many decades. But then a combination of high unemployment and a rapid rise in hard drugs made small gangs into big firms. And for them, killing to protect drug territory was just part of the job description.
“Manchester is not the Wild West, but many of you treated the streets as if it were’’
Mr Justice Brian Langstaff sentencing the Gooch gang in 1989.