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The Elsdon Murder

A brutal murder took place many years ago in the North of England. The murderer was caught, convicted, and hanged chiefly through the scoutcraft of a shepherd boy.

Woodcraft - The boy, Robert Hindmarsh, had been up on the moor tending his sheep, and was finding his way home over a wild out-of-the way part of the hills, when he passed a tramp sitting on the ground with his legs stretched out in front of him eating some food.

Observation - The boy in passing noticed the tramp's appearance, and especially the peculiar nails in the soles of his boots.

Robert Hindmarsh, the boy, noticed the appearance of the tramp, without attracting much attention from the man.

Robert Hindmarsh, the boy, noticed the appearance of the tramp, without attracting much attention from the man.

Concealment - He did not stop and stare, but just took in these details at a glance as he went by without attracting much attention from the man, who merely regarded him as an ordinary boy.

Deduction - When the boy got near home, some five or six miles away, he came to a crowd round a cottage. The old woman (Margaret Crozier) who inhabited it had been found murdered. All sorts of guesses were made about who had done the deed, and suspicion seemed to centre on a small gang of three or four tramps who were going about the country robbing and threatening death to anyone who made any report of their misdeeds.

The boy heard all these things. Then he noticed some peculiar footprints in the little garden of the cottage. The nail-marks agreed with those he had seen in the boots of the man on the moor, and he naturally deduced that the man might have something to do with the murder.

Chivalry - The fact that it was a helpless old woman who had been murdered made the boy's chivalrous feeling rise against the murderer, whoever he might be.

Pluck and Self-discipline - So, although he knew that the friends of the murderer might kill him for giving Information he cast his fears aside. He went at once to the constable and told him of the foot-marks in the garden, and where he could find the man who had made them-if he went immediately.

Health and Strength - The man up on the moor had got so far from the scene of the murder, unseen, except by the boy, that he thought himself safe, and never thought of the boy being able to walk all the way to the scene of the murder and then to come back, as he did, with the police. So he took no precautions.

But the boy was a strong, healthy hill-boy, and did the journey rapidly and well, so that they found the man and captured him without difficulty.

The man was Willie Winter, a gipsy He was tried, found guilty, and hanged at Newcastle. His body was then brought and hung on a gibbet near the scene of the murder, as was the custom in those days.

Two of the gipsies who were his accomplices were caught with some of the stolen property, and were also executed at Newcastle.

Kind-heartedness - But when the boy heard of the fate that had befallen Winter, he was overcome with misery at having caused the death of a fellow creature.

Saving Life - However, the magistrate sent for him and complimented him on the great good he had done to his fellow countrymen, probably saving some of their lives, by ridding the world of such a dangerous criminal.

Duty - He said: "You have done your duty, although it caused you personally some danger and much distress. Still, you must not mind that. It was your duty to help the police in getting justice done, and duty must always be carried out regardless of how much it costs you, even if you have to give up your life."

Example - Thus the boy did every part of the duty of a Boy Scout.

He exercised - Woodcraft; Observation, without being noticed; Deduction; Chivalry; Sense of Duty; Endurance; Kind-heartedness.

He little thought that the act which he did entirely of his own accord would years afterwards be held up as an example to you other boys in teaching you to do your duty.

In the same way, you should remember that your acts may be watched by others after you, and taken as an example, too.

So try to do your duty the right way on all occasions.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

Date of Creation


Learn A Continuation:

to the next page: Tenderfoot Test

Back in The Past:

to the previous page: Love of Country

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