1906; The Portland boy buccaneers.

Slightly out of the Victorian era I know, but only just.

This story caught my eye as it summed up the excitement and invincibility of childhood, feelings of the exciting escapades of the Famous Five, even though the lads involved were more teenagers, and the story had it’s slightly dark side.

In the April of 1906 three lads were brought before the Dorset Quarter Sessions, they had previously appeared in the Weymouth courts, but because of the seriousness of their misdemeanours it was decided to try them at a higher level.

The three lads, all 14 at the time of their trial lived on Portland.


Timothy Long lived with his Mum and Dad, John and Arabella in Victoria Terrace.

James Matthews was the son of Alfred and Emily, they lived at no 85 High Street.

The third lad was John Fisher, who lived at his home no 80 Grove Fields with parents William and Mary.


The three lads had a lot in common. All their families had moved to Portland because their Dads were employed on Government works at the time. They had obviously struck up a very strong friendship…and a certain amount of plotting and scheming, a fair amount of it more than somewhat illegal,  came with this close knit gang.

They had set them selves up in a secret den, well hidden within a cave.

Now that’s not unusual for kids, at that age they like their own privacy and space, well away from prying parents eyes.

They had even filled it with supplies…haven’t we all done that as kids? living in a fantasy world at times, make believe. Problem was, their secret supplies were slightly more sinister, and the way they were obtained somewhat suspect.

When the cave was discovered and then searched, it contained a good stock of tinned provisions…most of it stolen from local traders!

What was more shocking was they also had loaded weapons hidden away, and other pieces of military hardware! These the lads had obtained them by breaking into the Admiralty stores and helping themselves.

It was described in court that the cave was well stocked, and had been set up as if for a long siege!

Even after being dragged before the courts the three lads were still treating it as if it was part of the role playing, a bit of fun.

The judge however soon wiped the smile from their faces…Long and Matthews were sent to prison for a fortnight, the third lad, Fisher was bound over.


Their short careers as buccaneers was over!

Timothy Long went on to work as a  stone quarry labourer down in Brixham Devon.

James Matthews  went on to be stone worker in the Portland quarries.

John Fisher opted for a career in the Navy as naval stoker.

A far cry from their earlier Troublesome Trio escapades.


Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.


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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael John Fisher says:

    I read your bit on the boys buccaneers. I never knew this story,but John Fisher was my Grandad


  2. cannasue says:

    I love it when these stories connect with family members.
    I bet all our ancestors had some hair-raising tales that they’d rather not relay to those who came after, I’m sure my own Dad had a few to tell…but he never did!
    This story spoke to me of the excitement of childhood, days when kids used their own imagination rather than that of some computer programmer.


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