Richard Oliver was a twenty-six-year-old teacher who had taught many young aspiring musicians across the Wirral. In the month of March 1884, Richard was approached by the Simpson family who wished him to tutor their daughter. Fanny Simpson was only seven years of age but was a keen little girl whose only ambition was to play the piano. She had previously been taught by a female tutor and had enjoyed learning the Elfin Waltz at which she was quite proficient. It was arranged that Mr Oliver would call at the house, 59 Marion Street twice a week and teach the girl to play.
By June of that year Mr and Mrs Simpson had begun to get suspicious. It was not uncommon to hear Fanny getting upset during the lessons but until now the parents had not thought anything improper was afoot. The child had been making good progress with her learning but she now made some very serious allegations against her teacher. The comments sent Mrs Simpson into frenzy. She was ready to kill Mr Oliver for his alleged indecency against her little girl at the first opportunity, but her husband persuaded her different. He was equally enraged but devised a more cunning plan to try and catch the fiend in the act. John Lemon, a plumber and friend of the family was contacted and he made his way around to the house later that afternoon. Mr Oliver was due later that evening.
It was devised that he and Mr Simpson would hide away and communicate by means of a length of cotton. If anything unsavoury was seen to occur, then they would secretly signal to each other and make a joint ambush. The father hid himself away under the sofa and clutched an almost invisible piece of cotton tightly between his forefinger and thumb. This trail led to a small room under the stairs, which inside Mr Lemon stood silently.
It wasn’t long before Mr Oliver arrived at the house, prompt and on time as usual. Mrs Simpson headed to the door and amazingly managed to hold her tongue. “Good evening Mr Oliver,” she said with a false smile, “come through.”
She led the teacher into the back room and offered him to take a seat.
“Thank you Mrs Simpson, you are most kind.”
“Fanny will be down in any moment.”
Mr Oliver nodded politely, hands clasped over his knee, legs crossed, and waited. He was completely oblivious to Mr Simpson hiding, and watching, only a matter of yards away.
The gentle patter of Fanny’s innocent feet resounded through the hallway. It was time for another dreaded lesson. Only a few minutes had passed before the girl’s father saw something peculiar, but nevertheless, bided his time giving only a gentle tug on the string as a warning. A quarter of an hour later the teacher’s conduct became so bad, so untoward, that Mr Simpson just had to give the signal. John Lemon came bursting into the room. Seconds later the Simpson scrambled from the sofa, venting his outrage.
“What are you doing with my child in that position?” demanded the dad.
Mr Oliver became flustered and made his excuses to leave. It was Mrs Simpson who blocked his path and she commenced to hit him swinging a bag of onions down upon the man’s head. He was going nowhere.
Detective Moore was called to the house and he arrested the musician on a charge of indecent assault. He indignantly denied any wrongdoing and gave his reasons for his apparent impropriety. Mr Oliver explained that the girl was of a temperamental nature which occasionally required him to hold her round the waist in order to achieve concentration.
In the courtroom George Morton, father to another of Richard’s scholars spoke in his defence. His daughter had been under the guidance of Mr Oliver for fifteen months and considered him to be a thoroughly sober and religious man who he could trust with any of his children.
“Are you prepared to trust him after hearing this case?” inquired Recorder Clement Higgins.
Mr McGaw, a joiner and builder gave a similar complimentary testimony, stating that the accused had taught his daughter for eighteen months and that he believed his behaviour to be impeccable.
After considerable deliberation the jury found the once reputable teacher guilty, but recommended him to mercy. Richard Oliver was then sent to prison for four months with hard labour. It is hoped Mr Oliver reviewed his controversial teaching methods on his eventual release.