From the Cork Examiner, 2 March 1846
“MOST EXTRAORDINARY CASE – VERDICT OF £1000 DAMAGES AGAINST THE LATE LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN FOR THE SEDUCTION OF HIS OWN DAUGHTER
COUNTY WICKLOW ASSIZES – FRIDAY
The Hon Mr Justice Ball took his seat in the Record Court yesterday, at ten o’clock, and proceeded to try the following case:
Mary Carroll v Lohn Ladavaze Arabin, ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin.
This was an action brought by the plaintiff to recover compensation for the seduction of her daughter, Mary Anne Carroll. Damages were laid at £5000, and the defendant pleaded not guilty.
Messrs Dwyer QC, Rollestone and Coates appeared as counsel for the plaintiff; and Messrs Hatchell QC, George QC, and Wall acted for the defendant for whom Mr Charles Fitzgerald acted as attorney. Richard Walsh was attorney for the plaintiff.
Mr Dwyer stated the case, from which it appeared that in the year 1812, the defendant lived with his father at Clondalkin, in the county of Dublin, at which period he was about twenty-one years of age, and seduced the plaintiff herself, who was then a young girl residing with her father, who lived in the same neighbourhood, and he had by her three children – a son, who was born in 1818, a daughter, the girl alleged to be seduced in the present action, born in 1824, and a third child, also a female, born in 1834. The defendant, he said, reared this family well and respectably, and educated his elder daughter in the best manner up to the year 1842, when he also seduced her from the paths of virtue, and had a child by her in 1842. The learned gentleman, in conclusion, said he would prove these facts by the unfortunate girl herself, and read a number of letters which were written by Mr Arabin to her.
Mary Anne Carroll – examined by Mr Rollestone – I am daughter to the plaintiff; my mother lives in Bride Street, and has lived there for four years; we lived there in 1842, during the summer, at the time the occurrences took place, and we lived before that in French Street and previously in Cumberland place, my father is John L Arabin, the defendant; I saw him at my mother’s place, he always came wherever we were; my mother kept no servant in Bride Street, in 1842; I had a brother and one sister; he is older and she is younger than I am; I went to school to Miss Lord’s in Stafford Street and to Mrs Allen’s in Stephen’s Green; my father paid for my education. I used to do the work in my mother’s house; my father wanted me to be a boarder at Miss Lord’s; but my mother did not wish it, and I was only sent as a day scholar; my father had a country house at Corkagh, near Clondalkin; I was often there, whenever I went to the country he used to bring me into down in his car; He often brought me from Clare-Street to my mother’s when it was late, it was his own house in Clare Street, and his brother the counsellor lived in it; I was frequently in that house; I remember making an appointment with my father, there, in the year 1842; I appointed to meet him in Sackville St, or a little street off Sackville St, the name of which I forget; he made that appointment in my mother’s house; my father did not tell me what he wanted with me, for he often met me and brought me to Harvies, on Wellington Quay, and other places. I met him, according to the appointment, about five o’clock in the evening; it was summer time; my father was in the house when I arrived; he was in the parlour, and he brought me up to the drawing room; we had some conversation there, I forgot what it was; I don’t remember much what he said or did on that occasion; he told me I was his own property, and he could do what he liked with me; he did do what he liked with me; no man ever acted to me as he did on that occasion before or since; I had a child by my father, which is alive; my mother has it; she is in this town; my father told me not to tell anybody what had occurred, and he sent me home in a car; I often saw my father after that; I was never in that house again with him, but he was in a house afterwards with me and treated me in the same way; he was very sorry for what occurred. He used to call me Mary and Polly; he frequently gave me money, and always gave me presents of money both before and after this transaction until lately, he often wrote to me since the seduction took place, but never before it (the witness here identified the several unsigned letters, which were read by counsel, and swore they were in her father’s handwriting); the child I had by my father was a female; he often saw it and nursed it; I never spoke to him about providing for the child; upon my oath my father is father of that child.
Cross examined by Mr Hatchell – It was in the house or cottage in Bride Street that I was delivered with the child; it will be three years old next June; no one was present at my confinement but my mother and a nurse, named Byrne; I went to Glasnevin about a year ago, Mr Murphy, the landlord of the cottage in Bride-St, took it for me; my father gave me £2 10s to go to a cottage at Harold’s Cross- but Mr Murphy took the cottage for me at Glasnevin, and when I told my father what it was it cost, he said it was too much, and was very angry; Mrs Barry came to live with me in Glasnevin, we lived there for three months; I let her part of the house to enable me to pay the rent. I went by the name of Mrs Thompson in Glasnevin and also at my mother’s since I was confined. I saw Dr Barry at the cottage; he was a doctor, but he was not Mrs Barry’s husband, for she was not married; I knew from Mrs Barry that Dr Barry was not her husband; a man named Thompson never came to that house with me, no gentlemen came to me but Doctor Barry brought gentlemen and used to take tea with them; they also drank punch but had no suppers or dinners, he went home very night. I think I had left school at the time I went to the house off Sackville Street; I am certain of it; it was not found out that I was with child for a long time not for four or five months, I then told my mother; upon my oath my father never asked me who was the father of this child; I did not say it was a young gentleman in Harcourt Street, and that I was sworn not to tell; I told my mother my father was the father, she was very angry with me, and treated me very badly after I told her; she has the child, and is very fond of it. The child was christened in Westland Row, in my presence, in the chapel, Jemima Arabin, my mother was present; the christening took place in about a month or so after it was born, my father gave me £1 to get the child baptised. I walked to the house in Sackville Street, where I saw my father, I also saw a servant woman, I don’t know if I would know the house again; I never went to see it since and was never there before; I don’t know how long I was in the house; I was never in any other bad house. I often walked on the Canal, and on the Circular Road, and in Merrion Square (laughter) I went there to see the band; my mother often sent me to the defendant to get money from him.
I was never turned out of the Clare Street house; he never turned me out of the Mansion house last year when he was Lord Mayor, but he insulted me. I never complained of his having turned me out of any house; the defendant insulted me in the mansion house in the big, long parlour; he never turned my mother out; upon my oath he never sent my mother to Kilmainham for annoying him (letter produced) that is not in my handwriting.
Mr Hatchell QC proceeded to address the jury for the defence. He stigmatised the entire case as a foul and malicious conspiracy, got up by a party behind the screen to wreak upon the defendant vengeance for something he had done towards him, or supposed to have done. In fact, however, he was prepared to show that the plaintiff was nothing more than a tool in the hands of others. The defendant however might safely rely upon the case for the prosecution, call upon the jury for a verdict, but he would not be satisfied without showing his perfect innocence of the crim imputed to him, for he was enabled under Providence, to remove all imputation from his character that he never was the debaucher of his own child. The case, if true, would have been tried before a Dublin jury, but it was not, and why not? Because all the parties were well known there. He did not and could not deny that when a young man he had formed a connection with the plaintiff – lived with her and had some children by her amongst whom was Mary Anne, but he repudiated the atrocious allegation that he was her seducer. The learned gentleman then proceeding to read a great number of threatening letters from the plaintiff to the defendant accusing him of infidelity towards her in which she threatened to expose him to the public but she never in any one of these documents insinuated in the slightest way his having acted towards her daughter in the manner she sought by her case to establish.
Mr Justice Ball charged the jury and in doing so desired them to weigh well the evidence and both sides and consider if they could fairly find a verdict and damages for the plaintiff upon it, after the admission and testimony which went to show the case to be an attorney’s action and that that attorney was influenced by bad feelings towards the defence. He said that the plaintiff herself also appeared enraged against the defendant, and it was therefore for their consideration if her story was worthy of credit, when in all her letters threatening the defendant she never once alluded to the alleged seduction of her daughter which most probably, she would have spoken of if true. These were the principal considerations in the case, independent of which it would be necessary to consider if there were not inaccuracies already shown to exist, if other witnesses might not have been examined if well founded, and whether it was possible that the defendant could be so based and degraded as to have an incestuous connection with his own child, for he did not attempt to deny his parentage.
The jury found a verdict for the plaintiff – £1000 damages and 6d costs.”
The status of John Ladavaze Arabin as Lord Mayor of Dublin during the Famine is frequently referenced, albeit without reference to the above extraordinary case involving allegations of incest committed by him in the Mansion House during his mayoralty.
An action for seduction was an action brought by a parent of a child who had been seduced, for loss caused by the seduction; hence the reference in Mary Anne’s examination in chief to her having done the work in her mother’s house.
Arabin subsequently obtained an order for a new trial from the Court of Queen’s Bench, on the basis that the baptism of Mary Anne’s daughter Elizabeth had not been sufficiently proven. The document submitted on his behalf in support of the application for a new trial included affidavits from third parties alleging that Mary Anne Carroll was of bad character, and disorderly; it also, somewhat inconsistently, alleged that he might not, after all, be her father.
A settlement was subsequently reached between Arabin and Mary Carroll whereby he agreed to settle on the latter a sum equivalent to the damages awarded in her favour. Mr Arabin’s bankruptcy in the following decade may have been due to this settlement, legal costs or perhaps simply business losses due to the Famine. He married in 1848 and died of an asthma attack in 1863. Mary Anne also appears to have married in the same year as the proceedings above, but nothing is known of her fate, or that of her daughter Jemima.
Although incest between father and daughter was certainly a crime in 1846, no prosecution was ever brought against Arabin – possibly because of the view taken by Judge Ball, or because of his status as former mayor, or a combination of the two. He did however resign as a judge of the Court of Conscience ( a court for the recovery of small debts, presided over by non-lawyers) shortly after the verdict.