From the Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday 7
ST. MARGARET'S HOTEL SCENE
PROPRIETOR'S ASSAULT ON SECRETARY.
At the Wingham Petty Sessions at Dover on Thursday.
Housain Suleman, proprietor of the St. Margaret's Bay Hotel, St.
Margaret's was summoned by Norman Henry Birsall, for assaulting and
beating him on September 10th.
Mr. B. H. Waddy appeared for defendant who pleaded not guilty.
Sir Shirley Worthington-Evans prosecuted, said that plaintiff was a
man against whom nothing could possibly be said. All he could tell the
Bench about the defendant was that he was a Parsee and Proprietor of the
Mr. Waddy: I shall ask you to prove that. It is very insulting to a
gentleman who happens to be a Mohammedan.
Sir Shirley Worthington-Evans: I am sorry if that is wrong. I said it
Mr. Waddy: I thought so.
Sir Shirley said he apologised if he was wrong. The facts were that
defendant had employed plaintiff as a secretary for a period of two
months, but discharged him before the expiry of that period. When
plaintiff asked him about it defendant promised to give him a week's
money in lieu of notice, but when he got his cheque it was only for his
salary to that date. Mr. Suleman got annoyed when plaintiff spoke to him
about it again, and plaintiff said that he would leave, saying that he
had been accustomed to working with gentlemen. Plaintiff left the hotel,
but, unfortunately, he was persuaded by friends to go to the hotel that
evening. Sir Shirley went on to detail the events leading up to the
assault, and added that it was unprovoked, entirely unjustified, violent
and cowardly attack, cowardly because plaintiff had no idea that an
attack was coming. Birsall was a powerful man, and had he been looking,
these blows could not have been delivered without him having an
opportunity of striking back.
Norman Henry Birsall said that he was English, and served with the
New Zealand Forces. He had, since the war, spent much of his time in the
Argentine and the Dominions. He was engaged by defendant for two months
as secretary and host. At the end of that period the engagement was
terminable by either party. He started on 18th August, and on 8th
September he received notice terminating his engagement on 12th
September. Witness saw defendant on 9th September, and after a friendly
discussion in which defendant said the winter was coming and he had to
cut down staff, defendant agreed to pay witness' wages in full. On 10th
September he received a cheque for his wages up to that day. Witness
went to defendant's house, adjoining the hotel, and told him he had not
been paid up according to the agreement. Defendant said, "I am not a
benevolent Society." Witness said, "I am used to dealing with
gentlemen." Defendant said, "Do you think I am not a gentleman?" Witness
said, "Yes," and left the hotel with his baggage. That night, witness
had some friends coming to stay at a cottage belonging to defendant.
They persuaded him to go to the hotel in the evening, and they arrived
at about 10.45 p.m. Defendant was drinking in the bar at the time, and
appeared to have drunk a good deal. Witness spoke to some friends, and
they went to the lavatory. Whilst there, Mr. Parkyn, an employee of the
hotel, came along and said, "Mr. Suleman wishes you to leave the hotel."
Witness said, "I don't wish to leave until I see Mr. Suleman." Witness
followed Mr. Parkyn into he passage, and there they met Suleman, who
said, "You'll get out or I will chuck you out." Witness was surprised
and said, "I have friends here. What have I done that I should leave?"
Suleman said, "I don't want you or your friends, you can all get out."
Suleman was very flushed, and had lost his temper. Witness asked why
defendant wanted him to leave, and defendant said, "Because you said I
am not a gentleman. Why do you say that?" Witness said, "because of your
treatment of white women." Then Mr. Parkyn drew away his attention, and
defendant struck him three blows. Witness was knocked out, and when he
came to he was on the floor. He received treatment by a doctor, and was
taken home. He had since received treatment from Dr. Molesworth. He had
to see a specialist about ear trouble as a result of blows, and had been
told that he might get complete hearing back in two months.
In reply to Mr. Waddy, witness said that when at the hotel he was
paid £3, and was on two months' trial.
Did you tell the manageress on the 9th September that you were going
to leave on the following day? - Yes, I told her I would get the stores
before I went.
Did Mr. Suleman say that if you stayed until the following Monday you
would receive an extra week's wages? - Yes.
And you did not stay? - No.
Then you told him he was not a gentleman? - Yes.
Do you think that is proper? - Yes.
Did you say, "The stories I have heard about you are true? - I said,
"I have heard a lot of stories about you, and up until now I have been
inclined not to believe them. I have come here to help you, and have
done so, but this is strange treatment after that."
Did you say, "You are depending on local trade here. They are my
friends, and I will see they don't come"? - I did not.
If Parkyn says you had been drinking and were making a disturbance,
will that be true? - No.
You asked for a brand of tobacco you knew was not stocked, and when
told it was not thee you said, "What a place!"? - No.
Did you say you were not in the hotel that night to cause trouble? -
Did you say to Suleman, "You are a black man!"? - No.
Did you say, "You are not fit to associate with white people!"? - No.
Did you say, "You are a nigger!"? - No.
Did you say, "I don't like the way you treat women"? - No, I said I
don't like your treatment of white women."
Isn't that a filthy thing to say to a man of another race? - Not if
it is true.
Did he ask you what you meant by it, and you said, "You pester them"?
Did you mention, out loud, the name of the woman? - I will not say I
mentioned it out loud, but I did mention a name.
Did you say, "She had to leave the hotel before her stay was finished
because you pestered her? - I did, it happened to be true.
When you came round, did you say, "Let me get at that black swine and
I will kill him"? - I don't remember anything like that.
You realise that to call a Mohammedan a swine in the wickedest thing
a man can do? - Yes.
Major Hornsby, of Plimstock, St. Margaret's Bay, said that he was a
friend of complainant, and a member of the party who went to the bay
Hotel. Birsell was then perfectly sober. Birsell was rather reluctant to
go to the hotel, but witness persuaded him to accompany the party.
Witness did not know what had happened, only that he had left the hotel.
That evening, complainant did nothing that was offensive or provocative
at the hotel. Witness heard a row in the passage, and going there he saw
Birsall on the ground, his face covered in blood.
In reply to Mr. Waddy, witness said that he heard none of the
conversation leading up to the blows.
Lieut-Cmdr. George Stanley Percy Wood, R.N. one of the party with
complainant, also gave evidence that Birsall was sober, and when it was
suggested he should go with them to the hotel, said that he would rather
not. At the hotel Birsall did nothing of which anyone could take
Miss Moira Kate Vera Kelly, St. Margarat's Bay, another member of the
party gave similar evidence.
Dr. T. H. Molesworth, of St. Margaret's said that he was called to
attend plaintiff on the morning of September 11th. He found Mr. Birsall
rather shocked, and he was suffering from bruises to the face and a
painful ear. In witness' opinion plaintiff had received at least four
blows, one on the forehead, one on the nose, one on the left cheek, and
his painful ear might have been the result of another blow. Mr. Birsall
also had a black eye. The blows must have been fairly forceful, and he
thought they were from a fist of a man who wore a ring. His hearing was
damaged, but he anticipated that it would return in time.
Mr. Waddy asked Dr. Molesworth to examine defendant's hands and say
whether he could find any sign that he had ever won a ring.
Dr. Molesworth said that he could see no sign of it.
Further questioned by Mr. Waddy, Dr. Molesworth said that some of the
injuries might have been caused by plaintiff's fall.
Mrs. Hornsby, wife of Major Hornsby, said that there was a party at
her house on the Saturday evening, when someone suggested they should go
to the Bay Hotel. Mr. Birsall was reluctant to go. He was completely
sober, and she saw him do nothing provocative or improper at the hotel.
Cross-examined by Mr. Waddy, witness said that she did not hear Mr.
Birsall say anything about Mr. Suleman's treatment of white women or
mention a lady's name.
Mr. Waddy said that he was well aware that he had no technical
defence to the charge of assault because defendant did not dispute the
fact that he struck Mr. Birsall two blows. But although insults, however
gross, did not afford legal justification for blows, such provocation by
words must be taken into consideration when the magistrates were dealing
with the case. From plaintiff's own evidence defendant was grossly
provoked. He suggested that the magistrates should either bind over both
parties or dismiss the summons under the Probation of Offenders Act. Mr.
Suleman was a man of the highest character and was one of the Justices'
Defendant, who affirmed, said that he was a Mohammedan, and came from
Bombay. He was the managing director of the Bay Hotel and director of
the Elms Vale Estate Co. Ltd. When he engaged Birsall he understood that
he was on trial for two months, but that the employment was terminable
at any time by either party. On the night in question, his barman,
Humphries, made a complaint about him, so he instructed Mr. Parkyn to
tell Birsall to leave immediately. When told he would not go, witness
went along ad said, "If you don't go I will put you out." Birsall
replied, "You are not fit to mix with white people, and I don't like the
way you handle white women, you pester them." Witness asked who he
pestered, and Birsall mentioned a name. He called witness a "black man"
and witness gave him two blows. A few people came to the passage, and
Dr. Bellamy picked Birsall up. Birsall then said, "Let me get at the
black man." Witness added that the word "nigger" was very offensive. His
character had never been assailed before.
Sir Shirley Worthington-Evans: Is it right that a day or two before
this Mr. Birsall had reported the barman to you for failing to carry out
some instructions? - Yes.
Did you see the complainant in the bar earlier? - Yes, about fifteen
Did you speak to him then? - I thought it better to send Mr. Parkyn.
James Parkyn, 146a, Elms Vale Road, Dover, formerly secretary and a
director of the St. Margaret's Bay Hotel, Ltd. said that on the evening
in question he saw Birsall in the bar. He looked rather flushed. Suelman
gave him certain instructions of which he went to Birsall, who was in
the lavatory. When he spoke to Birsall he said, "You are a satellite of
his." he refused to go, so witness went for Suleman. Suleman arrived,
and Birsall said, " Do you wish me to leave?" Suleman replied, "I wish
you to leave immediately." Birsall said, "I told you some truths this
morning and I am going to tell them to you again. You are no gentleman,
and you are not fit to associate with white people." Birsall then said
something about a "nigger," and added, "I strongly object to the way you
treat women." Suleman said, " What do you mean?" Birsall then said that
he pestered then and Suleman asked, "Who?" Birsall then mentioned a
name, and Suleman, said "That's enough," struck two blows, and Birsall
sank to the ground.
In reply to Sir Shirley Worthington-Evans, witness said that he
ceased to be a director of the hotel on 20th September.
Sir Shirley: Then the person who struck your name out of the list
(showing a piece of the hotel's note paper) on the 8th September, had
prophetic powers? - I was still a director and secretary then.
In reply to further questions, witness said that when blows were
struck Birsall was looking at Suleman.
Dr. E. Bellamy, of Barham, gave evidence that on the evening in
question he attended the dance at the hotel with his wife. He heard the
disturbance, and gave assistance to Mr. Birsall, and then took him to
the "Green Man," where he (Birsall) was staying. Birsall had three
grazes or cuts on his face - or above the forehead, one on the nose, and
one on the left cheek.
Mrs. Kate Elizabeth Gilder, manageress at the Bay Hotel, said that
she saw Birsall at the hotel on the morning of September 10th, and then
he said he was leaving the hotel, but said he was going there that
evening with some friends. She told him not to go, and eventually he
said he would not. She saw two blows struck by Suleman, but heard none
of the conversation. When Birsall was being picked up he said, "Let me
get at him, I'll kill him."
Sir Shirley: Would I be right in describing Mr. Suleman as a man with
a quick temper? - Yes, that would be right.
Frequently displayed? - No, I would not say that.
Reginald Thomas Allin Dalton, of Little Bridge Farm, Barham, said
that he was at the hotel when he heard the commotion, and going to the
passage, he saw Birsall on the floor. He heard Birsall tell Suleman that
he was not a white man nor a gentleman and that he did not like his
treatment of white women.
John Patrick Humphries, 209, Lynx Road, Mitcham, formerly barman at
the Bay Hotel, and now at Grosvenor House Hotel, London, said that
Birsall came to the bar and asked for a tin of tobacco. When told that
none was stocked Birsall said, "What kind of bar do you call this?"
Birsall then spoke to the waiter, who was busy at the time, so when Mr.
Suleman came round witness spoke to him about the matter. Witness later
heard a commotion in the passage, and went there. Birsall was just being
picked up, and witness heard him say, "Let me get at the dirty swine."
Sir Shirley: Had you been reported to Mr. Suleman a few days before
the incident? - Not to my knowledge.
Had you been reprimanded by Birsall about the temperature of the
beer? - No.
Robert Murray Williamson, of Couladon, secretary and director of the
Southern Counties Building Society, gave evidence of character, and said
that he had known defendant privately and in business for about two
years, and had always found him a perfect gentleman in his treatment of
After considering the case in private for about fifteen minutes the
Chairman said they found defendant guilty, and realised that he was
provoked considerably, but he was no stranger to this country and the
words purported to have been used against him as on a Mohammedan
gentleman just arriving in this country, so they did not consider the
assault was justified.
Fined £3, and ordered to pay ten guineas costs.