A Whitechapel Scare At Bishopton

Although there were no actual Whitechapel murders throughout the whole of October, 1888, this was the period when the “Jack the Ripper” scare began to crescendo, and people across the country began to fear that the unknown miscreant, who was wreaking havoc on the streets of the East End of London, might, at any moment, turn up in their town or village.

Reports were coming in from across the nation of people in the most unlikely of places having become the victims of the terror that was sweeping the country in relation to the East End atrocities.

On Tuesday, 9th October, 1888 The Northern British Mail published the following account of a scare that had gripped the residents of the village of Bishopton in Renfrewshire, Scotland:-


“The sobriquets of “Leather Apron” and “Jack Ripper,” which, during the past few weeks, have appeared frequently in the newspapers in connection with the London horrors, have in many provincial towns been adopted by children, as the names of Burke and Hare were to frighten their playmates, and by parents who believe in influencing their children by fear.


While public excitement was at its highest pitch, young women residing on the outskirts of the town, writes our Paisley correspondent, who are employed in its the large factories, would rather stay at home during the morning hours than venture out along the country roads by themselves if they were too late to mingle with the general body which streams from all quarters shortly after five o’clock.

At night the same fear prevailed, and cases are known where some mill-girl in the belief that someone was following them, have taken shelter in a convenient shop to allow of the person whom they thought “might be Leather Apron or Jack the Ripper” getting well on the road before them.


These experiences are confined to Paisley, and are not at all to compare with the excitement which disturbed the usually quiet village of Bishopton on Sunday.

The good folks of the district wended their ways to church along the different lanes and roadways with all the rigid decorum which obtains on the Sabbath in the country, and no discordant sound disturbed the serene calm which prevailed, till the shrieks of women and the shouts of men, in advance upon the highway, proclaimed to those behind that something of an unusual character had transpired.

Excitement spread among the people, and it became more intense as several women were seen rushing towards the nearest house.


Presently, the cause of the alarm was surrounded by the whole of those on the road, who crowded up to know what it was that was wrong.

A man with a pale face, smeared with blood, and hair in a dishevelled condition was seen coming along the pavement, and the notion got abroad that he was “Jack the Ripper.”

The impressionable mind of the rustic population took up the idea, and the poor fellow was regaled by shouts of anything but a complimentary nature.

Large numbers of people rushed into their houses, and it is stated that few reached the church, one gentleman riding on horseback to fetch the nearest constable.


The supposed Jack had in the meantime, however, made himself understood to several of the more intelligent of those present, and, having been taken into a house, got washed and dressed so that his bloodthirsty appearance was quite altered.

He explained to the police constable that he was from Glasgow and that he had been taking a holiday, during which he had been injured.

His explanation was considered satisfactory, and the visitor took his departure after thanking his Bishopton friends, if not their reception, at least for the hospitable treatment they had afforded him.”


The fact that the name Jack the Ripper was now entering the national lexicon, to the point where the perpetrator of the crimes was, seemingly, been elevated to the realm of legend, or even folk-hero, was picked up on and criticised by The Long Eaton Advertiser in the following article that appeared on Saturday, 20th October, 1888:-

“All famous and notorious men have many imitators. Great criminals are no exception, the horror which their deeds create in the public mind being indeed an attractive element to certain persons.

Hence we may expect that, as was the case in the Gateshead murder the other day, the mutilations inflicted by the Whitechapel miscreant will be repeated in homicides which are committed at present, and even that several victims may be sacrificed for no other purpose than to rival the performance of “Jack the Ripper,” assuming that that is the nom de guerre of the fiend.


Then, again, the phraseology of his literary productions is being caught up, just as that of Ruskin or any other eminent but peculiar writer is copied, so that it would be hard to tell which are genuine and which are sham letters from the author of “the writing on the wall.”

The probability is that we shall be annoyed with a good deal of “Jack the Ripper,” until the novelty and the excitement of his atrocities have been worn out.

Not impossibly, Sir Charles Warren and Mr. Matthews may find that that individual will occasion them more trouble than the management or mismanagement and the failures of the police have brought them into.


Sir Charles is reported to have ordered the inscription on the wall in Goulston Street to be wiped out, as calculated to provoke disturbance against the Jews, and his considerateness is urged against him as a piece of obtuse official folly, of so stupid a nature that he deserves, for it alone, to be removed from his position at the head of the Metropolitan constabulary.

The injudiciousness of the obliteration may be allowed, but we scarcely perceive of what great use the sentence, if preserved, would have been.

It might have been proved to be in the same handwriting as “Jack the Ripper’s” letters, but that would not have put the police any closer on the trail of the fellow himself.


The sooner the Whitechapel abomination, with all its disgusting accessories and surroundings, is dismissed from the contemplation of the public the better, provided only that the officers of justice still keep their eyes open and that some serious efforts are attempted to improve the condition of the wretched denizens of the courts and slums of the East End of London.”