Ireland versus Stona – an accusation of “slander”

On this day in 1903 James Stevens wrote in his Diary…

At Penzance with trap for load of boxes etc. for Mr. Ireland the new schoolmaster. (Saturday 5th September 1903)

Little did James know that Arthur Ireland and his wife Mary (the schoolmistress) were going to prove problematic employees.

In December the following year James wrote…

Last Monday I was at a meeting of managers in Sancreed school, decided to give the master and mistress notice to leave, as there has been so much friction or disagreement between them. (Monday 12th December 1904).

According to a later Newspaper report, it was said that Mr. Ireland had “owing to indulgence in drink during the time he had been head-master of the Sancreed National School, conducted himself in an offensive, quarrelsome, and insubordinate manner towards the managers, that he was unreliable and untrustworthy, and not fit to be employed in any position of trust, that his wife was a drunkard, that she had assisted her husband in quarrelling with the managers…”  (From The West Briton & Cornwall Advertiser, Tuesday 13th June, 1907)

Then in June 1907 James wrote…

Rode Penzance in our trap with Mr. Stona to go to Bodmin Assizes with Mr. Hichens as witnesses for Mr. Stona as defendant in a charge of slander or libel against Mr. & Mrs. Ireland former teachers at Sancreed school, but were not required to give evidence as Mr. Stona’s counsel most ably cleared him, the other side being proved to be a fraud or plant or trap got up by the Irelands to try to catch Mr. Stona. Damages claimed by plaintiffs £1,250. (Monday 10th June 1907)

Arthur and Mary Ireland had sued Rev. John Stona, Vicar of Sancreed and a school manager, for “libel and slander”, claiming damages of £750 and £500 respectively. However, during the trial it became clear to the Jury that the letter at the centre of the action was a ‘plant’, involving Mr. Ireland’s brother-in-law (Mr. W. Gibson). Before Rev. Stona or James Stevens were called to give testimony, the Jury said they had already heard enough to make a decision, which the Judge agreed to. They found the case in favour of Rev. Stona, awarding him £84. In October 1907 Rev. Stona applied to the Courts as he still hadn’t received any money from Mr. Ireland. The Court said Mr. Ireland must pay Rev. Stona in installments of £1.00 per month. Then in December 1907 Mr. Ireland declared himself bankrupt!

You can read the newspaper reports in The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser…

  • Thursday 13th June 1907 (page 8) – Cornish Vicar and Schoolmaster – Slander action at the Azisses.
  • Thursday 31st October 1907 (page 4) – Cornish Slander Case – Sequel in the County Court.
  • Thursday 19th December 1907 (page 8) – Affairs of a Cornish School Teacher.










Author: Ann

My interest in family history began in 2010 and eventually led to the discovery of my Cornish ancestors. One of these was my 3 x Great-Aunt, Honor Stevens and her husband, James (who wrote the Diary).

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