Sheffield Evening Telegraph – Tuesday 14 February 1888
The Conisboro’ Goat Sausage Libel
Lindley v. Turner.
In the Civil Court at Leeds Assizes yesterday the case of Lindley v. Turner came before Justice Charles.
This was an action for libel, the plaintiff being John Lindley butcher and sausage maker, of Conisborough and Sheffield, and the defendant William Turner, proprietor of the Swinton and Mexborough Times.
The action arose out of the following paragraph in the defendant’s newspaper published under the heading Notes from Conisborough,” on November 11:—
” Just now Conisborough seems to be undergoing an invasion by butchers. Several new establishments have been opened, and some the old hands may have to look to connections, for equal quality and lower prices are very tempting to working people. At present, however, the older butchers are making merry at the expense of one of the new arrivals who, it is said, bought a goat. Of part of the carcase of this animal some sausages were made and retailed to the good people of Conisborough. Several of the parties who partook of the goat sausages met later in the day and commenced “butting” at one another (?).”
The plaintiff claimed substantial damages in respect of this paragraph, which he contended had caused him great loss in his business. The defendant pleaded that the paragraph was published without malice, that there was no carelessness in its insertion, and that, if any damage had been sustained, it was amply covered the £5 into court.
Mr Mellor (instructed by Mr. G. J. Mellor) was for plaintiff, and Mr. J. E. Barker (instructed by Mr. Hattersley for the defendant.
Mr. Mellor, in opening the case, submitted that a very grievous injury bad been sustained upon the plaintiff by the publication of the foregoing paragraph.
Some time before the dissemination of this libel Mr Lindley bought two freo cottages in Conisborough together with a butchers shop, giving £150 for them; but with a view of making them suitable for his business he spent something like £200 and them in alterations etc. In the expectation that the business would flourish he distributed some 8000 handbills in the neighbouring district, through the towns of Conisborough, Mexborough and Swinton and adjacent villages. These bills – (a copy of which Mr Mellor read out to the court) – set forth extensive alterations which plaintiff had made, announced that on Friday, October 28, he would open with a large supply of prime English beef, mutton, veal, lamb and pork, and also large stocks of am and baking etc. all of the best quality and at the lowest possible prices.
During the first week he realised over £30 by the sale of meat and sausages, the consumption the latter amounting to 150lbs. Then the paragraph was published, everybody talked about it, the shop was great extent avoided, and the sales went down very materially. The plaintiff claimed that he had lost £2 5s a week by the publication of the libel. The day after the paragraph appeared, when plaintiff went down to dinner, he found a large crowd of miners and lads outside the shop. They shouted out, “Oh, here’s goat sausage linker.” “Take care he don’t butt you”— (laughter)—and other similar remarks. This
All this might seem very silly, but the jury must remember that sausage making was very susceptible business. (Laughter.) Once suggest that sausages were not made of the right stuff, and his trade was ruined. (Laughter.) He could conceive nothing more damaging a sausage-maker than the hint that his sausages were composed of goat’s meat. (Laughter.)
The plaintiff was called, and bore out Mr. Mellor’s statement. He said he was described in Conisborough as “the goat butcher,” and people crowded round his shop, shouting, “Let’s go in and butt him.” He had been held up to ridicule, and his trade had largely fallen off.
By Mr. Barker : His name was not mentioned in the paragraph, but everybody knew he was the new arrival. The article was entirely untrue.
Had you bought a goat? — Yes.
And killed it? – Yes.
What did you do with the body of this goat ?—I hung it up.
In the shop?— Yes.
In fact, you exposed it for sale?—No, I did not. It was already sold.
What did you hang in the shop for?— For ornament. (Laughter.) It was hanging in the shop for eight days.
Did you really think the paragraph was meant in any way except as a joke?—l thought it was put in to do a very serious injury.
Do you think the Conisborough people are so simple that they would believe the eating a goat sausage would make them butt one another? —I did not think that.
Don’t you think that was meant as a joke ?—No; it was published maliciously to prevent people eating my sausage. ‘
Mr. Barker then put in evidence an apology inserted in the defendant’s newspaper the week after the alleged libel appeared, which occupied the same column, and was under the heading ‘Notes from Conisborough. The following is the material portion of the apology:—
‘ Our attention having been drawn to a paragraph which appeared under this heading last ‘ week, we hasten to correct an impression which, we are informed, has arisen that the reference to the purchase a goat has been prejudicial to the interests of the person concerned. We very much regret that the insertion of the paragraph, written in a jocular vein, without any thought of injury, should have led to the misunderstanding which has arisen, and we, at the earliest possible moment, tender our apology to the gentlemen who, we learn, has applied the note to himself.”
Mr. Barker : Is not that a full and ample apology —It is not.
What more would you have liked?—lt won’t pay for loss of my trade.
There nothing very unwholesome about goat?— No, not if a young one.
A little goat’s meat in sausages would not be objectionable?—lt would not do any harm, but people are prejudiced against it. (Laughter.)
Police-sergeant Noble, stationed Conisborough, proved that people had crowded round plaintiffs shop, making use objectionable remarks, and several times he had been obliged to drive them away. John Williams, landlord of the Star Hotel, Conisborough, proved that the libel applied to the defendant.
By Mr. Barker : He looked upon the paragraph as joke.
John Alfred Simpson, farmer, Conisborough, was called to prove that any suspicion regarding sausages was very harmful to the vendor.
Mr. Barker, in addressing the jury for the defence, said the paragraph was only intended a joke, and on the face of it could not be regarded seriously. He was not going to defend it as a joke, but the question was whether was printed and published and with intent doing the plaintiff harm, There could be no suggestion of any malicious feeling, was proved by the insertion of most ample apology. Then, with regard to damages be submitted that none had been proved. It was likely when a new tradesman came to Conisborough, attractive shop, and by bold advertisement puffed his stock, that the first week would show large sales which could not maintained afterwards. The country people would, on account of the novelty the thing, crowd to the new shop, but when the novelty had died out would return their regular shops. He submitted this explained the decrease in the plaintiff’s business, which was not to be attributed to the paragraph. But if there had been damage it was covered by the payment into court of £5, which was just about £4 19s. 11d too much ‘ (Laughter.) It was trumpery action that ought never to have been brought into court.
The Jury who retired to consider their verdict, found for the plaintiff, with damages put at £20.