Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Scottish Bigamist

Last week I told the story of Elizabeth White, the illegitimate half-sister of my 2x great-grandmother, Agnes Carroll. This week I will tell the scandalous and sad tale of Elizabeth's daughter, Agnes Duffy.

Agnes Duffy was born in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 19 November 1879. Her parents were John Duffy and Elizabeth White. Agnes's mother was the illegitimate daughter of Jean Duffy and Peter White, a ship carpenter. As far as I can tell the two Duffy families were not related.

Agnes Duffy's birth registration.

Soon after her birth, the Duffy family moved to the nearby coal-mining town, Larkhall. They lived there for a few years, but migrated to the United States in about 1884. After a short stint in America, the family returned to Larkhall, living there throughout the 1890s. 

On 30 December 1898, when Agnes was nineteen-years-old, she married a man named Robert McCord at Larkhall. One week after the wedding, Robert deserted Agnes, but not before telling her that their marriage was a mistake and she could marry again if she wished. 

Agnes and Robert's marriage entry.

Ten months later, Robert returned. The couple moved to Shotts, Lanarkshire and lived together there for six weeks, until again Robert deserted Agnes. He firstly went to Glasgow, but then to Yorkshire, England. When he was settled, he sent for Agnes to join him there, which she did. All alone and miles away from her family, Agnes was again deserted, and this time wasn't left a penny. 

Agnes somehow got back to her family in Scotland, who now moved to the Methil area of Fife. There she met a man named Michael Boyle. On 3 April 1904, Agnes received a letter from her estranged husband. In the letter, Robert stated he was happily married. So on 24 December 1904, Agnes married Michael Boyle in Edinburgh. Agnes was now a bigamist. 

The entry of the bigamous marriage.

The marriage was short lived, and just over three months to the date, Agnes was imprisoned on 25 March 1905 on the charge of bigamy. Agnes pleaded guilty to the offence at Edinburgh on 6 April, and on her behalf a solicitor told her side of the story. Taking into consideration that she had been so ill-treated, the Judge was lenient and sentenced Agnes to thirty days in prison. The sentence was to start from the first date of imprisonment, 25 March 1905. After prison, Agnes reunited with Michael Boyle and raised a family together in Wemyss, Fife. 

Fifteen years later, the bigamy scandal was resurrected when Robert McCord started the proceedings to divorce Agnes on the grounds of infidelity, after years of estrangement, as he was in a relationship and wished to marry again. The divorce was granted on 6 July 1920, and Robert remarried ten days later.

Not even two years later Agnes died at her home on 30 January 1922. She was only forty-years-old, and died of pulmonary tuberculosis. Her second 'husband' Michael Boyle had died years before.

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