Traill v Rev Thomas Lyell - 18th October 1766

The following comes the action brought by Rev Thomas Traill of Dunnet against Rev Thomas Lyell, minister of Lady Parish in Sanday to the extent that it relates to Christian Manson:

"Kirkwall, October 18 1766

CHRISTIANA MANSON, residing at Stove in the island of Sanday, aged 40 and upwards.

To whom it was objected, That she has given malice and partial counsel. She is a party in this very libel. Both in Sanday and since she came to Kirkwall, she has told that she wished to be examined as a witness against Mr Lyell and told to severals what she was to give in evidence against him. Further, she has always been reckoned lunatic, frantic or crazy, and not right witted; has two bastard children; and besides, is given to lying and other vices. She is also a pensioner or dependent on the family of Stove in Sanday, of which Thomas Traill of Westove, a party against Mr Lyell, has great management and direction. For all which reasons she cannot be received or admitted as a habile witness, as he undertakes instanter to prove them by habile witnesses.

To which it is answered for the pursuer; That there is no shadow of relevancy in any part of the objection, except that which relates to the sanity of the witness, as to which the objection to her sanity is false, as will be evident to the commissioners at taking her disposition. The attack upon her character can be considered as the effect only of a just suspicion of the consequence of her giving evidence according to truth. The objection being irrelevant, cannot be admitted to proof. As to her declaring that she wished to be examined, or even telling what she would say upon her examination, there is nothing more natural than for all the witnesses now attending to wish to be examined, for as they may be at liberty to return home; now is there anything in the least culpable or illegal in witnesses mentioning what he is to give in evidence, even before his examination.

The defender insists for a proof of his objections as stated, from which alone the commissioners will be able to judge not only of the insanity of the witness, as described in the objection, but also of her keenness to depone against Mr Lyell.

The commissioners agree to examine the witness, and desire the clerk to take down her deposition.

The said Christiana Manson being accordingly brought in, and desired to depone represented, That she had been so disturbed and disordered by the above objections offered by the defender against her character that she did not think herself in a disposition to be examined just now; therefore craved a delay of her examination for some time, which the commissioners agreed to."

Pursuers Proof: Head III at p27-28