For over a year, companies in Alva, then in Stirlingshire, noticed yarn was going missing from their premises.

Susan Mullen or Sloey was a widow. Her husband Michael Sloey had been unable to work for the past few years, so they had decided to start a hawking trade to make some money. Sloey had a small shop in Alva which took receipt of weavers’ waste, and rags from local factories which were bought by his wife and son. He died in March 1864.

In the late summer of 1864 Mr Rayner of Messers Robert Young & Co noticed yarn was missing and instigated a search. This led to the house of Isabella Branber, a winder or filler employed by John Hunter and Co in Alva on August 27. The girl said her mother had given the yarn to Mrs Sloey. There, they found the yarn belonging to Hunter and Co. This in turn led to suspicion other businesses were also involved.

Superintendent Campbell of Stirling County Police carried out a search warrant at Mrs Sloey’s house in Alva and discovered three large bags of good yarn in her attic, which was ready for the winders. She also had a place in Stirling and after some delay in getting the key, it was searched. More yarn was found in a bag. In all it was estimated the wool was worth around £40. The amounts stolen were small but frequent, and mounted up.

The case was heard at Stirling Sheriff Court before Sheriff Robertson on Monday 5th September 1864. When the yarn was brought in as evidence, two men had to carry it.

Solicitor Mr Crawford defended Mrs Sloey while the prosecution case was led by the Procurator Fiscal Mr Campbell. As the case proceeded, it was discovered the yarn had not only been stolen form these companies, but all the woollen mills in the village.

Isabella Branber who had already pleaded guilty to stealing some wool, told the court she never met Susie and that it was her mother who dealt with the hawker. Her mother Isabella Branber or Morrison told the court she remembered her daughter bringing home a quantity of yarn one Saturday evening, then Susie came to buy it, paying 2s 6d for parcel no.7. She said Susie knew it was ‘not honestly come by’ but bought it anyway.

The sheriff found Mrs Sloey guilty on all seven charges she faced and sentenced her to 60 days imprisonment with 50 days hard labour.