Mr. Webster opened the defence by stating that the Board's business had been carried on with the utmost difficulty. He referred to the anonymous letter the complainant Mr. Wilkinson had written, in which the chairman and the clerk were accused of receiving monies for their own private purposes, and for which he had had to apologise. He stated that Mr. Wilkinson had tried all along to 'sail as near the wind' as he could without coming within the purview of the law. When Mr. Dibble requested the complainant to allow the business to proceed, the 'most foul' language was used by Mr. Wilkinson, who had called him a liar and a thief.
Erasmus Galton, Lord of the Manor of Loxton, was then called to the witness box. He said that as he had been summoned as a witness for both sides, the best thing he could do would be to make a simple statement of what occurred. He began by explaining that at the previous meeting the Christon members were absent so they were unable to form a quorum. At the following meeting the minutes of that meeting were read. The Loxton members had agreed to them, but the Christon members objected. However, since the majority had approved he had signed them. The rector then got very excited and said they were false minutes and had called the members of the Board immoral, atrocious, liars and thieves. This being the kind of language they were continually having used towards them. Mr. Padfield and Mr. Dibble both wished the meeting to proceed, when the rector sitting quite distinct from the rest, accused Mr. Dibble of being a liar and a thief. Then Mr. Dibble had pitched into him. Mr. Galton remarked that although seventy-one years of age, he had never heard such language in any place as he had heard in the Loxton and Christon School Board-room, and retorted that it was a disgrace and a scandal. He added that he had never heard Mr. Dibble use an improper word. When asked if Mr. Dibble had called the rector a liar and a thief Mr. Galton had replied "Certainly not." He then said that the rector always sat with his hat on at the meetings and invariably turned his back on the whole of the members. On this particular occasion he had apparently been sitting with his hat on the whole of the time, but the witness thought that he had removed it, when he had jumped up in fighting attitude. The witness added that he had never heard such language in all his life: so grossly insulting that it would be impossible to express it. Mr. Galton was then asked about Mr. House's actions. He told the court:-
House got up and went over to Dibble, who was pitching into the rector, tried to pinion him and called Dibble a liar, before Dibble touched him. Dibble then turned round and struck House, who retreated to the other side of the room. Wilkinson then came out of his corner, and seeing that Dibble was engaged with House shouted out, "You are a liar and a thief." Dibble answered, "You haven't had enough have you," and turned round, went at the rector again, and knocked him down in the corner. Then the rector and House sat down together crying and rubbing themselves. Wilkinson said, "You are a pretty chairman not to have kept order," but considering Wilkinson from the beginning had refused to obey my orders, I kept perfectly quiet.
Mr. Clifton began the cross-examination by saying:-
When do you expect another fight, I should like to be down? I could not have believed this occurrence possible.
On further questioning, Mr. Galton replied that he had known Mr. House for many years and that he was a thoroughly respectable man, except that at the School Board he was always wrongfully accusing the witness. Mr. Galton went on to say:-
It is a sort of mania with Christon people that we do things that are wrong. They are always imputing things to me.
Mr. Clifton then asked if it was the cottagers. Mr. Galton then replied that it was not the cottagers, but these two. Mr. Clifton asked if this was 'the better class'. Mr. Galton replied that there was only one farmer and the rector, besides the cottagers. There was then laughter in court. Mr. Galton then denied that he had supplied the local newspapers with a report of the fight. He also stated that they had several times at the meetings thought of having a policeman or appealing to the magistrates.
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