[From High Bailiff Laughton's Recollections, 1911]
Lamothe, as I have said, was always ready for any emergency. He was never caught napping. Extreme modesty could not be truthfully alleged against him neither could his worst enemy charge him with erring upon the side of unnecessary legal accuracy. I must here quote another case to illustrate this.
The waste lands on the mountains of the Island were formerly used by the people as " Commons," whereon they grazed their cattle and sheep. Her Majesty's Commissioners of Woods and Forests, however, intervened and claimed certain rights in them, which, not being admitted by the Manx Commoners, caused considerable friction as a consequence; and finally a Royal Commission was issued from England to enquire into the respective rights of the several claimants. Lamothe took a warm interest upon behalf of the Commoners, and, in speeches he delivered in various parts of the Island he gave forth that the " people's rights were indefeasible and that the Crown had none whatever." He was enthusiastically retained by the people to defend their rights before the Royal Commission, and a great victory was confidently expected.
At the enquiry, witnesses from all parts of the Island were examined, and evidence carefully taken in writing. The Counsel for the Crown, I think it was Mr. James, the late Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, presented his case before the Commissioners. and in doing so, quoted largely from "Manwood on Forest Law," which is the standard work upon that branch of Jurisprudence. Now Lamothe did not quite catch the name of the authority quoted, and, in his notes, wrote it down as "Hanwell" instead of "Manwood". In point of fact he had never seen or heard of the book mentioned, as questions of Forest Law had never previously been raised amongst us; but he was not the man to admit this, and accordingly when he came to address the Commissioners, he said with great self-possession, ' that he had long been familiar with ' Hanwell" on Forest law but that it id not apply to the Isle of Man This remark caused much amusement at the time, and a gentleman who had come down with the, Commission- I have forgotten his name, but think he was a Government surveyor - wrote impromptu the following lines, which were circulated round the Court.-
" Advice to Manx Commoners."
" Lamothe's the man to plead your cause
For argue it he can well;
Profoundly versed m Forest Laws,
He studied long in ' Hanwell'
Some twenty years subsequently, I happened to have occasion to call at the Office, in London, of the Commissioners of Woods and Forrests, and I asked the Solicitor, Mr watson, wether he recollected the circumstances, whereupon he quoted the exact words, which had clearly made a lasting impression upon him.
Lamothe, though perhaps not deeply read in dry law, yet had Shakespeare at his finger ends. Having a most excellent verbal memory, he could quote pages from nearly every one of the plays. It might almost have been said of him that Shakespeare was his very life; and alas, in a certain sense, he; was his death.
It happened in this wise. In those days Penny Readings were very popular in Douglas, and upon a certain evening Mr. Henry B. Loch, then Lieutenant-Governor of the Island (afterwards Lord Loch, Governor and High Commissioner of the Cape), was to take the chair. I recollect that I was one of the readers that evening. The House of Keys was then in Session in Castletown, and Lamothe, being a member, was there, and he and six or eight others drove to Douglas on purpose to be present. The evening proved a great success, and Lamothe was enthusiastic in his delight. Some of his companions told me afterwards that during the whole of the drive back to, Castletown, he appeared to be very excited by the evening's entertainment, and recited entire passages from several of the plays without missing or mis-quoting a single word. Upon his arrival at the George Hotel, at half-past eleven, he partook of a hearty supper, and went to bed at one o'clock'. During the night he became so unwell that Doctor Wise was sent for, but, poor fellow, he died in his chair about eleven the next morning. Dr. Wise gave it as his opinion that death was due to apoplexy, supervening upon excitement caused by the readings, conjointly with partaking of a heavy meal before going to bed.
(Note.-Mr. Laughton omitted to state that it was to hear him, in his selections from Shakespeare, that the party travelled all the way from Castletown to Douglas; and that the mental excitement of Mr. Lamothe was caused by his high appreciation of Mr. Laughton's readings, so much so, that all the way back to Castletown, he kept saying. " Laughton's a hero Laughton's a hero."-F. A. L.)