Victorian Divorce

Another divorce scandal made the papers in Ireland during 1905, four years before Shenstone Bishop divorced his wife. And again, St. Ann’s Hill Hydro played a central role in the proceedings. This time the research became personal when I discovered my great-great-grandfather’s name, Timothy Mahony, listed as a witness.

Charles George Gamble filed a petition for divorce from his wife Ida Gertrude Gamble, nee King from county Sligo, in Feb 1905 in the High Court in Dublin. Charles filed the petition “on the grounds of her intimacy with Charles George Guy”, an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve who was stationed on H.M.S. Melampus in Kingstown (Dún Laoighre).

Charles Guy Gamble and Ida Gertrude King were married on 22 January 1899 and the young couple lived at various addresses in Rathgar, Glenagery and Palmerston Park. Charles was a solicitor and the young couple had three children, Florence born in 1899, Frederick born in 1891 and then Vyvian born in 1896.

According to the documents submitted to the court to support his petition Charles claimed that Ida visited Guy at his residence in both Kingstown and Queenstown, and also visited him at his residence in Kew Gardens, England. Gamble also made the rather sensational claim in court that Guy visited Ida at the Gamble family home at Rostrevor Terrace in April 1904 while Charles was absent overnight, and not only did Guy stay overnight he represented himself to the household staff as Commander Gamble, a relative of the cuckolded husband; Charles continued with claims that the adulterous pair continued to meet in public at a hotel in Lucan and also St. Ann’s Hill Hydro.

At the time of the petition Charles Gamble did not know the whereabouts of his wife but he believed that she may have been living in Assiniboia, a town in the Canadian province of Saskatchewanl, and that she was presenting herself as the wife of Charles Guy. Mrs. Gamble did not appear in court nor submitted a defense to these claims.

Ida was described in court by her husband as being “a bit extravagant in her tastes and not domestic in her beliefs, she was fond of society and had been seen walking about with some men on several occasions, thus making herself remarkable”, all things considered these combined to make Ida a most unsuitable Victorian-era wife.

In April 1904 Ida complained to her husband of having stomach problems and suggested she visit St. Ann’s Hill Hydro which was recommended to her by a neighbor of theirs with the added the bonus that some of their friends were already staying there.

Charles was able to present quite a  detailed account of the rendezvous in St. Ann’s Hill Hydro between his wife and Charles George Guy during their stay which he used to support his divorce petition.

According to the court documents it was early April 1904 that Ida complained to her husband of having stomach problems and suggested she visit St. Ann’s Hill Hydro which was recommended to her by a neighbor of theirs, with the added the bonus that some of their friends were already staying there.

On May 4th 1904 she left Kingsbridge train station for Cork and it was claimed in court that she and Charles Guy spent at least two nights together in the Hydro. Counsel was keen to point out that the Melampus was moved from Kingstown in Dublin to Queenstown in Cork at this time also.

Kingsbridge train station Dublin

On the 8th of May Guy cycles from Queenstown to the Hydro, a distance of about twenty-five miles,  and the room that he is assigned is in the same corridor as Mrs. Gamble’s. According to the testimony given to the court Guy arrived by bicycle, stayed in his room and was gone before 5am the following morning.

Three days later, 11th of May 1904, Guy arrives again at the Hydro by bicycle and the room he is allocated this time was two doors from Mrs. Gamble.

Queenstown Harbor Cork

On the night of the 11th May at approximately 10:45pm the hall porter, Timothy Mahony (my ancestor!), states that he saw Mrs. Gamble come out of her room and go into the room occupied by Mr. Guy, she did not knock and Timothy Mahony did not see her leave again.

Molly Murphy, a housemaid in the Hydro, stated that on the 8th of May and the 11th of May she was told by Mrs. Gamble to bring Mrs. Gamble’s hairbrushes from her room into Mr. Guy’s room.

The barrister presenting the petition on behalf of Charles gamble was able to present a series of telegram communication between the lovers, it would seem that Charles Gamble was in a position to hire a detective to investigate his errant wife as the detail presented is rather compelling. I can’t but help wonder how wonderful it would be to be able to access the potential treasure trove of sent telegrams from St. Ann’s Hill Hydro.

Telegrams from Queenstown to Ida at the Hydro on the 7th of May 1904 “Delayed, important business, perhaps manage”.

The following day, 8th of May 1904, another message from Queenstown to Ida “Not possible today, but possibly tomorrow by 9.35 or 1.30 train” and then later the same day “Can manage 9.35 tomorrow same place”.

On the 9th of May, in the early morning, just before 08.30am,  “Biking in from here, arriving Castle about 10 o’clock”; later that morning “Will meet at 3.25 at Cork, bring wheels” and then the final telegram the same day “Meet me if fine, Leemount, 2.30, if wet, Hydro, 3”.

At the time, Minnie Martin, wife of William Martin, the general manager of the Hydro, was the post mistress. I do wonder how she felt dictating these messages before sending one of the servants, or maybe even Timothy Mahony himself, in his role as hall porter, to deliver the messages confirming the illicit meeting times for the lovers.

On the 12th of May Mrs. Gamble returns to Dublin and the following month, June 1904, she takes a trip to London to visit friends but did not show up at their house until 24hours after she was due to arrive. According to Charles Gamble, Ida claimed that she stayed at Euston hotel to use the Turkish Baths there.

Late June Charles Gamble receives a letter from his wife saying that she would not be returning to the family home or to the marriage, and the 7th of June 1904 at North Wall was the last time he saw his wife when he waved her off to visit their friends.

On the 25th of August 1904 Ida left Liverpool on the Southwark heading to Canada with Charles Guy, and, rather controversially, the pair travelled as Mr. and Mrs. Guy, with a steward onboard testifying that he brought coffee very early each morning to the couple in their cabin.

Extract from "Southwark" passenger listing

Extract from “Southwark” passenger listing Aug 1904

Predictably the petition was granted and Charles and Ida were officially divorced in March 1905 but unfortunately the story did not end there. One year later, Chares and Ida’s youngest son Vivyan was kidnapped from his boarding school Woodthorn Park in Rathfarnham, reportedly by a woman acting on behalf of his mother Ida.

Ida was arrested and taken into custody whereupon she was jailed in Mountjoy for “consipracy”. The prison registry lists her name as Ida King, but with reference to her former married name . Also, her next of kin is also recorded as Charles G. Guy in Canada. She was remanded in Mountjoy for two weeks, which must have been quite an ordeal and a scandal for a woman of her standing.

Extract from Mountjoy prison records March 1906

In June 1906 Ida marries again, she marries a John Harrison Middleton, an engineer from Rathmichael in Dublin,  in Marylebone, London. She and her husband had one son, John, and John Harrison Middleton died in 1927.

It is not known if Ida was reunited with her three children or if she ever saw them again. She experienced quite a lot in this two year period when she was in her early twenties, an affair, abandoning her family and emigrating, divorced in her absence, return to her home to kidnap her youngest son and be remanded in Mountjoy, culminating in a second marriage. And somewhere in between these events she must have separated from the person that she left her husband and children for.