Francis McCleland: A Life taken too Young

Francis Joseph Walker McCleland, born on 19th September 1909, was the eldest son of Harry & Daisy McCleland of Schoenmakerskop. His life was tragically cut short on the 11th August 1930 when he became the first and possibly the last person who will ever be killed during a robbery at Schoenmaker’s Kop.

Main Picture: Francis Joseph Walker McCleland

This event, which was to shock the closely-knit community at Schoenmakerskop, probably even reverberated around the adjacent town of Port Elizabeth.

This incident was so newsworthy that local newspaper, The EP Herald, reported the killing extensively. This is what it published on Monday 11th August 1930:

 

CHARGE OF SHOT RECEIVED FULL IN BREAST 

TRAGIC OUTCOME OF ENCOUNTER WITH BURGLAR 

GUN FIRES WHEN USED AS CLUB 

YOUNG SCHOENMAKER’MAN IN HOSPITAL 

Schoenmaker’s Kop was the scene of a shocking gun incident early yesterday morning as the result of which Francis McCleland, the 21-year old eldest son of the proprietess of The Hut Tearooms, was desperately wounded in an encounter with a coloured or native burglar. 

Death Certificate of Francis McCleland in 1930

Death Certificate of Francis McCleland in 1930

Young McCleland, who was removed to hospital was reported late last night to be in a very critical condition. 

A Herald representative who visited the scene yesterday afternoon learned the details of the tragic affair, which cast a gloom over the community. 

It would appear that in the vicinity of three o’clock yesterday morning, Mrs. McCleland and her daughter were awakened by a suspicious scraping  noises emanating from the front portion of the café, which is under the same roof as the residential part of the building. Becoming alarmed, Mrs. McCleland went into the room of her son and awakened him. Putting on his overcoat, Francis picked  up a double-barrelled shot-gun, which he had used only the afternoon before to kill a wild cat and proceeded stealthily towards the café. 

Death of Francis Mccleland - Supplement to Marist Musings

Death of Francis Mccleland – Supplement to Marist Musings

SHOT IN BREAST 

On entering the right hand portion of the room it appears he was able to make out the figure of a man by the rays of the moon through the windows. The intruder wheeled around to escape and young McCleland ordered him to “Hands up.” The command was ignored and the man made a dash for an open window through he has evidently entered.  

Grabbing the gun by the end of the muzzle, Francis wielded it like a club and struck at the individual  as he was climbing through the window.  He missed his mark and the butt of the weapon  struck the side of the window, the force of the blow causing the cartridge to explode. Young McCleland received the full charge of shot high up on the left breast.

 

Daisy McCleland & Mr Clements, a friend, at The Hut Tea Room c 1930

Daisy McCleland & Mr Clements, a friend, at The Hut Tea Room c 1930

 

The burglar made good his escape, and the unfortunate young man, whose valiant effort to capture the man had ended so disastrously, dropped the shot-gun and staggered back to his bedroom. He collapsed on his bed, bleeding profusely from his terrible wound which had been inflicted, and as his mother rushed to his side, he was only able to murmur, “Tottie burglar.”

Assistance was immediately summoned and as soon as possible, the wounded lad was conveyed to the Provincial Hospital, where all day yesterday he lay in a critical condition, his state being such that the doctors were unable to operate.

A tragic feature of the affair is the fact that Francis only came of age some months ago.

Article in EP Herald on 11 August 1930 regarding shooting of Francis Joseph Walker McCleland-Part#01

Article in EP Herald on 11 August 1930 regarding shooting of Francis Joseph Walker McCleland-Part#01

 

 SEARCH FOR BURGLAR 

The police were very active yesterday on the trail of the burglar, who is believed to be a coloured or a native. The fact that he cut away a pane of glass in order to effect his entry leads to the belief that he is an audacious character. Not only did he cut away one pane, but he made an effort to cut the glass on the front door of the café before going around to the side windows. The police dogs were also utilised in the chase yesterday and the dense bush surrounding Schoenmaker’s was combed all day, but up to last evening, no capture had resulted. 

Inquiry last night revealed that young McCleland’s condition was very critical.  

Article in EP Herald on 11 August 1930 regarding shooting of Francis Joseph Walker McCleland-Part#02

Article in EP Herald on 11 August 1930 regarding shooting of Francis Joseph Walker McCleland-Part#02

The day after this newspaper report, Francis passed away.

Personally, what I would like to know is where the rest of the family was that night. For instance, where was my father, Clifford, who was 19-years old at the time? Was he perhaps staying at his sister’s house for the night instead of cycling home? Furthermore, having lost her husband, Harry, to Black Water Fever a few years previously, how did Daisy accept the loss? She must have been devastated.


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