After years of mainly Independent candidates, often elected unopposed, party politics is back with a bang in this Thursday's election of the Radnorshire members to Powys County Council. Of course this is nothing new, since in the late Victorian period even the humblest parish contest would have witnessed Tories and Liberals battling for supremacy.
It was perhaps this bitter party rivalry which saw Abel Thomas QC, the Liberal MP for East Carmarthenshire, representing a Radnorshire farmer in a paternity dispute before the Merthyr Tydfil magistrates in 1895. After all the farmer, let's call him Mr D, was a Liberal member of Radnorshire County Council, a Justice of the Peace and Chairman of the local Board of Guardians. No doubt party honour needed to be upheld.
Mary Ann, a farmer's daughter in her early 20s, had accused the councillor of fathering her illegitimate daughter. The case had already been thrown out in Builth but perhaps the Merthyr court would take the opportunity of avoiding any financial charge to their ratepayers, the girl and her child now living in that town.
The councillor, a married man aged 35, was accused of familiarities - witnesses confirmed that he had once lifted the girl on to the cratch and kissed her during a sheep washing - though some declared that Mary Ann had removed his pipe to facilitate this intrusion. On another occasion there had been a similar incident witnessed in Minton's shop. There were no witnesses, it was true, to the "familiarities" which had left her "enceinte." Mr D insisted that he was blameless and that his waggoner was the father of the child. Yes, he admitted, another paternity suit had recently been brought against him, it was opportunistic, and in the 25 years he had lived on his father's farm only two servants had left "in the family way." After six hours of such testimony it was the lack of any corroborative evidence which led the court to dismiss the case.
So was this a Victorian melodrama featuring a poor unfortunate and a rouge? Well perhaps, although within two years Mary Ann had indeed married Mr D's waggoner. They would go on to have 12 children together..
Incidentally Abel Thomas QC was involved in another case of shenanigans involving a prominent Radnorshire politician, see here.