Relationships often come and go when you’re young. Finding that “true love” sometimes having a bumpy path to get there. This next story whilst demonstrating that, also shows just how much times have changed. This is the story of a Blantyre woman scorned, who decided to take her boyfriend to court for her financial recompense, after he abruptly ended their relationship!
Before Sheriff Davidson on Friday 21st March 1902, in Hamilton Sheriff Court, an action was called at the instance of Mary Smith Wright, a domestic servant, Earnock View, Hamilton, against John Neil Stein, miner and music teacher of Rosendale Place, Blantyre, for £200 damages, with expenses, for alleged breach of promise of marriage.
Mary stated she was 22 years of age, and that John was about the same age. Although a miner, John was also a music teacher, and was presently earning fees for teaching pupils.
Mary and John began a friendship acquaintance about 11 years ago when they were only 11, which subsequently ripened into friendship, then and latterly when they were each 18, through courtship, had developed into love. At the time Mary was living in Blantyre, and they took walks together and visited mutual acquaintances who generally regarded them both by 1899, as lovers. In or about the month of September 1899, John proposed marriage to Mary, which she happily accepted.
About November 1899, Mary went to reside with an ill aunt in America. The arrangement was to be short term and John was distressed at the loss of Mary’s companionship. So, he entered into an affectionate correspondence with her, many excerpts of which, were read out in court. Mary soon after returned to Scotland, and obtained a situation to maintain herself till the planned marriage.
In August 1901, John wrote to her while suggesting who should have the privilege of being best maid. In December, 1901, he wrote to Mary’s father asking his consent to the marriage, which he received. The couple also tentatively hired a house in Blantyre for their marriage. They remained on the best of terms until the end of January of the present year (1902), the marriage having been definitely arranged for June 1902.
However, something happened that winter. On 29th January, despite Mary being nearby, John wrote to her postponing the marriage till October. Although this letter was not written in John’s usual affectionate manner, Mary did not suspect any change in his sentiments, and cordially agreed to what he wished.
But evidence that a change had taken place was made plain by another letter from John, dated 6th February, 1902, in which he said :—“Well, Mary, I have now made up my mind that our correspondence with each other shall cease from now. I don’t wish to interfere with your happiness in life—(Signed) John N. Stein.”
This came as a sudden shock to Mary, as her fiancé didn’t want to correspond, see each other, let alone get married. Mary was aggrieved and decided to pursue John for the expenses already paid out for the planned wedding, including her ticket of coming back from America. Indeed, she was asking for £200 from him (a sum of £30,000 in todays money!!)
In John’s defence, he admitted the breach of promise, not wishing now to pursue the relationship or marriage. This was accepted, but he pleaded with the court that the sum sued for is grossly excessive, and that the sum of £15, which has been offered by him earlier, was a fair amount. John further stated that he was a miner earning only 25s per week and even his musical fees earned came nowhere near that, merely a hobby. He also denied certain statements made by Mary, but wished to keep things amicable. The case was transmitted to the Sheriff in the usual way, and was postponed until April 1902, after which Mary ended up accepting the £15 offered (about £2,200 todays money).
Can you ever imagine a case like this happening these days for an unmarried couple?!