SUPREME COURT-CIVIL SITTINGS.
(Before His Honor Mr Justice Williams and a jury of four.)
Roberts v. Liddell.—Claim for LSOO damages for breach of promise of marriage. Sir R. Stent (instructed by Mr Hodgkins) appeared for plaintiff; Mr D. Reid for defendant.
Sir R. Stoat said that the plaintiff, Mary Anne Roberts, is a widow, and the defendant a farmer at Akatore. In the year 1881, and at many subsequent times, and particularly in July, 1887, the parties mutually agreed to marry each other, but in August last defen* dant married one Agnes Campbell, and in consequence of his breach of promise to marry plaintiff she claimed LSOO damages. The statement of defence set forth that defendant denied having at any time promised or agreed to marry plaintiff, and as an amended statementof defence he said that the plaintiff and himself did not, within the period of six years Jjpfore August, 1888, mutually agree to marry one another, and he did not within that period promise to marry her. The question for the jury to consider was whether a promise had been made; if there was a promise, it bad been broken by defendant's marriage with someone else. The amended statement of defence was practically an admission that he had made the promise. The facts were that plaintiff, in 1879 or 1880, went into the service of defendant at Akatore, where his father and mother resided with him, and she stayed there about eighteen months. While there he promised to marry her, but said he could not fix the time until his parents left the house, as he did not wish to have a wife in the house while they were there. The plaintiff shortly after left his place, and went to service at Mrs Jones's at Green Island. Defendant frequently urged her to ge back, and she eventually did so. While there defendant seduced her, and she had an illegitimate child, of which he was the father, and which he himself registered. She again left him later on, but throughout all the time he continued to promise to marry her as soon as his parents left. Plaintiff received several letters from defendant, but as she could not read or write a sister of hers used to read them to her and write the replies. Defendant’s letters to her had, unfortunately, been burned by the sister, who went to Melbourne three years ago, but who was present to-day to give evidence as to the contents of the letters. Defendant had always treated plaintiff as on terms of equality with himself, and still continued to promise to marry her, until she discovered last year that he had married a servant living in his house. How he came to marry the latter, defendant would perhaps explain.
The plaintiff was first called, but on being put into tbe witness-box burst into a flood of tears, and had to be pat aside for a time.
Margaret Ritchie, wife of Thomas Ritchie, stated that she and her husband formerly resided at South Dunedin, but three years ago they went to Melbourne. Plaintiff, who is her sister, came to the colony twelve or thirteen years ago, and in 1879 or 1880 went to service at defendant’s. Witness saw defendant on September 9, 1880, he calling at her place on that date. She gave him something to eat and drink, and in the course of conversation asked him how her sister suited. He said she did very well, indeed, and then asked witness how she would like him for a brother-indaw. She replied: “ Very well,” or “ Right enough,” or something like that; whereon he said she need not be surprised to hear of his marrying her sister soon, or before long, as she would make him a very good wife. He added that he did not think his mother would be pleased, but she had pleased her* self, and he was old enough to do the same. Her sister left defendant’s place soon after this, and stayed with witness. letters came from defendant to plaintiff, and as the latter could not read or write, witness used to read them to her and write the replies. Before witness went to Melbourne she burned these letters, together with some of her own. Sir Robert Stout here asked if counsel for defendant produced any letters in accordance with notice served on him.
Mr Reid said he produced one, bat mast decline to pat it in at present; it was dated seven years subsequent to the date that the witness was speaking to. Sir R. Stout said that he would simply warn his friend that if the letter was not put in now it could not be pat in at all. Mr Reid said that to save trouble he would put the letter in. flis friend would see that it was dated October, 1887.
Sir R. Stout, after perusing the letter, said there was nothing in it, and he wondered why defendant had kept it. Witness continued that in the first letter from defendant to plaintiff he asked her to go back to him, as things were not going very straight, and he would fulfil his promise as soon as his mother left. Witness about a fortnight after received a letter herself from defendant asking if she thought plaintiff would go back if be came to town for her ; but plaintiff had by this time gone to service at Mrs Jones’s, at Green Island. While there she brought to witness another letter from defendant still insisting on her going back, and promising to come down on a certain day. Plaintiff asked witness to answer the letter for her, and she did so. In all defendant's letters there was something about the intended marriage and something about his parents objecting to plaintiff’s Cback. Defendant went to Mrs Jones’s , and plaintiff afterwards went back to defendant’s. Witness did not see defendant after that till November 9,1882, and again in 1883; On the latter date he called at her house at South Dunedin after writing to say that he was coming. He told witness that hjs mother h a 4 threatened to leave the house if he married her sister, but said that he did sot care—that he would tuarry plaintiff and no other woman. At that time witness did not know that plaintiff had had a child. Witness never caw defendant after that.
Cross-examined: Witness did not give defendant 10s on the first occasion that he called, or at any time. She once gave her sister some money to pay for cheese that her sister had sent down from defendant’s farm. Witness, in one of the letters that she wrote for plaintiff to defendant, said that she would go back if he came to town and married her first. Plaintiff has a son aged twenty-two, and he was with defendant for some time. Witness destroyed defendant’s letters to plaintiff becanse she understood that they had been married privately. Ee-examined: Witness did not hear for certain till this year that plaintiff and defendant Were not married. May Ann Roberts, plaintiff, stated that her husband died in England about thirteen years ago. While first in service with fie-
fendant they engaged to marry as as he could find it convenient, defendant saying that his father and mother were in his way. After he went to town and saw witness’s sister, he told witness that he had told her sister of his courtship. He used to take witness to vitic the neighbors. She left him the first time because she could not keep him at a respectful distance. He used to write to her at Mrs Jones’s, and called there on one occasion to get her to go back with him. She did so, and was
with him about two years and a-half. She had a child during this time, of which he was the father.
Sir R. Stout put in tho register cf the birth of the child.
Mr Reid said there was no dispute about that.
Witness continued that defendant's mother took charge of tho child. After witness left defendant’s place tho second time she went to service at Dr Smith’s at Balclutba, and was there till November lost. During part of this time defendant was, for a year and eleven months, in Hume’s Lunatic Asylum. She got letters from him, and visited him there once. After he left the asylum he called on her, when she was visiting one Hnghan, and said that as soon as his mother left he would marry her. He called a second time with the little boy, and witness told him she would have nothing to do with him till ho married her. On a third occasion he renewed the engagement, and bo never broke it off, Witness first heard of defendant’s marriage to Agues Campbell in August last. She went to him and took her son away in February—he had not been taken care of, and wis dressed in ragged clothes. He was filthy and almost naked. She had the clothes with her that she found him in.
Sir R. Stout said the jury could see the clothes if they chose. Witness continued that the defendant had a farm of a few hundred acres.
Cross examined : Defendant never pointblank refused to marry her. She never threatened to drown herself if he refused to marry her. She never heard defendant tell Mrs Hughan that she had said anything of the sort. She asked defendant at Hughan’s about carrying out his promise, and Mrs Hughan told her not to worry the man, as he was easily raised. Defendant had spoken about marriage long before the child was born—from the first time that she was at his place. She left their child with defendant because he insisted on keeping it—he said he would not part with it. She took it away after she heard that defendant had married someone else, Witness never told defendant that when the case came into Court she would produce every letter ho ever wrote to her. After the writ was issued she went to defendant’s to got some of the child’s toys, and he struck her and knocked her down, and also threatened to hang her to the back of his dray. On another occasion defendant saw her at bis father’s door, and, without any provocation from her, he struck her two or three times with a stockwhip. When he was passing she held out her boy’s clothes, and called out to him that he ought to take them and use them for patching up his own clothes. She did call him a “ Brigham Young ” once when he was passing. She bad been to a photographer’s that day, and had been given a photograph of Brigham Young and his twelve wives, and she had it in her hand at the time. She never stayed at the Clarendon Hotel with defendant’s brother at any time, nor ever had any improper intimacy with him in Dunedin, or at the Taieri Beach, or anywhere else. Sarah Wright, wife of James Wright, of Green Island, and mother of plaintiff, said that defendant once told her that he had married plaintiff, but wished it kept quiet. Witness was always under the impression that they were married till defendant married Agnes Campbell. Defendant and plaintiff used to go about together in 1887. Cross-examined : Defendant said they were married about the time the child was torn.
Mr Reid, in opening the case for defendant, said that defendant had never promised to marry plaintiff, although she had pestered him about it continually. The promise was alleged to have been made ten years ago, and it was unfair to have to defend a case based on such an a'leged promise. Plaintiff was not a young gill, but was well able to take care of herself. She was of an amorous disposition, and, as would be shown by the evidence, she had no scruples in such matters. James Liddell, defendant, said that plaintiff left his service the first time for no reason that he knew of. There was no mention of marriage at all. She returned on November 10, 1881, without being asked. She wrote .asking to be taken back, and he agreed to it. She stayed till May 24, 1884, and during that time had a child of which witness was the father. Plaintiff told him I core that that she was in family way, and asked *ho witness to marry her, but he refused. Plaintiff then asked “ W1 at will y u do with me, then ? ’ He said she could stay till the child could be weaned, and then she would get her wages up to date and leave the child with him. She left in accordance with this agreement made before the child was born. There was nothing to prevent his marrying her at any time, had no chosen. His present wife lived in the house with his father. Plaintiff called at Hughan’s once when he was there and tried to frighten him into marrying her, but he never consented. She then threatened to drown herself. Witness called Mrs Hughan to witness that he washed his hands of the whole affair. Thatwas in September, 1886, and witness had never since promised to marry plaintiff, It was not true that plaintiff’s child was not taken care of the fact was that it was just spoiled. On that occasion it had not been washed for three days. On the recent occasions when witness saw plaintiff she abased him about every thing, called him a lunatic, said he had been in the asylum twice, and that she would have him in again. Cross-examined: Witness did strike plaintiff with a stockwhip, as she had described ; but not across the face, _ only across the shoulders twice. He did not knock her down at Akatore; he simply put her down. He was married to Agnes Campbell on August 1 or 2 of last year. They had a child. It was born on January 27 last. His wife was seventeen years old when he married her. Sir R. Stout: She was your servant, and you seduced her ? Witness: Yes. Sir R. Stout: Was there any promise to marry in that case ? Witness: No. Sir R. Stout: Did the girl’s brothers force you to marry her ? Witness; No. Sir R. Stout: Nor any of her family 1 Witness: No. Sir R. Stout: Then it was someone else ? Witness : Yes. Sir R. Stout: Yes; very well, we will leave it there. You say that you have never promised to marry plaintiff, that she and her witnesses have perjured themselves. and that you are the only witness of truth ? Witness: Yes. [Left sitting].
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THE COURTS.—TO-DAY., Evening Star, Issue 7953, 8 July 1889
THE COURTS.—TO-DAY. Evening Star, Issue 7953, 8 July 1889
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