The Extraordinary Breach of Promise Case
These cousin Cousins have confused some, particularly when their names happened to be Richard Young.
The subject of this case was Richard Young Cousins born on the 5 March 1875 in Wellington New South Wales he was the son of William Henry Cousins 1827-1883 and his wife Martha Eliza, nee Blunden 1838-1907.
William Henry being a brother to Richard Young Cousins J.P 1819-1886. Both, along with Walter Cousins 1829-1904 and Mary Anne Chatfield, nee Cousins 1829-1896 were children of Richard Young Cousins 1798-1857 and Kezia, nee Dann 1796-1837.
The breach of promise action in which Richard Young Cousins sued
Mary Louisa Carr, nee M'Nevin, for ?5000, in the Supreme Court,
Sydney, on Friday, 14 March 1902 before Mr. Justice Owen and a jury.
No evidence was offered for the defence, and the jury awarded ?150 damages
It is not very often that a man sues a woman for breach of promise. Indeed,
it is probable that the number of such cases could be counted on the fingers
of one's two hands. As a rule it is the woman who sues the man, and then the
reasons are such that there is no doubt as to the desirableness of awarding heavy
The case in which Richard Young Cousins sued Mary Louisa M'Nevin, of Molong,
for such a breach was the sensation of Thursday and Friday in the No. 2 Jury Court,
Sydney. Mr. Cousins is a young man with an ambition, and Miss M'Nevin was an
elderly spinster with ?50,000. Apparently everything was fixed up for their
wedding, and presumably this would have taken place had not a Mr. Carr appeared
on the scene I before the celebration of the marriage. Mr. Carr was a nice man,
with a genius for entertaining, and Mr. Cousins and he didn't grow fonder of
each other when they both thought of the fair M'Nevin. Eventually Mr. Carr got
ahead in the running as it were, and then, though everything bad been fixed for
the marriage as originally intended, the lady claimed the prerogative of her sex
in changing her mind. Briefly stated, the first intimation that Mr. Cousins had
that he and his fiancee weren't playing 'cousins' any longer, was when he received
the following letter.
"My dear Dick,
As arranged, I am now writing so that you will get this letter
about the 12th. I fear the answer will not be a favorable one. I have given
the matter due consideration, and, considering everything, I think we had
My feelings towards you are not those one ought to have to pass a life together,
and what would be the use of rendering two lives miserable? I see lots of things
of the past in a light that I did not before, so that the reflection of it
makes a difference. You know I was a bit unsettled, from things I beard before
you came down, but I thought I would let things go, and carry it through ; then
at last I found I could not do that, and the rest you know. As I felt I could not
marry you then, I cannot do so now ; the result would be the same.
I am very sorry that things should have gone like' this as far as you are concerned,
for it has placed you in an awkward position, I must admit ; but better to have
things as they are than find out afterwards we made a mistake. There would be
no undoing it then, while now it can be done.
Very often in the past you were not up to the mark, but I would not let myself
think so then, and as I said, many little items passed over then I have thought
of since, and contrasted with others. I could say more, but of what use?
The result would be the same and it cannot alter matters now. Things will get
back into a groove again, and it is only a nine days' wonder, and you may be
glad it happened so I may be, too, after all, but that remains to be seen.
You will find some one to fill the imaginary gap I have made in your affections,
and then it will be all right for you. I am writing to Alf. to tell him of my
decision, so you may hear from him. Though this breach has occurred, if you
ever need a friend I will not fail you if I possibly can. It is needless to
write more on the subject. This is sufficient; what do you intend doing?
Are you going home ?
I will close now, with best wishes.
I remain, yours affectionately.
M. L. M'NEVIN."
Subsequently Miss McNevin became Mrs. Carr, and then there was bitterness,
deep reflection, and, finally, the present action. Only the plaintiff gave
evidence, that is, so far as the two chief parties were concerned, and the whole
thing turned on the question of damages, as when he had been cross examined by
Mr. Wise the "breach" was tacitly allowed. In the cross-examination, various things
came out, the most amusing being in regard to the way Mr. Cousins relied on
Mr. Stockwell, a friendly solicitor.
On Mr. Wise asking, "After the thing was broken off, did you still retain an
affection for Miss McNevin?
The plaintiff replied " Yes, acting on Mr. Stockwell's advice,"
which brought down the house, and even made the Judge smile.
In the next breath he confessed to referring to three people as "d--d animals,"
and the lady was one, but this was under much provocation. When the judge summed up,
he said that the plaintiff was entitled to a verdict-that was a matter, of course;
As to damages, they would have to consider the circumstances. The lady was rich,
and plaintiff was to get a fourth of her estate, and on her decease the whole of it.
This he lost, because the marriage didn't come off, and, naturally, he must have been
annoyed to lose so much just as it was at his lips.
The jury considered that the plaintiff was 144,000 times as much injured as the
defendant alleged he was. That is, the latter, through her counsel, thought a farthing
sufficient compensation, but the jury found for ?150, which, of course, will carry the
After the case described above, Richard Young Cousins 1875-1953 went on to marry Agnes Annie Smith in Wollongong in 1908. They had two daughters Lila Clair born 1909 in Ashfield Sydney, who married Francis J McEncroe in 1934 and Silvia Young born 1912 in Ashfield, Sydney who married Desmond Coleman Trainor in 1944.
Australian Electoral Commission
Clarence and Richmond Examiner
Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915
Tuesday 11 March 1902 Page 4
Transcription, janilye, 2012