Friday, December 26, 2008

Scandal at the Whau Hotel

Updated 26 December 2013.

David Henderson (senior) was hotelkeeper at the Whau from c.1864-1868. Backed up by Thomas Henderson of Henderson & MacFarlane and Henderson's Mill fame (his brother), he later became involved in the flax industry. The following concerns "criminal intimacy" between his son, also named David, (aged 14-15) and a servant girl 6-7 years his senior.

Evening Post, 19 May 1879
DIVORCE COURT. This Day. (Before their Honors the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Johnston, and Mr. Justice Williams.) DECREES ABSOLUTE.

HENDERSON V. HENDERSON. This was an application for a rule nisi from Auckland. Mr. Bell, who appeared for the petitioner, stated that his client was married to the respondent at the Thames twelve years ago, he being then only 15 years of age. Petitioner was forced into the marriage owing to his having seduced the respondent, but he only lived with her for a night and a day after the marriage, and did not see her again until 1872, when he began to correspond with her. For some time past petitioner had been aware that respondent had been living with a man named Flynn, at Tairoa.

David Henderson deposed that he was a miner at the Thames, and was 26 years of age. In 1867 he was living at the Whau, Auckland, with his parents, who were hotelkeepers. He was then at school, and was between 14 and 15 years of age. The respondent at that time was a servant in his father's house. She was about 21 years of age. He had been criminally intimate with her before they were married, and she told him that in consequence of their connection she was enceinte. About five months after their intimacy respondent left Henderson's house, and went into service at the Red Lion Hotel at Auckland. He saw her there, and she said he was the father of her child, and asked him to marry her. The girl's aunt also asked him to marry the respondent, which he did on September 5, 1867, the Rev. Warlow Davies being the officiating minister. Witness had nothing to do with getting the marriage license, and the other parties looked after it. He did not tell his parents that he intended to get married, nor did he sign any certificate as to his age.

Mr. Justice Johnston — I cannot understand how any clergyman could go through the process of marriage between a boy of 15 and a girl of 21, without having a certificate of the date of the boy's birth.

Henderson's examination continued — A child was born three months after their marriage. He stayed with his wife on the night after they were married, but on the following day he went home to his parents at the Whau. He had had nothing to do with her since. He had no income when he married, and was only a school-boy at the time. About a week after the marriage he suspected that he had been "drawn into it." After the marriage the respondent went into service and maintained herself. His parents found out about the marriage three days after it had taken place, and condemned it. Respondent never claimed witness as her husband after they separated.

Mr. Bell submitted that the only object of the respondent in getting petitioner to marry her was to cover her shame, as she could not possibly expect to be supported by a boy 15 years old.

Henderson continued — He went to the Thames in 1869, and worked there as a miner until lately, but he was not in a position to support a wife until 1872. Witness further stated that he had heard that his wife had been married to Flynn. He made proposals to her in 1872 to go and live with him, but she declined to do so. He did not then know that she had misconducted herself. On 23rd September, 1872, he received a letter from the respondent, in which she said : — "I would not advise you to come down here, and I hope you will stay where you are and get steady work. Davy, I would like to see you very much, for I have a great lot to say to you which I cannot write as I am no scholar. I want to ask you one thing, Davy, and I hope you will answer me truthfully; I want to know whether you love me as you did before we were married or not, or if you have seen anyone else that you have liked better than me. If you have don't be afraid to say so, for you are but young yet, and you will see a great difference in me, for I am sure I look ten years older than I was when I was married. Remember I will be an old woman and you will be a young man, and, Davy, if you think you would change your mind in years to come, for God's sake do not let us go together, for no one knows but God and myself what I have gone through, and it was all for you. I would sooner work on my knees, and beg from door to door with my child all my life, than go through the same trouble that I have gone through these last three years. If you still love me as you did once, and it is God's will that we go together, I will do my duty to you as I would have done at first had you been true to me."

On the 20th of October, 1872, petitioner received another letter from the respondent. It was to the effect that since she had last written she had changed her mind, and had taken a solemn oath never to live with him again. She asked him never to trouble himself about her again, and if he wanted to marry anybody else she would never stand in his way. The last two years respondent and Flynn had been living together as man and wife, and they had two children living with them. Rule nisi granted, to be made absolute in three months.

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