“I could kiss you to death.” “I am going to fill this letter with kisses…” The letters from James Campbell Summerville to his fiancée Margaret Charlotte Challinor were filled with these endearing statements. You would be forgiven for thinking their relationship ended happily in marriage but instead it resulted in a court case where Margaret sued James for breach of promise of marriage.1
In September 1897 James, son of a large landowner on the Manning River, proposed marriage to Margaret who lived with her mother at Wingham. His proposal was accepted and James began to make frequent visits to see Margaret. When she became pregnant, James promised to marry her the next day or the next week, but the marriage was always postponed due to his sister’s serious illness. Finally he sent Margaret to Sydney where they were to marry quietly. James bought her a ring and followed her to Sydney a few days later only to be summoned home due to his sister’s death. Margaret had her baby in Sydney before returning to Wingham. Despite repeated requests for marriage James finally said he couldn’t marry Margaret because “he had got another girl into trouble.” Margaret successfully sued James for £1000 in June 1899.2
Six weeks later James declared himself bankrupt and in December that same year he married Eva Lily Kingston in Dungog.3 Margaret moved to Sydney where she married Edmond Watson in 1905, but she died at the young age of 37 years.4 It is unclear if Margaret ever received her money.
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, 23 June 1899, 4.
2 Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, 23 June 1899, 4; Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 17 June 1899, 5.
3 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 9 August 1899, 2; NSW BDM Marriage Index for James C Summerville and Eva L Kingston, No. 8048/1899.
4 NSW BDM Marriage Index for Edmond S Watson and Margaret Charlotte Challinor No. 4831/1905; NSW BDM Death Index Margaret C Watson No. 15231/1914.