|.: Bingo, Post Office Hero
The Isle of Man introduced an anti-spitting law in 1941 as the Second World War reached its height. The measure was brought in after comments from High Bailiff William ‘Draw And Quarter” Cain who noted some off-duty soldiers from England who were stationed in Onchan were spitting at the Manx flag.
They were arrested and questioned, and explained they thought the Manx triskele was in fact a Nazi swastika. Police were forced to release them without charge, but Cain was so angry he had them rearrested and charged with unruly behaviour, for which each of the six men received 12 lashes.
After the incident, Tynwald decided to enact a law which outlawed spitting in any shape or form for any purpose.
This seemed to work well, with street thugs and rowdies being rounded up and flogged over the space of about six months. But there was an unfortunate snag which came back to haunt Cain.
In August 1941, he wrote an angry letter to a local newspaper accusing it of treason after it printed a controversial reader’s letter entitled “Should we really fight on the French side?”
The editor of the Mona’s Gazette was Dru Quiggin – a hard-nosed journalist who’d hacked his way into the top job by dint of his stare, which could boil a kettle at a hundred yards.
He was less than amused by Cain’s missive and accused him of spitting. When police investigated, Quiggin pointed out that Cain’s letter had been sealed with saliva and a stamp had been attached to it the same way. This had then been sent to the newspaper – which technically constituted spitting.
Cain admitted his crime and was fined 18 shillings, escaping the birch only because he’d pleaded guilty as early as possible. He was allowed to keep his job, and the episode was the first in what was to become a long-running feud between the paper and the judge.
But the consequences of the case were far-reaching. The Isle of Man Post Office realised every letter it carried could make it liable for an allegation of spitting, and it had to move fast to avoid utter ruin.
It told all customers it would no longer deliver letters which had been sealed by senders, and employed a dog whose sole duty was to lick stamps and envelopes for sealing. Bingo, as he was called, was based at Post Office headquarters in Douglas and spent eight years sat at the side of the counter licking stamps for customers. As the law didn’t apply to animal saliva, no charges could be brought against anybody.
Eventually, Tynwald realised its mistake and – sensing a new era was upon the world – changed the law with effect from January 1, 1950.
Bingo (pictured) retired and spent two happy years living on a farm in St John’s before passing away in 1952.
Labels: bingo, mona's gazette, post office, swastika, triskele, tynwald, William Cain, WWII
Written at 12:51 by
comments | links to this post