Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October 24, 1885 --- A Bigamist in the Dock

At the Old Bailey, a philandering meat salesman is found guilty of bigamy.

31-year old James Malcolm lives with his wife in Islington but in his business travels he enjoyed taking upon the pose of being a wealthy shipowner, "Captain Macdonald." Miss Emma Dash and her mother, while taking the sea air on the Brighton Parade that March encountered the charming "Captain" who received permission to call on them that afternoon. After two days of courtship, he proposed to Miss Dash. He said he was sailing in a few days and keenly wished for Emma to accompany him; he pressed for and won a speedy response. The two were wed on 4 April.

After a connubial weekend in Chichester, "Macdonald" left for London to supervise sailing preliminaries. He failed to return and soon his distraught "bride" realized her plight. But for a chance meeting in London with one of the wedding guests, Malcolm might have gotten away with it. "Hello, Mac," the chap cried out. Malcolm insisted that there had been some mistake. The man, however, returned with Emma who, after nearly fainting, made pathetic hysterical appeals for her "husband's" return, "Donald, don't deny me; if you say you are the man I will forgive you." Malcolm again calmly insisted it was all a most unfortunate case of mistaken identity. Finally, Miss Dash's family, the scandal notwithstanding, filed charges.

The evidence is persuasive: "Macdonald's" supposed ship is the Kaikoura, a New Zealander familiar in the meat trade; the handwriting samples match; and Malcolm -whose luck seems to have been rather bad - had even been seen by a coworker that first weekend in Brighton. Finally, and most damning, a young lady from St. Alban's came forward, after reading reports of the trial, to identify Malcolm as the persistently ardent "Captain Macdonald" who had also wooed her.

Pronouncing a sentence of the maximum seven years, Mr. Justice Field thundered: “By fraud, by lies, by delusive hopes held out to that young woman [Miss Dash], you succeeded in inflicting upon her an injury which will never end until she dies.”

Sketches from The Graphic (

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