[From High Bailiff Laughton's Recollections, 1911]
BY F. A. LAUGHTON, OF NATAL.
I HAVE been informed that the publication of my late Father's reminiscences would be of interest to the people in the Isle of Man, and I have been asked to revise and publish them.
There is not any of them-along with many others- which has not been related to me by him, and many a time have we laughed together over them. I recognise, however, that his mode in personally recounting them, added a hundredfold to their humour; but I shall give them in his own words.
I ask leave to say, as his son, that in the discharge of his duty his blows were mighty, inflicted fearlessly, but never was there a warmer heart or a truer friend. He sustained throughout his life as many blows as any man I know, and he felt them grievously: but, in both his public and private life, he buoyantly faced them, so as to induce most to believe he was unaffected,
Before giving the reminiscences I shall refer to two incidents not mentioned by my father.
About the first case-long years ago-which I heard him conduct, caused me so loudly to express my amusement-being then very young - that I was warned that if I did not moderate it, I would be in danger of being committed for contempt of court.
There was a comical looking little man-whose name I must not give-clothed commonly in what we call evening dress, with a high white choker. He was extremely pious, or gave every one so to understand, but his business transactions were peculiar. Lastly, he had a solemn sanctimonious-looking face and always talked " good."
He started a business and, in connection with his transactions therein, a certain firm had caused statements to be made which the little man thought libellous, entitling him to have damages, and consequently he brought an action before Deemster Stephen and a jury.
My father was for the defendants, and the plaintiff in examination in chief, alleged, most unfortunately for him, that he had hoped " hereafter" to do a very lucrative business, which hopes had been destroyed by the alleged libellous statements of the defendants. My father's cross-examination of the plaintiff was amusing enough, but it was his address to the jury which caused uncontrollable laughter, the consternation depicted in and of the solemn face of the Deemster adding much to the drollery.
To get hold of a witness in the box, whom my father thought a humbug, was positive glee to him and, in addressing the jury, he took as his text the plaintiffs unfortunate suggestion of a " hereafter." " Hereafter," gentlemen, said my father to the jury, and then pictured the hereafter of the plaintiff in a way which can be imagined rather than described in words (I remember a place where there is supposed to be a warm climate was alluded to, also a gentleman with a tail actively employed
The jury, convulsed with laughter throughout, and despite the Deemster's words of consternation at my father's remarks, gave a verdict for the defendants with costs.
I have heard many and many a case since, but amusement breaks out afresh in me when I recall the face of the Deemster, and the face of the plaintiff when his " hereafter" was being pictured to the jury.
The second incident to which I have referred, and about which my father has said nothing in his reminiscences, is the all-important one to him, his having been called upon by the Governor, Mr H. B. Loch, to show cause why he should not be disbarred.
I presume that my father's reason or not referring to this incident was the great regard which he always had for the Governor. There were such men who never bore resentment, and I shall honour my father's memory by merely saying that this matter, which caused such intense excitement in the Island, practically collapsed after Mr Adams, for my father, put the following questions to the tribunal which sat to determine it, viz.: What is the charge ? Who brings it ? and who tries it ?
The Law Society, considering its rights and privileges infringed by the action of the Governor, called a meeting, my father being undoubtedly one of the chief instigators, to decide what steps should be taken to protect its rights. At that meeting Mr J. C. Lamothe was, I think, the only, supporter of the Governor, and he wrote a letter-carelessly worded to one of the papers giving an account of such meeting, but each of his statements, although very nearly accurate, was not quite so. My father took advantage of this to have a sly dig at Mr Lamothe and the Governor, and wrote the following reply:-
MONRO v. GELLING.
To the Editor of the " Sun."
Sir,-Mr John Lamothe, in his letter inserted in your paper of Saturday last (alluding to the meeting of the Bar in the Law Library), that the whole of the resolutions were written by Mr Laughton. This statement is incorrect. Mr John Lamothe, in the same letter, states that Mr Laughton proposed one of the resolutions. This statement is also incorrect. Mr John Lamothe, in the same letter, makes divers other statements with reference to myself and other members of the Bar, which are equally incorrect. I entertain towards Mr John Lamothe quite an appreciative feeling for his manly, independent letter,- and I wish him " A merry Christmas and a happy New Year," and should any office fall vacant, to the appointment of which I can aid him by any influence which I may possess with his Excellency the Lieut.Governor, he may calculate upon my hearty support provided that it is not essential to the enjoyment of such office that its possessor should be distinguished for accuracy in his statements of facts or elegance of diction in his letter writing.- I am, dear sir yours truly, ALFRED N. LAUGHTON.
Douglas, 23rd December, 1874.
There was great laughter at Mr Lamothe's expense and at the influence which my father suggested that, at that particular time of excitement, he had with His Excellency. Mr Lamothe joined in the laughter raised against himself, and I remember his meeting my father in the street, laughingly shaking hands with him saving 'Oh, Laughton, Laughton !" F. A. LAUGHTON.
Durban 26th August, 1912.