The Campbell McDonald Feud – The Story of a Scottish Divorce – Part 2

This is part two of the divorce of John Sheddens Campbell and Mary Ann McDonald. You can find part one here.

The first part of the package I received was the court records of the proceedings. There were two parts to this package. The first was a printed document and it had the title “Closed Record, in action of divorce John Sheddans Campbell against Mrs. Mary Ann McDonald or Campbell.”

On 3 July 1875 the court said they would hear the case for divorce on Saturday 17 July 1875 at 11 o’clock in the morning. John S. Campbell had to pay the expenses of his wife amounting to 10 GBP. The proceedings were held in Edinburgh and they lived in Glasgow.

Next you find the summons where John S. Campbell is charging his wife with adultery. Then there is the Condescendence for Pursuer which describes his married life and is about three pages long. This document provides the date and place of marriage and who officiated. There are the names of the children and their ages.

One part that I found most interesting was where they had resided during their marriage. They first lived in Glasgow until January 1860 when they moved to Edinburgh until September of 1860 when they moved back to Glasgow. In May 1863 they moved to Greenock and returned to Glasgow in March 1865 where they continued to live until September 1874.

John S. Campbell states that the first 10 years of the marriage her “conduct and habits were unimpeachable.” Things seemed to change in March of 1867 when she “became addicted to intoxication and has ever since persisted in the habit of indulging to excess in drink.” It appears Mary was in the habit of selling anything and everything to get the funds for her addiction.

This would have been a very difficult time for John S. Campbell especially since his father was very active in the Temperance Movement in the Glasgow area. He was part of the committee that in 1837 formed the “Barony of Gorbals Branch of the Total Abstinence Society.”

It is heartbreaking that the drinking started in March of 1867 since Mary gave birth to twins in August of 1867. One of the twins died a month after birth and you wonder how the drinking affected them. There is a family story that they may have been premature.

In order to protect himself and his family he removed her from the family home around 17 September 1874. He provided her with maintenance as long as she did not bother either him or the children.

Mary agreed that all this had taken place but added that John had threatened violence if she did not sign the document for maintenance.

John contended that she has been freely going about with men and constantly in their company. Mary denies the charge of adultery. There was a list of dates provided where it was suggested that Mary had brought men back to her lodgings and she denied all these accusations.

Mary accused John of libel and the court accepted this charge.

The second part of the package is the handwritten transcripts of the court.

The court heard the divorce case on Saturday 17 July 1875 and Monday 19 July 1875. It appears Mary McDonald missed the train from Glasgow and did not make the proceedings on Saturday. The witnesses were shown a photograph of her on Saturday.

There were eight witnesses. The first witness was Mrs. Margaret Cameron or McIntyre who was Mary’s Aunt. She had been present at their marriage. The next witness was Mary McIntyre or Thomson the daughter of the previous witness.

Mrs. Janet Waddell or Johnston was the next witness and she lived at 5 Paul Street in Glasgow which is where Mary McDonald was residing after the separation. She testified that Mary stayed home during the day but always went out in the evenings until 11 o’clock or later. She brought a man home with her one night just before she left the lodgings and said it was her brother. Mrs. Johnston would not let the man in the house.

James Aitken worked for the Private Inquiry Office in Dundas Street Glasgow. He was employed by John S. Campbell to follow his wife. John M. Colton and John Phillips assisted him during his assignment. He referred to a note book to make sure of the accuracy of the dates and times in question. On many occasions he observed her meeting men and drinking.

John Colton and John Phillips also testified. John Phillips said he had only done one or two of these kinds of cases and he was a tailor by trade.

John Sheddens Campbell 1876


When John S. Campbell testified he said he employed Mr. Aitken around March of 1875. He paid him a guinea per day. He thought the price rather high but was told Mr. Aitken needed two men to help him and it could not be done for less.

Thomas Arnot testified. He was the writer for the lawyer of John S. Campbell. He said he gave Mary McDonald 10/- [shillings] for her fare to Edinburgh to be present on Saturday.

Mary McDonald’s testimony mostly consisted of the word “No.” She did not elaborate much on any details.

The divorce was granted in John S. Campbell’s favour on 23 July 1875. Mary’s case of libel was dismissed.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

  1. Brenda’s avatar

    I enjoyed both Parts, Ruth. That is quite the document(s)! Makes you wonder what set Mary off in March 1867 …

  2. Ruth Blair’s avatar

    It is a wonderful document. I did not expect to get so much information. You do wonder what set her off in March 1867. Not sure I will ever be able to answer that question.

  3. John Morgan’s avatar

    Ruth,

    I have a coincidental connection to your story. My 2nd great grandfather, Andrew Thomson, was a letter press printer and his was 5 Paul Street in Glasgow when he married Jane MacBeth on 6 Sep 1872. I visited Glasgow a couple of years ago but Paul Street is no longer there. In any event, I enjoyed your story. I also have some MacDonald relatives of the Thomson’s living in Cambridge, MA in the 1890’s.

  4. Ruth Blair’s avatar

    Thank you for sharing your connection to Paul Street John. I am glad you enjoyed the story.

  5. Jana Campbell Chinn’s avatar

    I enjoyed this article. I am beginning to research Campbell name and history so I can visit Scotland in year 2015. Anyone have any advice. I was raised in the state of Mississippi and live in Alabama now. I understand my relatives came here from North Carolina.

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