Slandering A Doncaster Farmer,

July 1889

York Herald – Wednesday 31 July 1889

Slandering A Doncaster Farmer,

At a Sheriff’s Court, held in the Leeds Town Hall yesterday, before Mr. Edwin Gray, Under Sheriff, an action was brought by Mr. William Henry Hawkins, farmer and coal merchant, of Conisborough and Denaby, near Doncaster, against a farm labourer named George Scott, to recover damages for slander published maliciously by him.

Mr. J. Beverley, barrister, (instructed by Mr. Pawson, of Doncaster,) appeared on behalf of the plaintiff, and said that his client as far back as last Christmas noticed that his friends and customers began to look very shy at him and seemed generally to give him the cold shoulder That state of affairs went on until Easter, and Mr. Hawkins life was rendered miserable.

He could not imagine what he had done to create such a feeling against him, nor would he have done so had not it been for an accident. The matter came about in this way. On the Thursday before Good Friday the plaintiff’s wife was feeding the fowls when she happened to over-hear a conversation between the defendant Scott, who was in Mr. Hawkin’s employment as foreman, and another labourer named Brock. From what she heard she made a communication to her husband, who was then able to take the proper steps to vindicate his character. At that time and some months before the plaintiff had in his service a maid servant named Bertha Thompson. It was part of her ‘duty to milk the cows, and the vagabond Scott had said that his master had been guilty of undue intimacy with her, and even had declared other infamous things against him. That was the calumny which had been spread against the plaintiff all over the town, by the defendant.

Mr. Hawkins at once proceeded to see the father of the girl, and told him the circumstances. Scott was then challenged, and though he at first denied having uttered the slander, he eventually ad- mitted the fact, and said he would apologise. He never did anything of the kind, however, and knew that as he had no means it would not matter greatly to him what course the plaintiff took. The defendant had not appeared that day, and seemed to say. “ Do what you like; I don’t care for you or Mr. Hawkins.”

Counsel did not desire that the jury should give vindictive damages, but award such an amount— considering the defendant’s position in life- that would mark their sense of the base conduct of the man.

The plaintiff supported the main feature a of the opening address and in answer to the jury said that the defendant was married and had one or two children He had an house until the present proceedings were Instituted, but it was rumoured that he had since sold his furniture.

The farm servant Brock, the girl Bertha Thompson, and other witnesses were called in  support of the  plaintiff’s case.

The Under-Sheriff, in summing up to the jury, pointed out that the plaintiff had no other redress than by bringing the matter into that court, and such damages should be given as to mark their sense of the defendant s behaviour.

After a short deliberation the jury found a verdict for the plaintiff with £10 damages and costs.