The Cat’s Paw & Hilda Annie Mollekin

John & Hilda Mollekin

John & Hilda Mollekin

Hilda Annie Mollekin, the daughter of John Mollekin and Jennie Slingsby, is my great aunt and sister of my grandfather, John Gilbert Mollekin. She was a Nurse but later specialised in Chiropody which she practised from her home. Hilda was born in Hull in 1894 and with her family moved to South Yorkshire where they were residing when the 1911 Census was conducted. However, she returned to Hull, to live and work. Why she chose to return to Hull when the rest of her family were living in South Yorkshire, I am unsure, but I do know that some of her extended family were residing in Hull at the time.

My father used to visit his aunt, Hilda, at her home in 15 Holderness Road (Hull), when he was a child and his father maintained links, occasionally holidaying with her. My father remembered that Hilda, who never married, had a lodger, who would lay in a bed in the front room, looking out of the window all day. My father recalled that this ‘lodger’ who was called Mr Altman was disabled and couldn’t walk. Mr Altman was German and would tell my father all kinds of stories which he enjoyably listened to. One was of how he was living in England but was forced to return to Germany to fight in the First World War. A couple of people have contacted me in recent years stating that they remembered Mr Altman looking out the window every day and that he was a well known man in Hull.



Hilda’s aunt was called Henrietta Elise Mölleken who was born in 1857 in Prussia. Henrietta’s family had settled in Hull and she married a butcher called Charles Harry Köhler in 1884. Henrietta, Charles and their family had moved to Birkenhead by the time the 1901 Census was conducted where Charles had set up a butchery business. By 1911, the family were living in Belfast where Charles was continuing with his business. Charles and one of his daughters died in Belfast and the rest of the family seemed to return to Birkenhead. The newspaper article states below that Hilda had an Irish friend. I know that my grandfather, John Mollekin, used to often visit Ireland with my grandmother and my aunt, Beryl and when he became a widower, continued with these visits. John was a friend of the Irish Prime Minister, Éamon de Valera, with whom he enjoyed playing golf. Which friend/s or even family that were living there after 1911 or even now, I have no clue.

Hilda died at 15 Holderness Road in 1974.

Below are a couple of newspaper articles that pertain to Hilda and they made the front page in Hull. Hilda was a very a ‘prim and proper’ person and I can only assume that she was very naive in her actions.


Hull Court Sequel to Seizure of Irish Sweepstake Receipts


Two Men and Woman Fined for Sales of Tickets

Hilda (middle)

Hilda (middle)

A SEQUEL to a police raid on a Liverpool garage was heard at Hull Police Court to-day when three persons – a certified midwife, a Corporation employee, and an insurance agent – appeared before the Stipendiary Magistrate (Mr J. R. Macdonald) and were fined for selling Irish Hospitals Sweepstake tickets.

During the hearing of one case Mr MacDonald declared: “It is up to your friends who put you up to this thing to pay your fine. You have been the catspaw and the monkey ought to pay.”

(Note. – The Stipendiary was alluding to the origin of the word catspaw, which comes from the fable of the monkey using the cat’s paw to take chestnuts out of the fire.)


First to appear was the certified midwife, Hilda Mollekin, of Queensgate street, and she pleaded guilty.

Mr A. G. Harrison, prosecuting, said when the Liverpool police carried out a raid on a garage some of the receipts found were addressed to “various people in Hull.”

Mollekin, said Mr Harrison, was one of these people. Thirty receipts were found in the envelope addressed to her.

When seen by Detective-Constable Robinson, continued Mr Harrison, Mollekin said she received three books of tickets for the Derby from a friend in Ireland without asking for them, and went on to explain how they had been disposed of.

The detective said Mollekin had a previous good character.


Helena E. Köhler, Dorothy Mollekin, John Mollekin & Hilda Mollekin in Jersey - October 1957

Helena E. Köhler, Dorothy Mollekin, John Mollekin & Hilda Mollekin in Jersey – October 1957

Mollekin to-day told the court: “I just received the tickets from Ireland – I did not apply for them. I am very sorry it has happened – I know what will happen to the next lot of tickets that comes along.”

Mr Macdonald asked Mr Harrison how much Mollekin had “made” out of the sales, and was told “about £3.”

Mr Macdonald commented that for “poetic justice” the fines imposed on people for such offences should go to the support of our own hospitals.

Mollekin denied that she had made anything out of the sale. She explained that one book was “a family syndicate,” so she could make nothing out of that; and that half of a book went into the fire.


”I actually sold three tickets,” she said. “There were 30 tickets. Six went into the fire. I kept the other book.”

Mr Macdonald said he felt that perhaps Mollekin had made nothing out of the sale, and imposed a fine of £2, and ordered her to pay the costs, which included 1½gns. solicitor’s fee.

He then made the remarks with regard to the catspaw and monkey.

Hilda's Business Card

Hilda’s Business Card


Three summonses relating to the sale of Irish Hospital Sweepstake tickets were dealt with by the Hull Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr. J. R. MacDonald, to-day.

Opening the case against Hilda Mollekin, certified midwife, of Queensgate Street, Mr. A. G. Garrison (Town Clerk’s Department) said in May the Liverpool police raided a garage and found sweepstake receipts, several being in envelopes and addressed to Hull. Thirty receipts were addressed to Mollekin, who, when interviewed by Detective Robinson, said she received three books on the Derby from a friend in Ireland without having asked for them.

Asked how much profit Mollekin had made, Mr. Harrison replied that it would be about £3.

The magistrate said that poetic justice would be done if the fine could go to a Hull hospital.

Mollekin said she did not make anything out of the books. She sold only three tickets.

15 Holderness Road (demolished)

15 Holderness Road (demolished)

She was fined £2 and costs.

William Thurlow, Corporation labourer, of Regent Street, summoned in respect of the 24 receipts said he kept most of the tickets himself and sold the balance to friends. He was fined 20s. and costs.

George Cyril Canty, insurance agent, of Linton Avenue, was summoned in respect of 48 tickets.

Mr. T. L. Widdy, defending said Canty got 20 books altogether, but only sold 48 tickets. There was no complete book sold. He made nothing out of it. He was fined £2 and costs.

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