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A Treorchy Will.I


A Treorchy Will. I Bequest to Noddfa. I Undue Influence Alleged. J Charges Refuted. I Interest was taken in an action heard by Judgo Eryn Roberts and a. jury at Ystrad County Court on ihursday last. Annie Thomas, Ynyswen, Treherbert, was I plaintiff, and the Rev. W. Morris, D.D., pastor of Noddfa. Baptist Church, Tre- orchy, and the trustees of Noddfa Hall I were the defendants. Mr. F. Gawkell (in- structed by Mr. D. Llewellyn Treharnt;, Pentre) was for plaintiff; Mr. Ivor Bowen, I' K.C. (instructed by Mr. T. Millward, Pentre) for the defendants; and Mr. A. T. James (instructed by Mr. Edgar Cule, Pentre) for Mr. Evan Rees, the executor of the will. The allegation of the plaintiff was that the will was not according to the Wills Act, and that Dr. Morris had exercised undue influence over the testatrix, the late Mrs. Margaret Morgans, of 10, Car- diff Street, Treorchy, the terms of the will being the gift of £ 20 to Noddfa; all I her furniture to her sister, Mrs. Price, Pittsburg, America; and the residue of I the property to Mrs. Price. Mr. Gaskell objected to any member of a Baptist denomination serving on the jury. His Honour explained to the jury that there was no imputation on anybody, but it was wished to remove any suspicion of bias. Five jurors were discharged, their places being taken by others. Mr. James, in opening the case* said the plaintiff was the niece of the de- ceased. The charge that the will of the deceased was made under the influence of Dr. Morris was most unfounded and outrageous. Deceased, who was a widow, had been a faithful member of -Noddfa over 40 years, where Dr. Morris had been pastor for 44 years. It was not difficult to conceive that she had a great liking for the chapel, and it was not strange that. alter an association of over 40 years, she should wish to consult Dr. Morris, and she had several times said she wanted t- make her will. The will was prepared by Dr. Morris, and witnessed on Novem- ber 9th, 1910, by Mr. Knapgate, a Tre- orchy miner. Deceased left everything to her sister, Mrs. Annie Price, of Pittsburg, America, except £ 20 to me chapel. Dr. Morris kept the will until the lady died. nearly two years after, on August 8th, 1912. During his pastorate Dr. Morris had raised £ 30,000 for religious purposes, and he had been a president of the liap- tist Union. It would not be possible to raise a finger k against the reputation of Dr. Morris. Some time after the will was proved Rees James a. trustee of Noddfa. came on the scene, meeting William Knap- gate in the street. Knapgate did not feel it was his duty to reveal what was in the will he had witnessed, and said he. did not know. At the reading of the will the niece. Mrs. Annie 'ihomas, was asked if she was satisfied, and she replied, If my uncle is satisfied I am." This was not an action for pounds, shillings, and pence. The assets amounted to £ 70, and after expenses had been paid there was an available balance of zCl6 13s. lid. to be divided. This was, added counsel, an attempt by Mrs. Annie Thomas, or some- one on her behalf, to throw mud at Dr. Morris or his character, and through him I at the Treorchy chapel. DR. MORRIS' EVIDENCE. I Dr. W. Morris said he had made wills for other members of his church. In making Mrs. Morgan's will he asked hpr what she wanted to put in the will. She said she wanted to leave £ 20 to the chapel and the rest to her sister in America, who had been very kind to her. He never suggested to her what should be put in the will. Cross-examined by Air. Gaskell, Dr. Morris said his impression was that the object was to throw mud at him or his chapel. He had nothing to say against the character of Rees James. His con- duct at church meetings was such that I witness thought he had an animus against him. Mr. Gaskell: Until the time the will was proved, did you know the value, of the old lady's estate?—I knew she had £50 invested in Beulah Church, Aber- tridwr. Deceased contributed towards the church at Noddfa?—Yes, small amounts. which were magnificent sums for a widow. There was a very large increase in the premises of Noddfa in 1909, when the annual meetings of the Baptist Union were held there?—Yes. A debt of E6,034 for the hall and vestry I was incurred ?—Yes. Was there a great deal of feeling against the expenditure at that time?- Amongst a few. Mr. Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was the guest of the chapel at the meetings?—Yes. What was the expenditure for?—We wanted to adopt the grading system, and we had no apparatus for tne purpose. I Did Mrs. Morgan object to the in- creased expenditure?—No. Did she not say, "If you want grand places you inust, pay for them ?—No. Did you know she had been in receipt of parish relief?—I knew latterly. Did you know she owed 3,. considerable sum of money to the pariah at the time she made the will?—No: it was a. sur- prise to me that she had been receiving parish relief. During her life you knew nothing about it r-No. Do you seriously say tnat?—-Yes. How often did you call upon her during her illness P—Once a week. Didn't it strike you that her sister in America would be entitled to such little property she had?—It was a. matter of opinion for herself and for me to do as she ordered me. The debts on the Noddfa extensions are secured by promissory notes and so forth? —Yes. Mr. Rees James, whom you suggest is throwing mud at you, is responsible for £ 350?—-I think he has signed. How much have you signed promissory notes for-many hundreds of pounds?—I may. Your liability is great?—Yes. WHERE WILL WAS MADE. I Were you actuated by your personal position to gain this small sum of money for the chapel?—No, certainly not. I suggest that this will was not made in the old lady's room at all, but in Knapgnte's houser-I say positively and emphatically that it was made in the old lady's room. Did you see Knapgatc at all that day? —No. Did you ever make a will for a Mr. Benjamin Rees, Treorchy?—I wrote a draft will for a Benjamin Rees. Mr. Gaskell: And certain property was left to Noddfa? Witness That is a lie. Mrs. Roes kicked up a bother, didn't slip?—Yes, because Mr. Rees wanted to put a clause in the will that his wife was not to lease herself to anyone else after his death (laughter) What did you say?—I said, "Certainly not: I must. not write a will and put that in." I had never heard such a thing in my life. Rees said. "They are doing it at Cwmparc" (laughter). Mrs. Rees left Noddfa after?—Yes. You agree that this old woman was 'illiterate?—She could road a little Welsh imperfectly. Did she assent to every clause as the will was road out?—Yes, every clause, and she said she was satisfied. Why didn't you make the will in Welsh? —It didn't occur to me at the time, though 1 am a Nationalist (laughter). ATTESTOR'S EVIDENCE. I William Knapgate, collier, Cardiff Place, Treorchy, an attesting witness of the will, said he aeoompanied Dr. Morris to the old lady's house. The old lady said she wanted to make a paper." Dr. Morris preparod the will, and asked the old lady what she wanted in it. Mrs. Morgan said she wanted to give R,20 to- wards Noddfa Chapel and the remainder to her sister in Ameriia. Mr. James: Did Dr. Morris suggest what he should put in the will?—Nothing whatever. After woiting it he read it in Welsh to MJ-S. Morgan, and she said she was quite satisfied and signed her cross to it. In cross-examination by Mr. Gaskell, witness admitted that he afterwards told Kees James that he did not know what was in the will, as ho thought James was too inquisitive. He told Annie Thomas the same. He asked her why she annoyed him, and she said llees James had advised her to approach him. Witness said to her, "I am very sorry for you, Mrs. Thomas; if you have bwn advised by Rees James, God help you! Mr. Gaskell: Why the "God help you"? Why should not she be advised by him? Witness: It was said in an off-hand manner, not knowing it was coming up again. In the same off-hand manner in which you told a quantity of lies?—Yes. A DEACON'S DENIAL. I Rees James, Dumfries Street, a member of Noddfa for over 30 years and a deacon for 10 years, said there was no truth in the assertion that he caused the action to be brought in order to throw mud at the pastor because of a quarrel with him. Ho proceeded to relate his experiences in meeting those interested in the case. The Judge: We cannot go through all the tittle-tattle in the village. Witness said there had been a differ- ence betwen himself and Dr. Morris over an election; still, he had every respect for him. Mr. Gaskell: You have been stopped taking communion at the chapel?^—Yes. Mr. Bowen: When did this £ 20 begin to bother you?—It has not bothered me. Witness was asked if he was fond of Dr. Morris. I The Judge: Obviously, there is a feeling. WT itness: I have not the same confi- —4 I denoe in him that I had (laughter). Did you say that you were heartily sick of him, and that he gave you nothing but kicks a.nd snubs ?—No. Mr. Gaskell, Mr. Ivor Bowen, and Mr. James having addressed the jury, the Judge said the jury had to consider whether the will had been executed ac- cording to law, and whether there had been any undue influence. After an absence of about ten minutes, the jury brought in a verdict for the defence on both counts—(1) will was executed according to law, and (2) that no undue influence was exercised over testatrix. The case, which was followed attentively by a crowded court, lasted over five Hours, and the announcement of the verdict was received with a loud outburst of applause.

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