Thursday, July 13, 2017

Australia, 1901: Alice Makes a Name For Herself

When I perused the historical newspaper files at Trove, the National Library of Australia online resource, I was amazed at the amount of detail reported by the newspapers. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

The articles below are about Thomas R. Rankins (born 1858) and his wife, Alice Maude McCutcheon. This is the son of the Thomas Rankins (born 1829/1830) I have been telling you about in the several previous posts. This Thomas R. Rankins was my 1st cousin, 3 times removed, on my father's side, in case you are keeping score.

I don't think that I am revealing any family secrets here, as this story was carried in newspapers all over New South Wales (The Sydney Evening News and Daily Telegraph, The Cobar Herald), and even all the way to South Australia in the Adelaide News.

I can't seem to make this clipping from the Cobar Herald, Sept 21, 1901 any larger. I'll use the transcription from Trove where these clippings were located.

Transcription: The hearing of the suit in which Thomas Rankins, of Wrightville, near Cobar, cordialmaker, petitioned for a dissolution of his marriage with Alice Maud Rankins, formerly M'Cutcheon, on the ground of her adultery with Thomas Woodthorpe, who was joined as co-respondent, was heard at the Divorce court, Sydney, on Monday morning before Mr Justice Simpson and a special jury of twelve.

The respondent, in her answer denied the allegations made against her, and cross-charged drunkenness and cruelty, upon which grounds she, in turn. asked for relief. The petitioner denied those allegations, and the co-respondent, in an answer filed by him, denied the misconduct charged against him. 

In the petition a claim for £1000 compensation was laid against Woodthorpe. The petitioner, who was represented by Mr. Whitfield, there being no appearance of either respondent or co-respondent,
deposed to having married the respondent at Cootamundra in May, 1891, according to the rites of the Presbyterian Church. They lived in various places till September, 1896, when they went to reside in Wrightville.
They then had three children, and in January, 1898, another child was born. Woodthorpe, who was a baker, used to serve them with bread, and he frequently had breakfast at petitioner's' house. Up to
1900 petitioner and his wife lived happily, and in that year he asked his wife to cease dealing with Woodthorpe. Petitioner afterwards saw a lot of bread, and his wife said someone was leaving an extra supply, but she did not know who it was. 

On a subsequent occasion, one of his sons told him something, and petitioner spoke to his wife. He said to her: 'Reggie tells me Woodthorpe is always stuck here.' She said that was a lie. He asked if Woodthorpe was there at all and she replied: 'Not when he says'. Next morning she picked up a carving knife and threw it at the boy, saying: 'I'll teach you to tell lies about your mother.'

Petitioner sent a letter by his son to Woodthorpe on September 24, and in the evening of that day his wife said he had a cheek sending a letter 'business transactions being ended,' that being the first part of the letter. He had not told her about sending the letter. 

About this time he went into her room one morning, and thinking she looked downhearted said, ' Cheer up my wife; things will be all right'' She said, ' Yes, I'm your wife, but another man's' woman.'
He exclaimed, 'What! Do you mean to say you are a ???' and he stopped. 'He did not say what, but he meant a lot. Her reply was, 'Yes.' 

On another occasion, he saw a boy looking round the door of the bedroom, and, replying to a question, the lad said he was looking for Mr Woodthorpe. His wife said : 'That was a nice place to
look for him,' and petitioner, who was laying on the bed at the time, said, ' I should think so,' and rising, left the room. To his wife, he afterwards wrote a letter. 

On October 16, Woodthorpe had the gates at the races, and petitioner served the booth with cordials. He saw Woodthorpe at about half-past three in the saddling paddock, and missed him half an hour later. Returning home, he saw Woodthorpe there, and had a fight with him. During the fight, the respondent stepped up behind petitioner, and pulled him off, and told Woodthorpe to summons him. Woodthorpe said he would, and left. 

Petitioner some time later spoke to his wife about the house being upset by 'A ? thing like that.'
His wife said, ' Don't you call him a thing, or I'll brand you with this,' flourishing a flat iron. She did brand him.
Petitioner related an occasion upon which his wife had said, 'When Willie gets stronger I am going to live at the bakery; I am only biding my own time. I am going to keep house for Woodthorpe and — — ,' She left on October 29, and took away with her, two of the children. 

He received a letter from Mrs M'Cutcheon. The letter (which was read by the associate) was dated November 16, 1900, and began, 'My own dearest Alice.' It was of an affectionate nature throughout, and concluded, ' Now be sure and kiss our dear boys for me. With best wishes to your mother, and hoping yourself and all are well, with fond kisses, Alice, for yourself. I shall never forget the last Saturday night we parted, — From your ever faithful Tom.'

Mrs Ann M'Cutcheon, mother of the respondent, said that after she left Rankins's house with her daughter they went to two or three different places, and then to a house in Glebe road. Woodthorpe came to that house on December 23. He came there as a boarder, and remained till January. Later she spoke to her daughter, and told her that she believed all that she did not believe in Cobar.' They had some words over the matter, and witness told her she would not stop in the house. The letter produced she handed to the petitioner.
This having concluded the petitioner's case, his Honor summed up, and the jury retired to consider their verdict at 1 o'clock. At 4.20, the jury returned into court with a finding in favor of the petitioner.
They assessed the damages at £350. His Honor granted a decree nisi, making it returnable in three months. [End transcription]

There was an odd postscript to all this drama. Nineteen years later, in the Richmond River Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser, New South Wales, there appeared an article on Friday,12 March 1920, page 3. I hope you can read from the enlarged clipping. If not, the main points are: Woodthorpe disappeared after the previous trial and never paid the damages and additional costs, now amounting to  £643. He was located by the petitioner (Rankins) 17 years later, a wealthy man in Perth, Western Australia. Although Rankins sued for costs and fines and to have Woodthorpe found in contempt, the court found that since more than 12 years had passed the case was dismissed.

As for Alice, I do know that she lived until 1942, dying in Redfern, New South Wales, but I don't know (yet) what happened to her during those intervening years, or if she ever had occasion to practice any more of her knife-throwing or man-branding skills.

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