Friday, January 29, 2021

The son of the Coningbeg Lightkeeper


The Coningbeg Lightship in 1903

This is a little bit long, so I have abridged it as much as I could without detracting from the thrust of the case (so to speak) Personally, I think the cold case team should have another look at this one.

From the Wicklow News-Letter Saturday 18th January 1902

On Wednesday in the Nisi Prius Court No.2, Miss Margaret White, Kilmore Quay, county Wexford, sued John P. Wall, Inisheer, Arran Islands for breach of promise of marriage.
Mr James O'Connor appeared for the plaintiff and Mr. W. Gibson appeared for the defendant.
Mr. O’Connor, in opening the case, said the action was brought for breach of promise of marriage, aggravated by seduction. The defendant denied that he made the promise of marriage and said that a reasonable time had not elapsed before the action, and denied the seduction. The jury would have no doubt, when they heard the evidence, that the defendant promised to marry the plaintiff and that, last year, he seduced her, and he had now, in answer to a letter from her solicitor, refused to carry out his promise.
The plaintiff stated she was 26 and lived with her uncle in Kilmore Quay. She first met the defendant in October 1896. His father was the master of a lightship which was stationed off Coningbeg. The defendant was a sailor and used to go down and stop with her parents who were living close to Kilmore. When plaintiff met the defendant, he paid his attention by walking her out. He kissed her several times. He stopped a month with her father and during that time he promised to marry her as soon as he was in a position to do so. Plaintiff agreed to marry him. He said he would get plaintiff a ring as soon as he called to port. He went away and about two months later, plaintiff got a letter from him. His sister brought it to plaintiff from the post office. Defendant stated in the letter that he would get her a ring. He signed himself, 'Your affectionate sweetheart, John Patrick Wall.' He said he was very sad and lonely without plaintiff.
Plaintiff did not see him for five months after that when he came home and stopped about three weeks. Up to March 1900, he used to come home about every six months and during those periods he continued to pay plaintiff attention. He walked plaintiff out and courted her (laughter). In March 1900, he came home and remained there until December, when he got the position of lighthouse-keeper. During this time he saw her frequently. The first impropriety between them was in June 1900. He said he would marry her.
Justice Madden - Your case is he seduced you on promise of marriage?
Plaintiff - Yes, my Lord.
Mr. O'Connor - Did he seduce you more than once?
Plaintiff - Yes sir, frequently, and continued up until the time he went away. I first ascertained I was pregnant in February. I had a conversation with his father and wrote to the defendant as well around 27th February.
Counsel then read the letter in which the plaintiff asked if the defendant was going to settle the case against him before her Uncle Robert took proceedings. When the child was born, he would have to keep it.
The defendant wrote back, telling her to do her best and make her mind easy and take whatever proceedings that she wanted.
The plaintiff then wrote back, saying she was sorry for writing such an independent letter. "Dear John, you know I would be very sorry to do you any harm but, on account of the misfortune you brought on me, I could say nothing else. You know the disgrace it is on both our families..."
Cross-examined, she said that she did not live with her father. Her uncle kept a lodging-house; about eight lightship men stopped in it. Sailors also stopped there. She did correspond with a man named Duffy, who was on the lightship about three years previously.
Was it about marriage? asked the judge.
Plaintiff - Yes, my Lord.
So you had given up on Wall?
He was not at home at the time. (Good answer!)
You say you were engaged to be married to this man in '96 and now you say you were corresponding with a man named Duffy about marriage?
Duffy broke off with me about two years ago.
You were also fond of a man named John Redmond?
Yes sir. He is dead three years now. I was not engaged to be married to him. I knew a man called Flaherty who was a first cousin and used to come to our house. (I suspect she was volunteering too much information here!) I never had anything to do with Pearce. I did not walk with him. My child was born on 12th April. I did not tell the defendant I was about to have a baby because I did not think it was true until February. I did not tell him as he was aboard the Coningbeg ship and I only saw him once when he came off.
The defendant, examined, said that he had only been 'knocking about' with the plaintiff twice. He had been knocking up and down the road with her. He was not the father of the child. He never mentioned anything about a ring or getting into a position with her.
Judge - Did you ever promise to marry her?
Never in my life.
After this lengthy cross-examination, the judge declared that he was satisfied that there was no evidence that a promise of marriage had been breached and directed the jury to find for the defendant.

John Joseph White was born 12th April 1901 at Kilmore Quay, mother Margaret White, no father listed.
The 1911 Census for House 30, Kilmore Quay shows Robert White, 67, Retired Lightship Pensioner and his wife, Catherine, 71; Margaret White, 36, niece, single; and Joseph White, 10, nephew. Robert was the Mate of the Barrels Lightship in 1901
Margaret White died single in Kilmore Quay aged 71 in 1945 of a brain haemorrhage.
John Patrick Wall, 74, lightkeeper, died single in Wicklow in 1954 after fracturing a femur. John's father was Alfred Benny Wall. The family may well be connected to Catherine Wall, wife of Wicklow-born James Kavanagh, who built the Fastnet lighthouse.

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