Glebe Street is one of Inverness’s key central streets, running along the banks of the River Ness.
In recent times it’s fondly remembered for the late lamented Glebe Street public pool, where generations of Invernessians learned to swim.
Dramas have subsequently ebbed and flowed over the future of the site, now occupied by a new hotel.
But more than a century ago it was the scene of a much more sinister drama.
On May 11 1911 at 8 Glebe Street, Russian immigrant and pedlar Isaac Lazarus Silver cut his wife Chano’s throat with a razor, and then tried to slit his own.
Silver had married Chano in Russia in 1902.
About nine months later, Silver came to this country and went to Orkney, followed about a year later by his wife, who went to Glasgow for three months before Silver joined her.
The pair spent time in London before moving to Inverness in around 1907.
Scottish girls caught his eye
But it seemed that Scottish girls had caught Silver’s eye and he longed to be rid of his wife.
The Silvers’ neighbour at 1 Glebe Terrace, 45-year-old Maggie Gray, testified before Lord Mackenzie in Aberdeen High Court: “Mrs Silver told me that he was tired of her. He told her that he got plenty of Scotch ones in the country, and wanted a Scotch girl.”
Several neighbours testified to 37-year-old Chano Silver’s difficult life with her husband.
She complained that she did not get money to support herself or her children while Silver was away for a few months.
When he got back she complained, and was met with violence.
“She said he knocked her down, that he knelt with his two legs on her and thumped at her ribs,” said her downstairs neighbour Isabella Forsyth.
Two days before the killing they had heard violence in the Silvers’ kitchen and had gone to help but been turned away by Silver, saying he was having to deal with a mad woman.
Defence tactics in Inverness murder trial
The defence tried to blacken Chano Silver’s name by suggesting that she was selfish, hoarding money and starving her children, and that Silver described her as a mad woman.
The neighbours robustly refuted this, saying she was not particularly excitable or quarrelsome.
They said Silver had no cause for complaint against her as a good mother and wife, keeping a clean house.
Maggie Gray said Chano seemed kind and attentive to her children and wanted to get away from her husband and go back to Glasgow where she could live more cheaply, among friends.
On the evening of the murder, there was noise and a loud thud in the Silvers’ flat.
Maggie Gray and Isabella Forsyth rushed up to find Chano crawling on her knees out of the door.
Blood streaming from throat
“She had one hand on the wall and she made a clutch at my skirt with her other hand, and blood was streaming from her throat,” said Maggie.
Maggie rushed downstairs and called for someone to go for the police, before rounding up the three Silver children who were playing on the street.
Meanwhile Chano managed to make it down to the street where she “waved her hand at people and pointed to her throat”.
She managed to say “Mary”, her eldest daughter’s name when the children arrived and pointed up to the room where Silver remained, having attempted to cut his own throat.
One Alexander Sutherland from Lower Kessock Street was passing at the time and carried Chano back into the close, asking “Who did this?”
Chano replied: “Upstairs.”
Sutherland and another witness John Macaskill heard a child crying upstairs, and ran up to the kitchen.
Macaskill took the crying child to the people outside, and rushed back to join Sutherland.
They opened the bedroom door to find Silver lying on his back on the floor with his throat cut, struggling and tossing from side to side.
Sutherland asked him why he did it.
“He said, ‘I did it, I did it. As well do it myself as others. You are only cooking me up for the gallows.’
“He seemed to understand that what he had done was wrong and he would have to answer for it.”
Police applied first aid to Silver’s throat as he protested that he wasn’t being allowed to die.
In a moment of remorse, he blurted: “My poor children, what will come over them?”
One witness said after he had been treated in the Infirmary, Silver told him that if the public knew what he had suffered in the last eight or nine years, they would not blame him.
The Silvers were Jewish and flashes of anti-Semitism appear in the newspaper reporting of the time.
The Northern Chronicle’s court reporter described Silver when he appeared in court in language completely unacceptable today.
“Silver, who had grown a short beard during the period of his incarceration displayed none of the characteristics of the Hebrew except the shifting eyes.”
Much was made in court of Chano’s refusal to eat British white bread, sending instead away to Glasgow for special Jewish bread.
A JEW’S EVIDENCE, blasted the headline when Silver’s brother-in-law Herman Cooper of 33 Friars Street took the stand, “with his hat on his head in orthodox Jewish fashion”.
According to the United States Holocaust Museum, before World War 1 radical, racist anti-Semitism was confined to the fringe of right-wing politics in Europe and the US, but “enduring stereotypes of Jews and Jewish ‘behaviour’ continued to exist among non-Jews.”
In this case it appears to have confined itself to the newspaper reports.
The trial drew to a close after hearing detailed evidence from dozens of witnesses.
Lord Mackenzie showed Silver leniency, when he could have sent him to the gallows.
He upheld the defence’s argument that Silver suffered from mental trouble and his mind had become unhinged.
But he dismissed their case that no one had actually witnessed Silver commit the murder.
Lazarus Silver was found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to 15 years behind bars.
Chano’s murder shocked the neighbourhood and rocked the small Jewish community in Inverness.
Her funeral service was conducted by Rev Samuel Markin, and she lies in the Jewish burial ground of Tomnahurich cemetery.
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