The Drunken Postman

We tend to take the delivery of letters to our doors by our postman for granted. After all, postmen have been going about their business since the early Victorian period, and they were as integral part of the fabric of Victorian society as the policeman.

However, postmen, like policemen, could sometimes go off the rails, and then, who know what might happen.

Once such case of a postman letting the side down occurred in Spitalfields in 1875, and was duly reported in The East London Observer of Saturday 7th August, 1875:-


Frank Foley, about 25 years of age, a letter carrier attached to the Eastern District Post office, Bethnal Green-road, was charged at Worship-street Police-court, on Wednesday, with being drunk on his round. He was also further Charged with wilful damage in the police-cell at the Church-street Station.

A Constable of the H division said that at about half-past five on the previous evening, his attention was called to the prisoner in Spitalfields. He found him in a postman’s uniform, with a bag full of letters in his possession, and he was intoxicated.

The officer took him to the station.

The bag contained 134 letters.


Mr. John M’Carthy, inspector of the Eastern District Post-office, said that the prisoner was attached to that office as an auxiliary letter carrier.

He went on duty at five o’clock on the previous evening, and was then, to all appearances, sober. He had to collect letters from the boxes and receiving houses, not for delivery, but to return with them to the office.

He had been five years under witness, and bore a good character.


Police-constable 14 H Reserve said that some short time after the prisoner had been placed in the cell at the Church-street Police Station, he heard a great noise, and then a smashing of glass.

On going to the cell where the prisoner was, he found him standing on the seat smashing the glass of the cell window. He had taken his boot off for the purpose.

When asked why he had done it, he said because he wanted bail sent for.


The Prisoner, in answer to the charge, said that he had been eleven years in the Post Office service. He worked besides at the docks, and after leaving off at four o’clock went on the postman’s duty from five o’clock until ten o’clock.

He denied that he was incapable of taking care of his letters, but admitted that he had taken a quantity of brandy to cure, he said, the diarrhoea from which he was suffering.


Mr. Bushby said that a postman who got drunk on his duty committed a most serious offence, as the letters in his care might contain valuable property, and, besides, he was in trust of, possibly, the happiness of whole families.

The prisoner was liable to a fine of £20. He fined him £10, or two months’ imprisonment, and ordered him to pay fifteen shillings or a further term of seven days for the damage.