Alleged Desertion by a Local Gentleman

CARTER's Family History via New Zealand

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 18 Jan 1878.
Sunderland Bankruptcy Court, Yesterday
Before E. J. Meynall, Esq., Judge, ---- In Re Robert Ferguson Strong, timber merchant.
The public examination of the bankrupt took place, Mr. Lodge (Leeds), appearing for the petitioning creditor, and Mr. H. Ritson for the trustee. The bankrupt was examined at some length as to business transactions, especially as to certain securities held by his bankers. The case was adjourned to enable him to file a petition again. In Re George Strong, timber merchant. This was a motion to obtain possession of a house in the occupation of the bankrupt in Grace-terrace. Mr. Blakey appeared for the owner of the house; Mr. Ritson for the debtor. The motion was adjourned, to allow of copies of certain affidavits being obtained.
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 22 June 1891.
Alleged Desertion by a Local Gentleman
At the Sunderland Petty Sessions on Saturday, before Mr. James Laing (chairman) and Col. C. J. Briggs, Robert F. Strong was charged at the instance of the Board of Guardians with neglecting to maintain his wife and family, whereby they had become chargeable to the Union. The defendant, who had been apprehended by Mr. James Wilson, relieving officer, on a warrant, was very respectably dressed, as was also his wife. Strong is stated too have been formerly a timber merchant in the town, but at present clerk and agent to the son of Mr. Justice Wills. His wife is a daughter of Mr. John Thompson, a retired shipbuilder. Mr. L. S. Iliff prosecuted on behalf of the board of Guardians, and Mr. A. T. Crow defended. On the case being called,
Mr Crow said: I have received instructions within the last few minutes for the defence, and I have to apply that the case may be adjourned.
Mr Iliff: I appear for the prosecution, instructed by the Poor Law authorities. I do not object to my friend's application for an adjournment, provided substantial bail be forthcoming.
Mr James Laing: The accused is summoned for that he, being a person able to work and to maintain himself and family, did unlawfully and willfully neglect to do so, whereby his wife and his five children have become chargeable to the Union.
Mr Crow: That is the charge. He was only arrested yesterday in Kensington, London.
Mr J. Laing: On what ground do you ask on for an adjournment?
Mr Crow: So as to enable me to get evidence that the wife deserted the husband.
Mr J. Laing: But he has deserted not only his wife, but his five children as well.
Mr Crow: We have a perfect answer to the summons. I may say that I am instructed by Mr Hy. Ritson, who is at Harrowgate, that he wants to come here and give evidence on behalf of the defendant.
Mr J Laing: Have you proper bail?
Mr Crow: Will you worships state what bail you require?
Col Briggs (to the relieving officer): How much have you against him? What are the charges?
Mr J Wilson: I can scarcely tell you. it is less than 10.
Mr J. Laing: They are now chargeable to the Union, and have been foe some time?
Mr. Wilson: Yes.
Mr J Laing: We shall require substantial bail.
Col Briggs (to Mr Iliff): You do not object to the adjournment?
Mr Iliff: No; prisoner was arrested yesterday. If he has a defence we shall be very glad to hear it, but I would point out that in fixing the amount of bail you must bear in mind that during the time of adjournment the wife and children are still chargeable to the parish, and not only must the amount due at present be considered, but also the amount that will be incurred during the present week.
Col Briggs (to the accused): Are you prepared to take the wife and children out of the Workhouse?
Defendant: No; certainly not.
Mr J Laing: You appear to be a respectable man and in a superior station of life. A certain amount of indignity is inflicted upon your wife and children when a man in your position allows them to be taken to the Workhouse. Therefore on these grounds, you ought to make some provision to take them out and maintain them. It is only what a man of your means and station in life should do between now and the adjournment.
Defendant: Yes, Mr Laing; there is a good deal behind that.
Mr J Laing: If you are not prepared to do this, I do not see why we should take bail.
Defendant: There is a good deal behind this.
Mr J Laing: Further than that, Mr Crow, there will be the recurring expenses during the week.
Mr Crow (after consultation with Strong): On behalf of the defendant, I may say that he will not take his wife out. He instructs me to say so. There is something behind and he will not maintain her.
Mr J Laing: Then we can only adjourn the case for a week and cannot take bail.
Mr Crow: Will your Worships fix the amount of bail?
Mr J Laing: Not under the circumstances. He is brought here on a very serious charge. His wife and children are chargeable to the Workhouse, and we give him an opportunity of providing for them in the meantime. If he declines to do that we shall comply with your wish for adjournment, but without bail.
Mr Crow (after another consultation with his client): He instructs me to say he will take his children out, but not his wife.
Mr J Laing: No; we cannot do that.
Mr Crow: If certain questions are put to the wife _______
Mr J Laing: At present they are classed together, the wife and five children. If the children are taken out the mother must go with them. We cannot sperate them. The bench do not know what the facts really are.
Mr Crow: It is only fair to the defendant that your worship should grant bail.
Mr J Laing: We have already said that we were prepared to accept bail if he would take his wife and children out of the Workhouse, and provide for them in A manner commensurate with the circumstances of his life. Does he dispute that she is his wife or they are his children?
Defendant: No.
Mr J Laing: Well, then, he is bound to provide for them.
Mr Crow: If divorce proceedings take place-----
Mr J Laing: We are not a divorce court. These proceedings have not yet taken place, and we can only deal with the case as it is. I the defendant will make a satisfactory arrangement with Mr Wilson, the relieving officer, to provide for his wife and children, we are prepared to receive bail for his appearance here next Saturday
Mr Crow: Do I understand that your worships decline to fix bail?
Mr J Laing: No; we are prepared to take bail, provided he in the meantime maintains his wife and children out of the workhouse.
Mr Crow: He will not provide for his wife, but he will provide for his children.
Mr J Laing: You see Mr Crow, the Bench know nothing of the circumstances beyond the summons. The wife may be a perfect angel, or she may be the very opposite. We know nothing about that. He is summoned here inasmuch as his wife and five children have become chargeable to the parish. He is the husband, and father of the children, and it is for him to provide for them. You ask for an adjournment. We think that if he provides for the children he can provide for the wife by taking them out of the Workhouse and finding lodging for them until next Saturday, when the case will be thoroughly gone into and disposed of. With regard to the bail, we will take his own personal bond for 25, and two sureties or 10 each.
The defendant was then removed from the dock.
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 29 June 1891.
Neglecting a Wife. Extraordinary Case.
At the County Police Court on Saturday, before Mr. James Laing (in the chair) and Mr. Stansfield Richardson, Robert F. Strong, on bail, was charged on remand with neglecting his wife and five children, who have become chargeable to the Guardians. Mr L S Iliff, LL.B., appeared to represent the Guardians, and Mr Crow, jun., was for the defence.
The defendant having been charged. Mr Crow said: Your Worships, my client, acting under advice, declines to plead.
Mr Iliff. opening the case, said he appeared on behalf of the Poor Law Guardians, under section 3, of 5, George IV,. to prosecute the defendant for neglecting to provide for his wife and five children who had become chargeable to the parish. He then read the portion of the Act under which the case was brought, showing that every person being able wholly or in part to maintain himself or his family by work or by other means, and willfully refusing or neglecting to do so, so that by such neglect his wife and family should become chargeable to the parish, should be deemed an idle and disorderly person within the meaning of the Act, and it should be lawful for the magistrate to convict him as such, and to commit him to the House of correction for one calendar month. They would then see that they were entitled to convict defendant if he did not maintain his wife and family, as he was bound to do so if he was able bodied. But he would go on higher grounds than that. At the time his wife and family became chargeable defendant was in employment at 273 Vauxhill Bridge-road, London.
The Chairman: I understand the wife and family have been brought from there to here.
Mr Iliff: The wife and children were found by Mr Wilson, the relieving officer in Sunderland. How they got there the defendant knows. Continuing, Mr Iliff said he would prove that the defendant was in the employment of and manager for the Clark Soudan Trading Co., and his salary was 1 per week.
The Chairman: One pound per week?
Mr Iliff: Yes; That is the amount I have got. It might be said that that salary was barely sufficient to keep the defendant himself, but he (Mr Iliff) submitted that so far as the law was concerned the defendant was not entitled to take the 1 per week and keep it for himself; he was bound to share it with them. He would also be able to prove that the defendant had refused again and again to contribute anything towards the maintenance of his wife and children until his wife took proceedings against him for a divorce, on the grounds of his misconduct. He would prove that the defendant had offered, in the event of his wife applying for a divorce, that he would allow her 150 a year, and take the children off her hands, and that he said his wife would not get one penny from him unless she took that course, and he threatened to go abroad. This he would prove by letters in the defendant's own handwriting. In answer to a letter from Mr Iliff's firm, the defendant replied by a letter in his own handwriting.
Mr Crow here objected to the reading of the letter.
The Chairman: The Bench know nothing more about the case than they heard last Saturday, and any light which may be thrown upon the subject which will enable us to judge of the circumstances we will be glad to have.
Mr Iliff then read the letter, in which the defendant said that the sooner proceedings were taken in the Divorce Court the better. He also said in his letter that he deliberately committed himself with a lady who was staying at the house, and that a child was registered to that lady.
The Chairman: That is important as regards his personal character, but what has it to do with the maintenance of his wife and children?
Mr Iliff: I am leading up to it.
Mr Iliff then read the next letter, in which the defendant said that as soon as his wife served him with a process for divorce he would remove the children and settle a portion of his income upon her. In the next letter read the defendant said to his wife that there was no chance of a penny being got out of him unless she took divorce proceedings, and she knew enough about him to know that he meant what he said. In another letter to his wife he said that there was only one thing for her to do, and that was to get a divorce and let him have the children, and that was the only condition. In the last letter of the defendant to his wife he said he distinctly declined to come to any arrangement other than a divorce. He had instructed a solicitor to defend the writ, and he knew it was divorce or nothing. In that event he (the defendant) would make an allowance of 100 or 150 per year and take the children off her hands.
Mr Chairman: You said he was employed by the Soudan Trading Company at 20s per week. It is a small wage. He must have other means.
Mr Iliff: He has other means, we will refer to that.
Mr Iliff then read another letter from the defendant dated 10th January 1891, in which he said" I am run after by some City people who want me to sell the patent and form a company there for 20,000, half cash and half shares, and I have refused, as they want to keep thy monopoly and start factories in several parts of the country. But I prefer to grant a license to everyone that wants to make them, and let it bring a million or sought. Up to the present I shall do as I like. No one has anything to do with it but myself. Continuing, Mr Iliff said he would prove by the relieving officer that not very many days ago he found the wife and children of the defendant destitute and took them to the Workhouse, where they now are. Mention was made last week on behalf of the defendant of a plea that his wife deserted him, but as by law prima facie the husband was bound to maintain his wife that was no part of the case. The wife had nothing to do with the case. It was simply an official prosecution.
Mr Wilson, relieving officer, said that Robert Ferguson Strong, clerk and agent, was apprehended in London and brought here for allowing his wife and children to become chargeable to the Union. Mary Ann Strong (the wife), aged 40; Amy, 13; Stanley, 10; Harriet, 8; Agnes, 6; and Lawrence, 4, became chargeable to the Union on the 16th of the present month. He found them destitute in the streets, and he took them to the Workhouse where they have been ever since.
    Cross-examined by Mr Crow:
  • You say you found the wife and children destitute? Was it as an arrangement that they should come to you?
  • Witness: It was not.
  • Where did you find them destitute?
  • In Newcastle-road.
  • Had you an appointment there to meet the children"?
  • I had not.
  • Were you informed that they would be there?
  • I was informed that they would be "returning in all probability," from the letters of Mr Wills.
    Mr Crow here pressed for the reading of the letters referred to, but after some discussion they were left unread.
  • Had you a letter from Mr Wills stating that the children would be left destitute?
  • I had.
  • An from what you saw in the letter did you go to Fulwell-road?
  • I did not.
  • Where did you go?
  • I went to my tea.
  • Well never mind about that, where did you go?
  • Yes, I went to Fulwell-road on the 11th.
Mr Crow put further questions, when the chairman interfered.
Mr Crow: I am going to show that the children were thrown on the parish by arrangement.
The Chairman: That does not remove the obligation of the defendant to see that his children were properly taken care of.
    Mr Crow, to the witness:
  • Do you know that on Monday the last the defendant was lying very ill in London?
  • I only know from what I have been told.
  • You know the defendant has a boy in London?
  • I do not know that.
  • Mrs Strong was staying with her father?
  • So the letters say.
  • Have you any doubt that Mrs Strong has been staying there?
  • No, I have no doubt.
  • And she had been staying there up to the 16th of June?
  • Yes, I suppose so.
  • When the wife and children met you in Fulwell-road, did they tell you the father had turned them out at Fulwell?
  • No. They did not say anything of the kind. They said their father in London had seen them into the train; that their father in London refused to have anything to do with the mother, and that she was never to cross his doorstep.
  • Did the wife say she had lived in Hornsey or Highgate, within the last 13 years.
  • No.
Mr Crow here put questions with regard to a marriage settlement, but Mr Iliff successfully objected.
    Continuing, Mr Crow said:
  • Are you aware that since the adjournment last week defendant has been to the workhouse?
  • I am.
  • Are you aware that he has been there three times?
  • I am aware that he has been there twice.
  • Are you aware that on the third occasion he was refused admission to see his children?
  • I am not.
  • Are you aware that after these proceedings the wife and children are to be taken out of the Workhouse?
  • I am not aware.
  • L'o you know that they received extra attention at the Workhouse?
Mr Iliff: This must be stopped, or we will go on forever.
The Chairman: It is not necessary. This is a case of summoning by the Guardians for maintenance I presume that the charge that has been made for the mother and five children is the same as that for all paupers.
The Witness: The amount for maintenance and expense up to the present is 9 4s 2d.
The Chairman: This seems a distressing case. They are not paupers in the common sense of the term. Cannot we come to some arrangement?
Mr Crow: I will admit now that my client has committed adultery. (Sensation).
The Chairman: He is not charged with that.
Mr Crow: But I am bound to put it forward.
The Chairman: It is a very candid admission; but it does not apply to the charge of deserting the wife and children. We don't want to discuss all these family affairs here. There have been jara and family quarrels which one cannot go into. As the defendant is able to do it, why don't you come to some arrangement at once? Later the Chairman said: There is a great deal of family unhappiness antecedent to this, but here is the broad fact that the mother and five children are now in the Workhouse. Nothing is done although the defendant is in possession of 20s per week and what he gets by ingenuity and brains, for he proposed to give her 150 per year, and he is able to maintain her in respectability. Why not come to some arrangement now?
Mr Crow here consulted with his client and then said: Unfortunately, although my client had some money when those letters were written, he has not now a halfpenny in the world.
Mr Dickinson: Surely if he could afford to refuse 10,000
Mr Crow: He may have had prospects then, but he has not now.
The Chairman: He is a strong able man.
Mr Crow: But he has only a pound a week now.
The Chairman: The man is physically strong and able to earn a pound per week any day. I have thrown out the hint; if you cannot come to some arrangement we will go on with the case. I am only throwing it out rather in kindness for him and for all.
Mr Crow again consulted with his client, an then said: I have no offer to make, your worships.
In the course of a few minutes Mr Crow, after re-consulting with his client said: -- I propose now that the defendant shall take his children and pay the amount to the Guardians at so much per month.
The Chairman: What about the wife? It is only a waste of time to propose separation.
A witness was called to prove that the letters produced were in the handwriting of the defendant, but Mr Crow Admitted them.
Inspector Miller gave evidence of taking the defendant into custody and of learning at the office of the defendant that he had a salary of 1 per week.
Mr Crow. opening his defence, held that their worships had no jurisdiction, and that as the wife and children were found within the borough and taken to the borough Workhouse the case was a case for the borough magistrates. He grounded that submission on the well known decision of Rogers Vs Storey.
Mr Wilson, the relieving officer, was re-called, and stated that he found the wife and children outside the borough boundaries, and the Bench over-ruled Mr Crow's contention.
Mr Crow desired that a note should be taken of his point. He then submitted that under an old Act (L.R., 31 King's Bench Division); the onus of the prosecution was to prove that the defendant was wholly able to maintain his wife and children, and had not done so.
The Chairman: Yes, but we have also been told that we can exercise a certain power in our view of the case.
Mr Crow: Then I submit that at the time the children became chargeable to the Union they were not in such a state of destitution as required the officer to take them to the Workhouse.
Mr Wilson, re-called, said that he was told by the mother that they had no home or habitation, and he was therefore bound to take them to the Workhouse.
    The Chairman: What was their appearance so far as dress was concerned?
  • Witness: They were neatly dressed.
  • Under other circumstances would you have considered that they were destitute people?
  • Certainly not.
Mr Crow: That is my point, your Worships.
The Chairman, after further discussion reminded Mr Crow of the definite charge, and again suggested an arrangement between the parties. Later the Chairman said: It is clearly an animus he has against his wife. I gave him the opportunity last Saturday to make some arrangement; he was very determined, I may say obstinate, in the mater. I am afraid that feeling is continuing, If you could come to some arrangement or make some proposal that will be acceptable to the parties, it would be better.
Mr Crow: I distinctly stated the case to my client, and advised that a certain course should be adopted.
The Chairman: From what I know of you personally, Mr Crow, I believe you would try to bring about peace if you could, but your client is his own master. Let him pay the money.
Mr Crow: I have advised him to do so, but he would not. He is quite willing to take his punishment.
The Chairman: The magistrates are agreed with what I have said. It is the best course to take now.
Mr Crow again asked his client if he would take the wife and children.
Defendant: Certainly not.
The Chairman told the defendant that he was liable to one month's imprisonment and at the end of that time he would be no better off; he would be still liable. He would now appeal to the defendant's common sense. He was a man of considerable intelligence, but he was obstinate in the matter, if he (the chairman) might be allowed to say the word, and he was allowing the obstinate feeling to override his better judgment. He (the chairman) strongly advised him
The defendant here spoke to Mr Crow.
Mr Crow: He said it is simply a waste of time.
The Chairman: Oh, then, we have done all we could.
Defendant: Yes, I am much obliged to you, Mr Laing.
The Chairman: He is master of his actions and his destinies. We have nothing to do but our duty, and that is if some arrangement is not come to, to commit him to Durham for one month with hard labour.
Mr Crow: I propose to take the decision of the Queen's Bench on Tuesday. Will you allow me to appeal?
Mr Laing: I do not think that on the evidence we can do that.
Mr Crow: I am instructed from London to take that point, and I understand your Worships decline.

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