Friday, August 14, 2015

Truth in family stories

I have, once again, been having some fun with my subscription to British Newspapers Online (the pay-to-use, and therefore nowhere near as good, British version of Trove), delving into the family stories and finding extra detail to add to them.  I recently discovered that one of my fathers ancestors was involved in a libel case, taking a newspaper editor to court for his suggestion his wife had been having an affair.  The report below is from the Chelmsford Chronicle on Friday 5th October 1888.

The trial was featured in several newspapers and included reports of testimony from several witnesses who had purchased the paper, read the article and drawn the same conclusion as to who it discussed and the misdeeds it inferred.  Eventually the jury retired and after deliberation of just 23 minutes, found Editor Ernest Brown guilty of all charges, and he was sentenced to three months in prison.  The final paragraph of a lengthy article from the Essex Newsman on Saturday 8th December 1888 is below.

There is a final piece to this puzzle reported later that month.  A short notice which says a great deal about the opinion of the public in this case was reported in the Essex Newsman on Saturday 29 December 1888, about a public subscription being started to repay Walter Green's costs in pursuing the libel case.  The case is referred to as a public service to the community - leaving no doubt as to exactly where sympathies lay!

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