On 12 March 1890 Thomas King, alias “Liverpool Jack” pled Not Guilty to a charge of vagrancy. According to his arresting officer, Constable Johnston, King was a “spieler” who kept undesirable company. In his defence, King claimed that he was only waiting employment on a flaxmill where he had previously worked, but had been obliged to give up on account of temporary cessation of operations.

As the years went by, Liverpool Jack had more run-ins with the law, and even started to become a bit of a local legend for his antics in the Christchurch area. In 1892 The Star reported an incident in which he stole the purse of a sailor from the H.M.S. Goldfinch, whom he had been drinking with at the White Hart Hotel. When the other sailors realized what he had done, Liverpool Jack received “one or two good round knocks” before he was able to flee onto High street with the “enraged mariners” in hot pursuit. Luckily, he ran into the arms of Constable O’Leary who was able to protect him after arresting him. The sailors offered to withdraw the charges against Liverpool Jack if only the police would let them “get at him”, but apparently the Constable did not comply.

Another tale, reported in the Otago Witness in 1904, tells of his time working as a pantryman on a steamer. An unwritten rule on such ships was that the pantryman would leave out sandwiches for the seamen in between regular meals, in exchange for contraband alcohol that the seamen had smuggled on board. According to legend, one day Liverpool Jack stopped this tradition without warning, saying:

“This ‘ere is all the why an’ the wherefore about it. I Ain’t a goin’ for to be bothered ‘andin’ out no more whack to like o’ you gorowlin’, grumblin’ w’arf rats. Ye bean’t satisfied with ‘am, yes must ‘ave tongue, an’ chicken, an’, s’elp me, if I gave ye that I do believe ye would be comin’ next fer salad an’ charlotte rooges. Out wi’ the lot o’ ye! Ye’ll get no more while I’m on thus ‘ere packet.”

In retaliation, the sailors mixed tobacco in with the coffee grounds, which Liverpool Jack unwittingly served the Captain. When the steamer docked, the Captain kicked the curmudgeonly Liverpool Jack off the boat for good.

E.H.G. “Coffee-pot Conspiracy.” Otago Witness, Issue 2623 (22 June 1904), 77. http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&cl=search&d=OW19040622.2.278.1&srpos=2&e=-------10--1----2%22liverpool+jack%22-all

Magistrate’s Court.” Evening Post, Vol. XXXIX, Issue 59 (12 March 1890), 2. http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&cl=search&d=EP18900312.2.48&srpos=4&e=-------10--1----2%22liverpool+jack%22-all

  “Local and General.” Star, Issue 7332, 19 February 1902, 3. http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&cl=search&d=TS18920520.2.28&srpos=6&e=-------10--1----2%22liverpool+jack%22-all

Latest Locals: The Thief and the Sailors.” Star, Issue 7287, 20 May 1892, 3.http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&cl=search&d=TS19020219.2.38&srpos=7&e=-------10--1----2%22liverpool+jack%22-all

Chelsea Nichols, March 2010. Unless otherwise stated, all images and information found on this website are property of the New Zealand Police Museum.