Charles Masterton (1852-1916)

Charles Masterton (1852-1916)

Suspected Murderer (deemed a lunatic)

Genealogy sometimes uncovers a few skeletons in cupboards.  Charles Masterton was arrested on 6th May 1886 and charged with fatally assaulting John Barry at Burntisland in Fife. The evidence was later deemed too slender to convict but Masterton was then handed over to the Aberdour parochial authorities as a pauper lunatic. He died in 1916 in Fife and Kinross District Asylum, near Cupar. His wife Margaret died in Easter Aberdour in 1931 at the age of 85.

In his younger days he had been imprisoned for breach of the peace. Was he guilty of the more serious offence or a scapegoat for which the evidence was too thin to convict? If so, he paid a heavy price by being deemed to be a lunatic and incarcerated just as effectively as if he had been convicted. Was he really a "lunatic" or was this the establishment's way of dealing with the unsolved murder?

Genealogy

Charles Masterton was the son of Charles Masterton (labourer) and Elizabeth Barnes, as recorded in Charles' marriage and death certificates. In 1877, Charles married Margaret Reid and in 1881 they were resident in "Ground Floor" Aberdour with a daughter Margaret. They lived below Sophie Masterton a retired cook who was the unmarried daughter of David Masterton and Elizabeth Cooper. No relationship between Sophie and Charles has however yet been established. The 1881 Census has Charles' occupation as Agricultural Labourer and his birthplace as Broxburn, Linlithgow. In the 1861 Census, there is a Charles Masterton, Agricultural Labourer, aged 61 living in Broxburn with Elizabeth "Barron", housekeeper aged 57 and two children: Janet aged 11, and Charles aged 9.

In the 1841 Census, Charles senior is listed in the same property as Janet Barclay , aged 74, pauper, and Margaret Thomson aged 30.  This establishes a connection between Charles senior and the birth recorded in Bathgate in 1799 to parents William Masterton and Janet Barclay who were married in 1794. Fuller details of the extended family of Charles Masterton can be found in the following link.


The Falkirk Herald

LINLITHGOW:- John Cameron and Charles Masterton jun., labourers, Broxburn, charged with malicious mischief and breach of peace by breaking windows and annoying parties at Stewartfield and Greendykes during the night on 9th and 10th inst., pled guilty and were each awarded one months imprisonment.

The Falkirk Herald
17th December 1870


The Scotsman

THE BURNTISLAND FATAL ASSAULT CASE -- Charles Masterton, the Aberdour labourer, apprehended on a charge of fatally assaulting John Barry at Burntisland on the 27th ult., was taken to Cupar in custody of the police yesterday. He was brought before Sheriff-Substitute Henderson, but his Lordship was of opinion that the prisoner's mental condition was such as not to warrant a declaration being taken from him in the meantime. Masterton was committed to prison.

The Scotsman
7th May 1886

THE CASE OF HOMICIDE NEAR BURNTISLAND -- In the case of Masterton, who is alleged to have killed the old man Berry at Kirton of Burntisland on 27th April last, the Cupar criminal authorities have found the evidence too slender to convict. Masterton has consequently been handed over to the Aberdour parochial authorities as a pauper lunatic.

The Scotsman
24th May 1886