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  • Irish-Welsh Ancestry

Great Grand Aunt, Margaret McCormack - McCormack v Mathew Dublin 1873

Updated: Jun 20, 2022

Over the years I have discovered many references to my ancestors. Below is an absolute gem that relates to a Great grand aunt of mine. My great and great great grandfather's are quoted.

Court of Common Pleas before Chief Justice Monahan and a Common Jury.

Action for breach of promise of marriage.

McCormack v Mathew - In this case the action was brought for alleged case of breach of promise of marriage. Damage was laid at 2,000l. (pounds)

The plaintiff is the daughter of a publican in Dunleer, county Louth, and the defendant a farmer living in the same neighbourhood.

Counsel for the plaintiff - Sergeant Armstrong, Mr J. Murphy, QC, and Mr Kane, instructed by Mr W G Delany, For the defendant- Mr Porter QC, and Mr Monroe, instructed by Mr Michael Verdon.

Mr Kane opened the pleadings, and Sergeant Armstrong stated the plaintiff’s case.

Margaret McCormack, an extremely well looking young lady, was examined by Mr Kane, and stated that she was 20 years of age; she lived with her father in Dunleer; the defendant lived on his farm; which was distant about a quarter or half a mile from Dunleer; he was the landlord of her father’s house; she had been acquainted with him some seven or eight years, and they attended the same chapel; the defendant commenced paying his addresses to her about 4 years ago; about 3 years since he asked her if she would go and get married to him privately - unknown to any of their family or friends; she replied that it was time enough; he again repeated his offer two years ago.

Mr Kane said the witness was becoming agitated , because of the defendant looking at her. Mr Moore- The defendant is not in court at all.

Examination resumed – On the 5th of July the defendant asked witness to go with him and get privately married- that Father Murphy knew him well and would do whatever he wanted; he met her on the stairs of her father’s house on that day and asked her into a room to speak to her; it was in his room that he asked her to get married; she agreed to do so on that occasion , and he then said, “Whether you would like to go to Dublin and bring your niece with you and get married there;” she said she would leave it to himself , and he said he would wish to go to Dublin; her sister, Mrs McMahon, who had come up from Drogheda that day to assist in the shop, it being the fair day at Dunleer, came into the room where they were sitting; the defendant then m in the presence of Mrs McMahon, asked the plaintiff would she marry him, and she said she would; Mrs McMahon then told him that Maggie (the plaintiff) would have a fortune of 100l, and he replied that that was very good with Mag ( a laugh); he came backwards and forwards after that ; she recollected the 26th November, when he again asked her would she go with him; she said she would, and then he said, “Won’t you come to-night?” but she refused;: he then said, “Well I will never ask you again;” he did ask her to name another night to go with her, and she said “manage it yourself;” he then named Thursday, the 28th, two days afterwards; he came on Thursday morning and asked her was she going to do what they were speaking about , and she told him not; he then answered, “Well, perhaps it is better to leave it for another time;” he came again, however, in the evening, about 5 o’clock, and said, “You don’t seem willing to come away with me, but we can never get married unless you do;” he then went away and returned on the 30th of November, at about 9 or 10 o’clock and asked would she then go away with him as she had promised; the plaintiff said she would not, and he replied “you must come”; he thereupon, called her sister, a girl aged about 17 years, out of an adjoining room, and told her to bring her bonnet and shawl. He (then caught her by the hand and pulled her out of the house, saying, “we will go to Brannigan’s;” he changed his mind where they would go, and they went to a house of a man named Tourist; the defendant knocked at the door and told Mr Tourist that he had a partner with him, and walked in; Tourist’s two daughters lit a fire, and got tea and beefsteaks, and sat up with them at the kitchen fire until morning; the defendant went away at six o’clock and said he would be back again at dark; she never saw him since.

Cross examined by Mr Monroe – My Father keeps a small public house in Dunleer, and I used to serve the customers behind the counter; the defendant is a farmer, and I would consider marrying him a good match; he asked me first to go away with him about two years ago; I did not tell my father or mother; he asked me to first go away with him about two years ago; I did not tell my father or mother; he asked me at different times afterwards; I told my mother what took place on the 5th of July; I told her that the defendant had proposed marriage to me; she was agreeable to it; I did not tell my father; the defendant asked me a while after July if I would go to his wedding; he said he was going to marry a Miss McKenna, I said I would go to it; he knew he was promised to myself.

Notwithstanding that, you said you would go to his wedding to another girl? I did not know; I did not want him to think I was vexed.

Did you or did you not believe him when he said he was going to marry Miss McKenna? I did not know whether he was or not.

Did you intend to go to his wedding when you said you would? I did not know whether he was speaking the truth or not, and I could not say if I intended to go; on one occasion, on a Thursday evening, he came to my father’s house having “a drop of drink in him.”

What was the size of the drop (a laugh) ? I could not say; I heard that he was in a Mr Devin’s house on Saturday; I did not know what state he was, or what he was doing; a man named Hanratty, who lived near him, told me they were drinking together, I told Hanratty he was going to marry Miss McKenna, and Hanratty said , “that’s a day you’ll never see.”

Were you to have been bridesmaid at his marriage? No.

You were going as a guest? I simply said I would go.

Did you tell him that a month ago he promised to marry you and no other girl? I did not mind.

What condition was he in when he went to see you on Thursday the 28th of November ? He had a sign of drink on him.

Is that the Dunleer expression for being blind drunk? No.

Did you ever manufacture burnt whiskey in that respectable hostelry, as the Sergeant called it, “The Carman’s Inn.” Do you know what scaltheen is (laughter) ?

Sergeant Armstrong – Oh, that is a white drink (laughter).).

His Lordship – Before the days of the railroad, when barristers were going circuit, in cold weather, “scaltheen” was what they got (laughter).

Sergeant Armstrong – I saw a Chief Baron get a glass of it (laughter).

Cross-examination resumed- I have seen it made; it is made of whiskey and sugar and butter; my father ordered Mathews home that night, as it was nearly beyond the hour of closing.

When you were both so anxious to get married, according to your own statement, why were you not married? Well, I could not be married unless he brought me, and he promised to marry me within four days.

Where were you to spend the four days? He did not tell me.

Mrs McMahon, sister of the plaintiff, corroborated her evidence with reference to the promise to marry.

Rose McCormack, another sister to the plaintiff, swore to her having brought her sister’s shawl and hat, as deposed to by the plaintiff.

Bernard McCormack, plaintiff’s brother, examined by Sergeant Armstrong, said he was married 2 years ago; previous to his being married he met the defendant one day, who asked him where he intended to take his wife- was he going to take her home; witness replied replied that he would not like to take her home on account of his eldest sister, Maggie, and the defendant replied , “Never mind; Maggie wont long be in your way.”

A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse; and, of course, you understood what he meant (laughter) ? Yes, I understood what he meant. Luke Tourist , examined by Mr J Murphy QC, gave evidence of corroborative of the plaintiff’s statements with references to the defendant and her having gone to his house on the Saturday evening, and remaining sitting at the fire, in company with his two daughters, till six o’clock in the morning; witness said to the defendant, “John, what will your mother say when she hears this?” and he replied “She has knowledge of this this good while.”

Miss Tourist, examined by Mr Kane , deposed to having heard the defendant say that he would get Father Murphy to marry them, and that the marriage could be done for 50l; he went away at 6 o’clock in the morning with the intention of seeing Father Murphy, and he said he would be back at dark; he never came back.

Cross – examined by Mr Monroe, - How long was he asleep during the night? He was not asleep at all; he leaned his head on the table for about a quarter of an hour.

John McArdle examined by Sergeant Armstrong, said he knew the defendant, who had about 300 acres of first rate land; on the first of December about 7 o’clock, Mathews came to his house and asked him to go over to his mother, to console her about the marriage; I heard him telling my wife he was going to take Miss McCormack; he told me to speak to his mother, to console her about the matter; when I went to the mother she complained that her son had been out for the greater part of the week; I said , “It will be alright, for he brought a wife home for him;” she answered that he had done very wrong, and added, “ I can’t keep from him what his father left him, but I’ll make him a poor boy.”

I suppose you understand what courting a girl is? I do (laughter) I never saw them going to mass together.

I suppose you saw the plaintiff and Mathews together? I did; I saw him treating her.

Cross-examined by Mr Monroe – You know what courting is? – how is it done (laughter) ? I know the way I did it myself- I don’t know how others may do it (laughter). Your theory is if a man treats a woman he intends to marry her (laughter) ? Not always.

When did you see them last? The last time I saw them she was washing in the kitchen, and he was standing over her (laughter).

And you concluded from that he was going to marry her? Marrying is different to courting (laughter).

This closed the plaintiff’s case.

Mr Monroe addressed the jury for the defendant, and observed it was a great mistake to imagine that the defendant was by any means well off, the fact of the matter being that he had not one head of cattle of his own, and was a tenant from year to year of some poor land in the county of Louth. If his real position were known there would not of been such anxiety on the part of the McCormack’s to get the defendant as a son in law for the daughter. Counsel submitted that the plaintiff’s case had not been sustained by the evidence given. The defendant would be examined, and he and the witness on his behalf would prove that there had been no promise to marry, and anything that upon which such an idea could be founded took place when the defendant was quite incapable, from the effects of drink, of understanding what he was doing.

Mr John Mathews, the defendant, was examined by Mr Monroe- He stated that he had about 117 acres of land in his own name, which he held from year to year at a rent of 120l; he had no stock or cattle; he lived with his mother and never made any proposal of marriage to the plaintiff; He was in court when Mrs McMahon gave her evidence, and it was untrue; in November and December he had been “on the spree” for five or six weeks; he recollected Thursday, the 28th November; on that day he was drinking with a farmer named Devin and another named Hanratty in McKeown’s public house in Dunleer, and he was in the hotel before that; they all slept in one bed that night at Devin’s; next day (Friday) he continued drinking at Devin’s , at Hamilstown, along with Hanratty; they drank over three quarts of whiskey; he was so drunk Saturday that he did not remember being in McCormack’s house at all; when he next came to his senses it was on the Wednesday evening; he did not recollect being in Tourist’s at all.

Cross-examined by Sergeant Armstrong- I have 117 acres of land in my own name, and also a farm of 91 acres; my mother, is over 70 years of age, and I manage and work the farms.

Do you ever say your prayers? I do.

Did you say them to day? I did.

Do you believe you have a due regard for the sanctity of an oath? I do.

And you are a conscientious man? I am.

You are a sober man? I am sometimes (laughter) ; I am often some twelve months without drinking any.

Have you the two lockets you asked this girl to give you? I never got any lockets.

Do you swear you never gave her a pair of gloves in exchange for the lockets? She never gave me a locket

Are you going to marry Miss McKenna? Yes I am.

When did you make the promise? In July.

What fortune has she? £200.

Why did you not marry her before this? Because my sister was unwell at the time we had arranged to be married.

Were you drunk when you engaged yourself to Miss McKenna? No.

You were sober? I was; I am engaged to her now; I saw her last on Sunday last; I believe Carberry- a ploughman of mine- came for me, and I believe I left McKeown’s with him, because he told me he brought me out; I don’t know where I went after being there.

Now, when last were you so drunk as to have lost all reason and memory, and, in fact, were a perfect beast? Some time about the 26th November.

Were you ever in a position of a beast since then? No.

Were you dead drunk in the last week or fortnight? No.

Or the last three weeks? No, I took the pledge on the 1st of January; I was not dead drunk since the Doctor attended me.

By your oath do you know where you were on the 30th November? No.

Or the next Sunday? I do not know.

Do you know were you in McArdle’s on Sunday morning? No.

Will you swear you were not? No.

Will you swear that what McArdle has sworn to is false? No I will not; I may have gone to his house, but I do not remember.

Did you see your brother on that Sunday morning? I do not recollect.

Do you walk in your sleep? I don’t suppose I do.

Do you ever recollect having talked in your sleep? No.

Have you often talked to Margaret McCormack? Yes.

What was it about? Was it about sheep or mashed turnips ( laughter)? I don’t know.

Was it anything soft? Don’t you think she is a fine girl? She is a fine girl, I asked her one occasion to come to my wedding.

Did you ever hear what the son said when told by his father to say something soft to the girl he was courting – he looked full in her face and said “ mashed turnips” (laughter)? Did you ever look her in the face and say that? No, I swear I do not recollect being in McCormack’s on Thursday, the 28th of November.

Who lay at the head of the bed when you all three slept together? We all lay alongside each other.

Were you not one of the cleverest fellows in the county? In what way?

To be courting two girls at the same time? I was courting none of them at all; I was in love with Miss McKenna; in November I determined to marry her; on the day of the fair at Dunleer in July I saw Miss McCormack in the shop; I spoke to her then, but that was the only time; I did not speak to her upstairs in one of the rooms that day; Mrs McMahon was behind the bar on that occasion; she did not come up stairs and see me and Miss McCormack and me there; I did not see Mrs McMahon upstairs at all.

And I suppose you did not ask Margaret upon that day? I did not.

Then has Mrs McMahon perjured herself? I suppose she has.

But you will not say that McArdle perjured himself? I could not tell.

Is your memory good? It is when I am not drinking.

You find that your mind has been so affected by drink that you forgot what occurred? Yes.

Do you swear that , except speaking to Margaret in the shop on the 5th of July, you did not speak to her that day? I do.

Did you sign any piece of paper connected with your farm? No, I am not trying to dispose of it; I have no money of my own; I give the money to my mother.

You hand it over to your Mamma (laughter) Yes.

How much does your drink cost you in the year? Sometimes I don’t drink any for a year, and when I would break out I would go on for a week or fortnight; I will not swear I was able to talk or walk on the Saturday night; the last thing I remember was having a fight over cards.

Dross-examination resumed – I never kissed the plaintiff on any occasion; I never paid any attention to her; I was told since I was in McCormack’s house on the 30th November last; I do not remember it, because Carberry told me I was drunk.

Dr Robert Trimble, of Castlebellingham, deposed that on Monday, 2nd of December, he saw the defendant at his mother’s house suffering from “delirium tremens”; he was well on Wednesday.

Cross-examined by Mr Murphy - The defendant first complained of a sore throat which he fancied was the matter with him; witness knew at once what was really the case, and prescribed the black draught and blue pill; he only took portion of the prescription; it was not a severe attack, and I could not say how many days of drinking brought it on.

To the Chief Justice – I asked how long it was since he had slept; and was told he had not slept for two nights before.

John Hanratty, examined by Mr Monroe, said that he remembered having been with the defendant drinking in company with Mr Devin; they all got into the one bed; the plaintiff told him she had got a new dress for the defendant’s marriage with Miss McKenna; he heard the plaintiff examined ; he never knew that any flirtation or courtship had been going on between Mathews and her, but he saw her talking to him in a friendly way.

Matthew Devin was examined by Mr Monroe, and gave evidence as to his having been drinking extentensively with the defendant and Hanratty on the occasion deposed to by the former.

A servant man named Carberry was then examined and gave evidence to the same effect.

A man named Conaghty , examined by Mr Monroe, deposed that the plaintiff told him that Mathews asked her to attend his marriage with Miss McKenna.

He was cross examined by Mr Murphy, QC, and stated that Miss McKenna also spoke to him about the middle of August; he frequently saw Mathews after that, and dod not speak to him about the marriage.

The plaintiff was re – called, and in answer to Sergeant Armstrong, said that he had a conversation with the last witness about Mathews getting married to Miss McKenna; she began the conversation herself, because she thought if it true Conaghty would know something about it as he was a friend of Miss McKenna; Conaghty said there was nothing at all about it.

During the entire of your time with Mathews on that night of the 30th November did he appear drunk? No, I thought he had a drop of drink, but that was not the first time he asked me to do what he made do in the end.

Mrs McCormack examined by Sergeant Armstrong, said the defendant was in liquor on the night in question, but was not drunk.

Mr Tourist deposed that the defendant was not drunk on the evening he was at his house.

Thomas McCormack, the plaintiff’s father, was examined, and said he never saw Mathews kiss his daughter.

Mr Monroe addressed the jury on behalf of the defendant, and Mr J Murphy replied in an able speech for the plaintiff.

His Lordship charged the jury, who after a short absence returned into court with a verdict for the plaintiff with 500l damages.

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