In the first of a series of ‘bonus features’ regarding RMS Tayleur containing information that’s come to light after publication, such as readers’ links to the people on board the doomed ship or places mentioned in the book, a fellow Pen & Sword author shares some later history about Lambay. Denise Bates emailed me about a link she uncovered between her book and mine, and kindly agreed to write a blogpost about it.
What connects The Sinking of RMS Tayleur and Breach of Promise to Marry? The obvious similarity is that the books were published by Pen and Sword on consecutive days, but look beneath the surface and other links abound. Commissioned and supported throughout by wonderful editor Jen Newby, both Gill Hoffs and I have delved into old newspapers to shine a fresh light on forgotten history and bring new interpretations to a modern audience. But enough of the writers; bring on the stories.
On 23rd January 1854, the Morning Post broke news of the tragedy in Dublin Bay in a terse paragraph:
The Tayleur, 3,800 tons, J Noble, Commander, was wrecked off Lambay this morning. She had upwards of 600 emigrants on board, of whom about 250 were saved.
The same edition afforded more attention to a breach of promise case. Newspaper readers devoured salacious accounts of failed romantic relationships and the hearing of Barber v Stokes a couple of days earlier met public expectations for scandal. Naomi Barber, a servant, won £50 (current value £5,000) from a butcher who had changed his mind about marrying. The defendant was not in court to explain himself. A deserter from the army, he had been located, perhaps by the publicity of the case, and taken into custody.
The most substantial link between the two books is Lambay where the Tayleur was wrecked. This privately owned island was bought early in the twentieth century by the Barings, a banking family who had been raised to the peerage and held the title Baron Revelstoke. In 1935, the fourth Lord Revelstoke, then in his early 20s, was sued for breach of promise by beauty queen and actress, Angela Joyce. Several years older than the young peer, she lost her claim, as she failed to prove that Revelstoke proposed to her after he came of age. Revelations about a world of privilege or celebrity, undated letters and the despondent views of the judge about the ways of modern youth, kept newspapers and readers hooked for three days.
There may be one further link. As breach of promise claims tightened their hold on mid-nineteenth century society it was not unknown for a man to seek a new start abroad rather than face the wrath of a rejected woman in court. Amongst the names of the RMS Tayleur‘s victims may be an emigrant who was trying to evade a former fiancée. One of the many intriguing questions about the past to which we will probably never know the answer.
Breach Of Promise To Marry: A History Of How Jilted Brides Settled Scores, by Denise Bates, is out now from Pen & Sword – http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Breach-of-Promise-to-Marry/p/6119/
For more on Denise and her work (and extra information on fifteen ways to leave your lover), visit her site here – http://www.denisebates.co.uk/breach.html
If you have any links with RMS Tayleur or any questions you’d like answered, please feel free to comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org