Part of my attraction is the similarity of the heading used in the newspaper to the title of one of the short stories in Joyce's Dubliners ("A painful case"), which is a mock on newspaper headline writing of the time. As Joyce believed, everything is ultimately connected. Well, it's nice to think so.
This newspaper article is about my great grandmother Mary Anne Cook (nee Amos) who I imagine was a fairly tough woman (see photo).
The notion of "a peculiar case" refers to the idea of a married woman, living with her husband, running a pub.
A peculiar case (Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser 13 November 1879)
A peculiar case affecting the interests of applicants for publicans' licenses, and the working of the present Licensing Act, came before a bench of magistrates at their last sittings here. It appeared that a man named George Cook held a license for many years for the Willow Tree Hotel. In due course he became insolvent, and his license lapsed. In July last his wife, MaryAnn Cook, the owner of the "Willow Tree Hotel, applied for a license in her own name.
When the case came on, although no formal objection was lodged by the police, Sergeant M'Cormack informed the bench that the applicant was a married woman living with her husband, who was an uncertificated insolvent. Notwithstanding this, the bench were of opinion that a married woman was not de-barred from holding a publicans' license, as she was not specially excepted by the 8th section of the Act, and a certificate was accordingly granted.
The certificate was forwarded with a bank draft for £30 to the Treasury, to which the Department replied, that pending inquiry as to her power to hold a license, the license would not be issued; but in the meantime, as has been the custom here for many years, Mrs. Cook was permitted to sell with the magistrate's sanction and by merely showing their certificate.
Mrs. Cook was applied to several times by the police for an inspection of the license, but she of course could not show one; and on the3rd instant Sergeant M'Cormack visited the Willow Tree Hotel, which was open, and grog being sold. The police again demanded to be shown the license, which not being acceded to, an information was laid against her for selling without a license.
Mr. Frank Norrie, for the police, conducted the prosecution, and Mr. Laman the defence. The prosecution proved that liquor had been sold, and Mrs. Cook admitted she had no license. The bench found her guilty, and ordered her to pay a fine of £30 within two months, and stated at the same time that they thought it a very hard case, and would write to the Government recommending a remission of the fine.
It came out during the case that the Minister of Justice has written the bench of magistrates, asking an explanation of their granting publican's licenses to married women living with their husbands; to which they replied, that they had given the matter serious consideration, and saw nothing in the Act to prevent it, since the Attorney-General has given a long and elaborate opinion, that although married women are not expressly excepted by the Act, the common law prevents it.
The question is, however, to be tested in the Supreme Court, as Mrs. Cook has given notice that she will apply for a mandamus to compel the Colonial Treasurer to issue a license to her on the certificate granted by the magistrates. The Bench 'expressed much sympathy with Mrs. Cook, one going so far as to state he was for a dismissal, but compromised the matter by giving the defendant time to pay the fine.