Clare - Divorce Suit (Barton vs Barton) July 10, 1915

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File contributed by: Aileen Wynne November 20, 2021, 3:22 pm


Clare Champion July 10, 1915
Divorce Suit
Story of a husbands shocking cruelty
Told by wife and children
Judge Moloney grants a separation:

At the Clare Assizes on Tuesday evening, before Judge
Moloney, a petition for a divorce, a measna et thora was
heard. The petitioner was Mrs Margaret Barton, now of
Limerick, and the respondant, Patrick Barton, a farmer of
Sallybank, Broadford. Petitioner sought a divorce from her
husband on the grounds of continuous cruelty. Mt P.D.
Flemming K.C. with Mr I. Phelps, B.L. (instructed by Mr
Moran, solicitor, appeared for the petitioner.
Mr P. Lynch K.C. with Mr J. Fitagerald B.L (instructed by
Messers Connelly & Co. solrs, appeared for the respondant.
Mr Flemming, detailing the case, said the parties were
married on the 14th February 1893. The petitioners maiden
name was Crowe, and she belongs to respectable people of the
farming class living in that locality. There were 11
children of the marriage, nine of whom are alive. The
oldest of these are now in America. It would appear that
the respondant was a man of very violent and brutal temper.
For the past five or six years he had frequently assaulted
her in a violent manner. He threatened her life and
threatened to shoot her. On at least three occasions, he
turned his wife and children out of the house and they were
obliged to seek shelter elsewhere, because of the fear and
terror which he had inspired in them. His wife never
deserved this conduct from him, still he persistently got on
with violence. He assaulted his children in their mothers
presence for nothing , and continued to do everything
calculated to wound a mothers affections for her offsprings.
  In 1908 the ill treatment continued. It went on
systematically until on the 22nd August it culminated by the
petitioner leaving her husbands house for good. In 1908 he
struck her and knocker her on the floor. On three occasions
he put her out of the house and she was obliged to seek
shelter from the neighbours.
In 1913 the abuse continued. He spat on her face, and on
one occasion actually bit her on the arm. In July 1913 he
assaulted her with a whip. She was perpetually threatened
by him that he would take her life. He also made
accusations against her as to her morality with regards to
certain neighbouring farmers. He called her very foul
names, and also made improper allegations as to the
children, which were all absolutely without foundation. She
led a terrible life with him. He forced the three eldest
children to America so that they would be out of their
mother presence. As time went on his hatred for them was
increasing. On the 31st January 1914, he struck his wife
with a horse collar. On the 10th February 1914, he struck
her and knocked her and when she was down he kicked her.
The poor woman had got into a terrible state of despair.
She took him before the magistrates and he was fined and
bound to the peace for 12 months. Fr Kennedy, their Parish
Priest and Fr Smith CC. endeavoured to affect a
reconciliation between them. The husband continued his
violence and insult, told his children not to mention the
name of their mother. Again the parish priest came. This
time he made them shake hands. No sooner had this
reconciliation been affected through the instrumentality of
the parish priest, then he broke out again and went over his
old course of bad conduct towards his wife. He struck her
with a chair. He got a revolver and kept it loaded in he
bedroom, and used to fire shots about the place.
On one occasion he lifted one of the children named Patrick,
and told his to raise his feet, and split his mother skull
with them. It was violence and conduct such as that that
had driven this woman to take this course. Her health was
giving way. She was a slave in her own house. Her children,
against whom the violence of their father was also directed,
had to leave the house often for months at a time. On the
23rd April he went into her room, took the bed clothes off
her and said he would burn her. She got into a state issued
summons against him, and the magistrates, who were unwilling
to do anything which would be against permanent harmony,
adjourned the case for a month to give the parties a chance
to become reconciled. The priest came again and after he
had gone, the husband said she could do no more now, and
attacked her and called her scurrilous names, which counsel
mentioned, and putting his clenched fist up to her face said
he would, before many months give her greater reason to go
to Broadford that she had before, and that she would never
forget it. Mrs Barton was not now a shadow of her former
self. She had no clothes. The same clothes were worn by
her every day of the week.
His Lordship enquired if the respondant could afford clothes.
Mr Flemming Yes - He had lots of stock. His valuation is
£18. Counsel, continuing said the lady made application for
alimony, which she got, but which her husband never paid
her. She had left the house for good since 22nd August 1914,
and this was in September 1914. Before they left, the
defendant had begun to starve them. He used lock all the
food from them. Under those circumstances, counsel
submitted, when he proved his case, he was entitled to a

Wifes evidence
Mrs Margaret Barton was then called and deposed that she had
11 children. Three of them were in America, two died in
infancy, and she had six with her. In 1908 her husband
began to abuse her; he called her bad, foul names. He
struck her on the face and knocked her on the floor. He
told her that he would shoot her, or that he would never
stop until he had put her into the asylum, or put her out of
the place by starvation, or some way or other. He was going
on with that sort of talk to her every week in the year. In
1909 he told her he would hang for her and he did not care
what became of himself so long as she was gone before him.
He made reflections on [all he?] children. In 1910 he
continued his violence. He threatened to take her life and
she and the family had to leave the house form him three
times. He made accusations against her [There's a line on
the microfilm and the last line (or more) is missing from
the microfilm.]

worse and worse and more violent and her health was
beginning to decline. Had you apprehensions for your
personal safety. Yes I was always afraid of my life. He
nearly choked me one night. In 1912 he was still worse and
continued to threaten her. She had to sleep out of he house
twice at nights. He also put the children out one night and
broke the furniture and the delft and often they had to be
out of the house by day form him.

He told them that he would burn her to a cinder and he would
drive bullets through her. He got a double barrel gun and
used to keep it loaded in the room with him every night. He
also kept a revolver loaded in the room with him. She was
afraid he might shoot her. In 1913 his attitude was very
bad and threatening, he spat on her face and bit her on the
arm. He called her ?Kitty O?Shea? and bad names also. He
left the print of his teeth on her arm and it was
discoloured and sore for some time. He gave her three hard
strokes of a whip later on in the presence of her children,
and she was screaming. The children were in a state of
great terror. He used call her bad names in their presence.
 He again threatened to shoot her. In January 1914, he
struck her with a horse collar. She was saying nothing at
the time when he came up behind her at the fire and did it.
On the same occasion he took the room door off the hinges
and ran after her daughter Lizzy with it. They both had to
run out of the house from him. In February 1914 he knocked
her with a blow of his fist in the face and when she was
down he kicked her on the back. The children were roaring
and crying about the place. She had to leave the house and
he said he would shoot her if she came in again that night.
Herself and Lizzie slept that night in the cow house under
the cows heads, in the hay. Soon after that he held a
revolver to her face. At other times he would say: ?Are you
there Kitty? I will drive bullets through you?. He used
fire the shots from the door of the house and to tell the
children to shoot anyone who would come into the yard when
he would be away. They were in a frightful way with him. On
the 23rd February 1914 they issued summonses against him and
he was fined 10 shillings with 3s 6d costs and bound to the
peace. He told her never to come inside the door again. He
would not allow her daughters to do anything for her.
Because of Father Smiths intervention, one of the children
who had run away from the house came back, and he was only
there one night when the defendant threw him out and he had
to go away again. Father Kennedy tried to bring about
reconciliation after the Petty Sessions proceedings. He came
to the house and got them to shake hands with the priest was
not going to hours when she [sic] was as bad as ever again
calling her foul names and displaying a violent attitude
towards her. He told he would shoot her and hang for her. He
locked all the food , the meat, tea and suggar [sic] butter
and meat and everything from them.

In April,1914 ,he came into a sofa in the sitting room,
which she had converted into a bed, and he took the clothes
off her saying he would burn her into a cinder. He asked
for his supper. It was ready but he would not take it. He
locked her bed clothes and she had to sleep with her
daughter.  On 11th July 1914, she issued another summons
against him, and it was adjourned for a month to see if a
friendly arrangement could be come to between them. He told
witness never to come under the same roof with him. Father
Kennedy came again. He tried to settle matters, and when he
went her husband said she would have cause to remember that
day. Mr. Lynch said there was not a single word about all
this in the petition. It was expressly pleaded that there
was a comdonation [sic] and there was not a single word of
reply. Continuing, witness gave further evidence of violence
and abuse of to the 22nd of August, when she left the house
not being able to ?stick? it any longer. As regards the
butter, he said if she made any he would scatter is about
the fields with a shovel she went from her husband's house
to Limerick and went from there in the evening to her
brothers house. She had no clothes and he had to buy
clothes for her. The children followed her out of the
place. She was allowed 10s per week alimony, and he did not
give her one penny of it. He has 4 cows, 22 cattle, one
horse and a mule. He now has all his stock sold. He would
not allow her to use the jennet to take her to town, or to

Cross examination

Cross examined by Mr Lynch, witness said her daughter
(Lizzy) did no work on the farm. He hunted her in 1911. She
went to the house of a first cousin of his in Kilkishen. She
came back the following Christmas, and he put her away
again, and said he would not leave a single child to her ?
that he would put everyone of them across the water. Her
daughter (Lizzy) got a letter from Mr Moran, solicitor, who
was then acting for the defendant on the 5th August 1913. Mr
Lynch proposed that the be read. Mr Fleming objected. The
letter could not be evidence.

Mr Lynch (to witness) you know your daughter Lizzy was asked
in that letter if she desires to go to America, and that if
she did the defendant would pay her passage. Yes.
Would it be true to say this when your husband went to Mr
Moore and there were bruises on his head due to the violence
of you and your daughter towards him? It would be false.
Why was his head damaged at the time? Yes; he fell one
evening taking a sack of flour into the house and hurt his
Nobody assaulted him with a stick? Yes: I struck him on the
hand one time with a rod when he bit my arm. My daughter
also gave him a blow one time to keep him from assaulting me
until I escaped.
Further questioned witness said husband often kicked the
teapot and said there was arsenic and predicted acid in it.
The police barrack was within half a mile of her, and she
never made any complaints about him. She sent her daughter
to school to Limerick and her uncle was paying for her
there. She also sent the children to Clonlara school where
her brother was the teacher and her husband did not object
to it.
Was it not over sending the children to Clonlara that the
trouble began? No. Did you husband object to them going
there? No, but he wanted to keep them at home from school.
She knew her husband was trying to sell the grass of his
farm at an auction in Limerick and she prevented him from
selling it.
Did you assault a man named Boland who came to assist your
husband at his work? Yes, he was bringing those people there
and he would not let his own children do his work.
She was now living with her family at Castleview Terrace,
Lizzie Barton, 21 years, deposed she was fourth of the
family. She corroborated her mothers evidence in detail as
to the abuse and various acts of violence which she was the
victim while she (witness) was there. She also deposed to
the attacks on herself as stated by her mother.
Mr Fitzgerald - Have you persistently encouraged your mother
to make life unpleasant for your father since you came back
in 1912? No, for I was not of terror, and shortly afterwards
she long there until I had to leave again.
Martin Barton, 15 years also corroborated his mothers
evidence and said his father throw mud off the road at her
face. He was also the object of attack from his father. At
one time he threw him out of the house on his face. Witness
had to leave the place. He would not get anything to eat
except potatoes.

Cross examined by Mr Lynch - Witness admitted assaulting a
young lad named Boland, whom he found on his fathers land,
because the Bolands said they would beat him (witness if
they caught him on their land.

Mr Flemming - Your occupation now is carrying publicans,
bottles and washing them like David Copperfield? Yes.
James Crowe, brother of the petitioner deposed he was a
farmer. When she came to his house in August last she was
in as wretched state - weak and exhausted and her clothes
were very bad.
Cross examined by Mr Fitzgerald - Did you threaten to bring
a party of men to attack this man at any time? No.

The Defence
Opening the case for the respondent. Mr Lynch said there
were several incidents sworn to be the petitioner with
particular accuracy, and there was "not one word about them
in her petition". One matter that was very strongly relied
upon was the insufficiency of food in the house. There was
not a word of that in the petition either.
What really happened in this case was that the woman and her
family wanted to live a life much above what they were in a
position to afford. This poor man, who was trying his best
to make ends meet, found it impossible to go on in the face
of this extravagance. Neither could he stand the
nonsensical idea of going on visits for twelve months, which
his family used to do. When his family grew up they only
wanted dancing at the house and cycling around the roads
(laughter) There was never ay trouble between the man and
his wife until the past five or six years, and it was
apparently about the education of the children that the
unpleasantness arose. This woman wanted the children to be
sent to Clonlara school, where her brother was teacher, and
she did send them. Fr Kennedy eventually restored
friendship between them in July, and since the respondent
would swear nothing had occurred in the way of
unpleasantness. Everything went well until the telegram
came to her from Limerick, telling her to go to there, where
she swore an affidavit drafted by counsel.  He ventured to
say this was the most disgraceful petition ever heard
between a wife and husband. If the machinery of the High
Court was to be used for those matrimonial squabbles between
people of the defendants position in life, it was an abuse
of the process of court. All this about the attacks and
being locked out of the house at night was all the greatest
humbug and nonsense. There was not a single mark of
violence on this woman. He asked his Lordship to say that
this position was one which should never have been brought
into court.

Respondants Evidence.
Patrick Barton, in reply to Mr Lynch deposed that he was
married for 27 or 28 years; there were nine in the family
and two died. The farm was a mountainy farm, between
Limerick and Broadford, and the annuity paid to the Land
Commission was £10 7s 11d and the Poor Law valuation was £7
15s. The carrying power was 3 cows, until he put top
dressing and slag on it. There was never any difference
between himself and his wife until he brought the children
back from Clonlara school, which was four Irish miles away,
and sent them to Sallybank school, which was on the boundary
of his farm. His children were first going to Sallybank and
then they went to Clonlara six years ago. They remained at
Clonlara for three years, and then he brought them back.
That was the first difference he had with his wife. Her
brother was school master at Broadford, and the children
were failing in their health going there. One of them fell
into a pond while going there and was nearly drowned. The
eldest girl went to America six years ago; the second child
was a boy named James, who went to America about 3 years
ago; Mary was gone for about 4 years. His wife always
managed the farm and even when he sold cattle he gave her
the price of them, keeping nothing for himself but perhaps a
shilling. Lizzie was now about 21 years or more. He had
occasion to complain of her treatment of him in August

At that time the house was an open house for gathering and
dancing. The girls were doing nothing but cycling and he
was assaulted by his wife and daughter. On this occasion he
was after coming back form Limerick at about 3 o'clock in
the evening and when he was going in the door his wife said:
"Now will you abuse or strike us?" He told her to have sense
and go in home and not to have the people laughing at her.
 She was standing at the door and he shoved her in before
him. He hung up the collar on the pin that was in the
kitchen and came out for the rest of the tackle; his wife
followed him out; herself and her daughter had two sticks in
their hands. His wife struck him on the hand and as he held
up the saddle to protect himself his daughter came in behind
him and struck him on the head. They then went away
laughing at him. He never rose a hand to his wife in his
Mr Lynch - Is that true? No
She says you bit her arm and that you threatened to drive
bullets through her. And that you would burn her to a
cinder. It was a neighbour that said they should be burned
to a cinder.
She says that in the year 1913 you struck her across the
back with a whip. Is that also untrue? I never raised a
whip, or a rod, or a hand to her. Is it true that you hit
her with a chair? Never. When she says you hit her with a
chair who was present? John Boland. She brought you to the
Petty Sessions on the 27th February? Yes She had a solicitor
and you had not? Yes.
And you asked for an adjournment and did not get it? Yes.
Did you do anything to her between 23rd February and 13th
July? No
You were summonsed and the magistrates adjourned the case?
And the parish priest came out to your house and settled the
matter between you? Yes, made us shake hands.
From the day the priest visited your house to the day she
left you had you any difference with your wife? I never
opened my lips to her.
A telegram came to your house the morning she left? Yes. I
remember a chap gave it to me and I gave it to her telling
that I had to pay 3d on it. Was that telegram from Mr Moran,
her solicitor? Yes.
Saying to go the next morning he wanted to see her? Yes.

Cross Examination
Mr Flemming - I understand that you came up here prepared to
deny everything? I came up here to tell the truth and
anything that is not true I must deny it! Do you deny
everything that your wife said? Yes.
Do you deny that you threatened to shoot her? Yes.
Or beat her? Yes.
You did call her names then? I may have in excitement?
Did you call her "Kitty O'Shea"? No
Did you ever hear of Kitty O'Shea? Who was she? Am M.P.s
wife. You heard all about her? Yes, a good deal.
I understand you are the gentlest and mildest man, and never
beat, or threatened to beat to abuse her? If you call that
To call what? To call her Kitty or Peggy?
And you never called her anything else? Never
You did not bite her? Never.
You heard her little son swear that her arm was black and
sore? I never did it.
You were a kind father and husband? I did my best for them.
And how do you account for your little boy coming here and
swearing that he saw you bite your wife? It is a plot
against me.
Your little boy is in a plot against you? Yes.
And your daughter? Yes.
And wife? Yes.
Is there any other man in the country that you know of that
his wife and children are engaged in a plot against him? I
don't know one.
Can you tell me why it is so in your case? Because I brought
the children back from Clonlara and would not keep an open
house for gambling and dancing.
John Boland deposed he was a neighbour of Bartons. On the
10th February 1914, when he came form Limerick with the
defendant, he went to his house. Barton asked his wife for
a cup of tea three times and got no answer from her. He
pulled the chair for under her and she ran out with her
daughter. Mrs Barton attacked him at the house because he
would not take a false oath for her in Broadford.
Mr Phelps - and the magistrates did not believe you in
John Boland (junior) deposed that he used work for Barton.
Since the 24th April last, when he was assaulted by Mrs
Barton, he got no meals in the house. None of his (Bartons)
family ever assisted In the working of the farm.
Patrick Moloney deposed he knew nothing of the relations
between Barton and his

Police Evidence
Sergeant Dolan, Kilmore, deposed he knew the respondent to
be a industrious, hardworking man. On the 31st January
1914, Mrs Barton complained of an assault on her by her
husband. There were no marks on her.
Mr Flemming - Did you find Mrs Barton out one night at one
o'clock in an old laneway near the house and her children
with her? Yes
Where was Barton? In bed.
Mr Flemming - Sleeping the sleep of the just, and his wife
thrown out. Why? Didn't you tell us that until you had to
be asked, if you are an honest man? What did she say to
you? That Barton hunted her out.
Were the doors locked? The front door was locked but the
back door was open.
What did you do? I put the woman in and called up Barton,
who unlocked the door for us. He denied the assault.
Did you hear about the shots? Yes. I got a complaint about
Did you hear he was threatening to shoot his wife? Yes. I
got a complaint about it.
His Lordship - Did you see the back door open when you went
into the house that night? No.
When did you ascertain it was open? Next day (laughter)
His Lordship - Isn't that a brilliant effort for a Sergeant
of the R.I.C. you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Don't
you think you ought to be a little more careful.
That will do me.
Sergeant Ed Brady, Clare castle deposed he was at Kilmore
for some time. He also got complaints about squabbles
between himself and his wife. Mrs Barton told him in the
Autumn of 1911 that she could not stand her husband any
longer, that he was fighting and abusing her every night on
his return home drunk. He visited the house and both were
making complaints about each other. On another occasion,
James Barton called to the barracks and said his father was
out of his head and should be sent to the asylum.
By Mr Phelps, I told them it was not a case for the police
and there were no more reports made to me.

The Decision
His Lordship, summing up said this was a peculiar case.
There was a good deal of undisputed facts. Taking, in the
first instance, the respondents view of his wife, he said
for 23 years he had no fault to find with her. He trusted
her and gave her the control of all his money. It appeared
that Mrs Barton wanted to have the children educated at the
school in Clonlara which was run by her brother. He was
anxious to have them educated at the local school which was
at the bounds of his farm. The question apparently, to a
great extent, was the cause of this unpleasantness and
rowing. Now, as to the incident about the school; it was
only one incident in the career of abuse and a good deal of
violence to which this woman had been subjected to since the
birth of her youngest child in 1908. Undoubtedly, if her
evidence was to be accepted, she had been the victim of a
great deal of assaults and also of violence and absusive
language.  It was only right that one should clearly
understand the nature of matrimonial cruelty which entitled
a wife to a separation from her husband.  Violence may
consist of assaults or it may also consist of abusive or
threatening language, it may consist of attacks in the
presence of children, or it may also consist of unfounded
accusations as to a just woman virtue, which is often more
harmful to a good woman than direct violence. They had it
admitted there by the respondent himself that this woman had
been a good woman to him. For 23 years he never had any
fault to find with her. From her evidence they had it that
be bit her and that the marks of his teeth were visible in
her flesh; that he struck her with various articles, and
that he continued to call her abusive terms, until finally
on the 22nd August, the poor woman could stand it no longer
and she left her house for good, in a miserable and
half-naked state. He gave the decree asked for without
hesitation. As to the evidence of Sergeant Dolan, he
desired to say that he was not at all satisfied with it.
The police had a very responsible and serious duty to
perform. They were bound to assist in the administration of
justice and when they came to give evidence they were bound
to tell truthfully what they knew about the case. That was
their duty to the community. He referred to the evidence
given by the Sergeant and asked was that a proper way for
him to give evidence? Perhaps the matter might have been
sprung on him or it might be due to an accidental lapse of
his mind, but his lordship expected, and he was entitled to
expect, a very high standard of observance from the R.I.C.
the should give their evidence impartially, and not look to
the right or left of the table for inspiration and endeavour
to assist wholly and solely I the administration of justice.
Having said so much about the matter, he did not wish it
should go further.
His Lordship then made the necessary order granting the
petition with [last words gone]