Breach of Promise Proceedings by Smitten Solicitor’s Clerk, 1892

From the Freeman’s Journal, 9 January 1892:


Yesterday Master Pigott sat in the Master’s office to hear a case of Lee v Doyle.  The defendant, describing himself as Richard Lee, solicitor’s assistant, 17 Walton Terrace, Drumcondra Park Upper, sued Miss Marion Doyle, 15 Kenmare Park, spinster, to recover £100 damages for breach of promise. 

The plaintiff and defendant appeared in person without professional advisors.

When the case was called only four persons answered.

The Master asked did anyone make any application to him. 

The plaintiff said he was happy to go ahead with four jurors.

The Master – I dare say you are.  Does anyone make any application?

The defendant, a good-looking young woman, said – I don’t know anything about it, I never promised marriage to the man.

The Master – No one making any application to me.  I discharge the jury.

The proceedings then terminated.”

But not for long! Four days later, in the Evening Herald, 13 January 1892:


Today in the Northern Police Court before Mr O’Donel, a case came up on summons at the suit of Miss Marion Doyle, of 15 Kenmare Parade, against Richard Lee, a solicitor’s clerk, calling on him to show cause why information should not be taken against him, and he be ordered to find security to keep the peace towards the complainant, for that he on the 2nd November 1891, did use threatening and abusive language to complainant on the thoroughfare of the North Circular Road, whereby she was put in fear and dread of bodily harm.

It will be remembered that during the last week a case came before Master Pigott in the Exchequer Division in which the present defendant was the plaintiff, suing Miss Doyle, an assistant in Messrs Clery and Co, O’Connell Street, for damages for breach of promise of marriage, but the proceedings fell through owing to the non-attendance of a sufficient number of jurors.

Mr McCune appeared for the prosecution.

Miss Doyle was examined, and said she knew the defendant three years.  On the 23rd November last, on the North Circular Road, he got hold of her cloak and said he would kill her if she did not marry him.  He brought an action for breach of promise against her, and she attended court.  She had never promised defendant marriage.  He caught her by the throat and said he would kill her.  She was afraid of personal violence from him.  He said he was sorry he did not put a knife in her long ago.  He had frequently produced a knife.

The defendant, who is a young man, cross-examined Miss Doyle, who denied that she had invited him to her mother’s house, or that she had reclined with him on a sofa for four hours.  It was not because he threatened to bring an action for breach of promise that she issued this summons.

Mr McCune said, if Mr O’Donel thought it necessary he could produce witnesses to support his client’s statement.

Mr O’Donel said it was not necessary.

Lee – But I deny her statement, and I can be examined, as this is a summons and not a charge.

Mr O’Donel – This is a criminal proceeding, and your conduct has been very bad towards this young lady.

Lee- I wish to say that I was committed to the Richmond Lunatic Asylum last March, but before that I was allowed to go about the streets of Dublin in a dangerous state.

Mr O’Donel – From what were you in a dangerous state?

Lee – I was in such a state that I might kill myself or someone else.

Mr O’Donel – That is very pleasant.  It was very proper that you should be in an asylum.

Lee – But some people did not want me to be put into an asylum, and it was not until I put an announcement of my death in the paper that I was found to be insane.  I was engaged in Messrs Stapleton’s’ Office, College Green, and my employers knew of the state of my mind, but it was not until I put my death in the paper, which brought a crowd of people, that attention was called to my case.

Mr O’Donel – What was the cause of your insanity?

Lee – It was a visitation of Divine Providence, and one of the delusions was that my soul was lost.  I saw my own damnation.

Mr O’Donel – You thought all that.

Lee – I saw it.  Some people were afraid of my getting out of the asylum as I might make disclosures that would startle the world, and would send some people out of the country.  One has gone to Australia.

Mr O’Donel – Would you like to go back to the asylum?

Lee -I don’t want to go back.  Some people might like that.

Mr O’Donel – If I sent for the nearest dispensary doctor, and he found from conversation that you were not of sound mind, and having the information sworn before me, I could send you up again to an asylum.

Lee – My appearance and manner would not justify you in doing that.

Mr O’Donel – Well, your conduct is very extraordinary.  Why should a young man persecute the girl he was wishing to marry?

Lee – I don’t want to marry her. Her mother wanted me to marry her, and she asked me to marry her herself.

Mr O’Donel – Then can’t you leave her alone?

Lee – I do not want to harm her.  I did not go to her house last November.  I spoke to her family.  When I told her I would not marry her she was surprised (laughter) I have kept the peace towards her.

Mr O’Donel – She says you caught hold of her by the throat.

Lee – That was just in play (laughter). She provoked me, but I do not want to marry her.

Mr O’Donel – I must ask you to get bail to be of the peace.

Lee – I suppose I can give my own bail.  I am a householder.

Mr O’Donel – You must get someone else to give bail.

Lee – I have a good case, and can produce overwhelming evidence.  It was an extraordinary thing for her to bring me into the house and repose on my bosom for four hours and then summons me (laughter).  I will apply to a higher court if you make an order against me.  I admit I did say that if she did not marry me I would be found in the canal.

Mr O’Donel – I will make an order that you enter into bail of £10 to keep the peace towards Miss Doyle for 10 months or go to gaol for two months imprisonment.

Lee – Then I will ask you to state a case (laughter).

Mr Lee also said it was a dodge, got up by these persons, that he did not want to marry anyone, and, lastly, wanted to go for the bail, when he was informed that he would have to send for it, and was removed to the cells pending the procuring of the bail.”

Richard Lee did not murder Marion Doyle.  Nor did he throw himself in the canal.

Instead he married another girl a mere two years after the above proceedings. The couple had four children.

I cannot find any record of what happened to Marion. 

A temporary madness indeed!

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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