Solicitor Delays Discovery to Protect Morals of Lady Typists, 1906

From the Mail, 15 August 1906:


In the Probate and Matrimonial Division, today, in the case of Fitzgerald v Fitzgerald, known as the Waterford matrimonial case, Mr Rice applied on behalf of the male petitioner for an order directing Mr Shannon, the solicitor on the other side, to give the male petitioner copies of certain documents, discovery of which had been obtained so far back as the 25th July last

Mr Shannon said he had some difficulty in giving them copies of these documents on account of the fact that most of the type-writers in his office were young ladies, and he was very anxious for the morals of his lady type-writers (laughter).

Mr Justice Gibson – Could you not take copies yourself?

Mr Rice said they would be quite satisfied if Mr Shannon would allow them to send in their own typewriters to copy the documents in his office.

Mr Justice Gibson said perhaps Mr Shannon would object to have a bevy of strange typewriters, male or female, copying documents in his office (laughter). 

However, he would allow the application to stand until later in the day.”

The Fitzgerald divorce, involving Mr Fitzgerald, the owner of a Waterford mansion known as the Island, and his American wife, was heard by Lord Chief Justice O’Brien in December of the same year. 

Mrs Fitzgerald’s claim was that after the marriage her husband turned out to be a man of unmanageable passions and uncontrollable temper; he had dragged her violently out of the nursery down to her bedroom; told her that had he married a woman out of the gutter in England her accent would be more acceptable to him than her American accent, and left her and her maid on the platform at St Pancras Station and took the children away.  She had no money, and had to borrow a few pounds from her husband’s valet to get a place at a hotel. 

Mr Fitzgerald – who had previously objected to the divorce being heard in Ireland using a variation on the Duke of Wellington’s excuse that being born in a stable did not make him a horse – ultimately did not offer any evidence.  The divorce was granted.

Compared to the lurid details of most 19th century upper class divorces, there does not seem to have been much here to threaten the morals of young lady typists, but certainly a lot to put them off marriage!

Possibly the most creative excuse for not furnishing discovery ever?

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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