“Judgement of the Court as to his Claim of Heirship”

Jan 1876.

There were two witnesses who, above all, should know whether there was a marriage or not; Bridget O’Reilly and Andrew Mercer. Up to mid 1875 they apparently had not the slightest idea that there was a marriage, or that Andrew was the lawful son.

There were three witnesses, chums of young Andrew, who testified that Bridget had believed there was a marriage, against thirty who swore to the fact that for the last twenty years, Andrew Mercer had been known as an unmarried man.

Mercer seldom went out into society, and the ordinary fact as to the public reception of his alleged wife was wanting. Messrs., Crowther, Gamble, Dalton, Grant, Capreol, Hay, Hawke, Scadding, Dean, Grasset and many others, who were seeing him continually, and whose interest it was to ascertain if he was married, were found to hold the opinion that he was not married and that he repudiated the idea.

The chums of Mr. Mercer (junior) generally testified that she was addressed as Mrs Mercer, but it was to be remembered that she acted very violently if she was not so addressed; it may be said that he allowed her thus to be addressed because the result of his interference would have been a disturbance; it was not necessary to proclaim their shame to every servant who came there for one or two months.

It was asked, if she was not his wife, how came he to endure this torture for so many years. Mr Mercer was a timid, reserved man, who hated the idea of public exposure, and of branding his son as illegitimate. He knew that if Bridget O’Reilly was driven to extremity she would resort to every means in her power, either to force him to make a liberal settlement, or to take her back again. Thinking this, and not wishing the child to be removed, he submitted to a great deal at the hands of this woman.

… All the circumstances of this case go to show that there was no marriage.

In the further prosecution of the case, the plaintiff attempted to show that there was a marriage at a particular time and place. The only witness to this was Bridget O’Reilly herself, who said that she did not know Father O’Reilly, by whom she said the ceremony had been performed, and that it was merely by chance she had applied to him to marry her. The first thing that struck one was that although she attended a Roman Catholic church here, she should determine to go to the Gore, to a person she had never seen. Then she spoke very distinctly as to the manner in which she went out to Father O’Reilly. She said she took the train at Bay St. in 1851, for the Weston station, which she said was near the village, and then took the stage which brought her within half a mile of the house of the priest. The first difficulty that met her there was, that the Northern Railway which, she pointed to as the train that took her, did not run until 1853. The second was that the Weston station is two and a half miles from the village. The third, that at Weston on the Northern Railway, there is only a flag station, that there is no hotel; that there was never a stage running from Weston within two miles of the church; and that in 1851 there was no stage at all. The fourth difficulty, was that the house is quite close to the church instead of a mile from it. It is beyond a shadow of doubt that the whole story is a fabrication.

The page in the Parish Record on which the supposed marriage was recorded was unlike any other in the entire record. Suspicion was increased instead of being dispelled by the production of the book, for there was not a single page from beginning to end at all like the page containing the entry. Although the entry is said to have been made 25 years ago, it is the only place in the book where the ink was fresh.

It was apparent that the writing of the will was not the ordinary writing of Mr. Mercer, that it was suggested by the learned counsel for the plaintiff, that he was in a nervous state at the time. Not the slightest nervousness was displayed in the writing of the document. It is perfectly plain that the signature is not genuine.

No stronger proof was needed that Andrew Mercer Jr was a party to the conspiracy, than his refusal to enter the witness-box, fearing the result of the disclosures he might be compelled to make. It would go far to shake even a strong case, if as here, after being called, and warned that he would be needed, the plaintiff walked out of court when he was required for his examination; and when, in place of throwing what light he could on the case, he virtually abandoned it.

His decision was, that Andrew Mercer was not the legitimate son of the deceased, Andrew Mercer, and that the alleged will was not the will of the late Andrew Mercer.

(JM)

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