Inspector Cornelius Armstrong

Inspector Cornelius Armstrong

Cornelius Armstrong was born in Carlisle in 1864.

Like most Carliseans he was part Border Reiver, part Celtic immigrant. His father John Armstrong was a corporal in the local regiment based at Carlisle Castle. After serving in both the Crimea and India, he returned to Carlisle where he met Mary O'Brien, the daughter of an Irish navvy and his wife, who were drawn to Carlisle by the coming of the railways to the city. John and Mary were married in 1863: Queen Victoria was in the 26th year of her 64-year long reign, while Lord Palmerston was her Prime Minister.

On 22nd June the following year, their son was born and named Cornelius after Mary's father. As a child, Cornelius wanted to follow in his father's footsteps but when John was tragically killed on his final overseas posting, the boy's mother became extremely protective of her son. They moved into the modest dwelling of her parents in the impoverished area of Caldewgate where Cornelius remained into adulthood.

With little schooling behind him, Cornelius set about educating himself in his late teens by reading books and newspapers constantly, and developing his writing by taking temporary clerking jobs between the manual labouring tasks synonymous with his class. Dissuaded from joining the army by his mother, Armstrong instead decided to join the local police force after becoming fascinated by the Jack the Ripper case in London that dominated the national press in 1888.

Progressing to Detective Inspector before the turn of the century, Cornelius took lodgings on Abbey Street near the Cathedral in rooms belonging to Mr and Mrs Wheeler. It's from here and the nearby police station on West Walls that we follow Inspector Armstrong's investigations.


His known cases to date are:

The Italian Murder

King Edward's Ghost

The Bells and Plate Fix

The Kaiser's Assassin

The Young American

The Devil's Porridge

Drawing by Alan Gunston

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