Sarah Ann Mason , strong through adversity
A strong woman, a ‘toy boy’, sexism, a tragic accident, a cruel loss, and domestic abuse. The simple inscriptions on the grave of the Masons, in Beacon Edge Cemetery, Penrith, only hint at the experiences of Sarah Ann Mason (née Sarah Ann McGarr, later Sarah Ann Doran).
When writing about women there is always the thorny question of which surname to use: effectively, their father’s or their husband’s. As she was buried with Richard, I’ve gone with Mason for the subject line. I hope she wouldn’t mind.
1903. A Curious Transfer Case
In February 1903, there was an application before magistrates for the renewal of the licence of the Horse and Farrier Inn, in King Street, Penrith.
What was deemed unusual was the applicant was a Mrs Sarah Ann Doran, and her husband William Doran, tailor, was living there with her.
It was ‘not the custom of the Bench’ to grant licences to married women in such circumstances.
However, Mrs Sarah Ann Doran had been granted the licence in 1902 when her first husband, Richard Mason died. A few months later, she’d married Mr Doran.
Mrs Doran had been running the pub pretty much for nine years, as Richard Mason was a farmer and had little to do with it.
Mr Doran also had his own occupation. And if she had to give up the pub, Mrs Doran would have to start life again handicapped, as she had a family dependent on her.
It seems an application had been made on December 9, 1902, to transfer the licence into Mr Doran’s name. But this was refused, on account of a disturbance in Horse and Farrier Yard after hours on Martinmas night. At the time of that ‘quarrel,’ Mr Doran had been drunk.
Police Superintendent John Bell thought having a married woman as licensee (when her husband lived with her) would set a bad precedent. It placed the husband in a false situation. He was not head of the house and was what they would term ‘hen-pecked.’
After laughter in the court, Supt Bell (who was aged 55) said he had no complaint against Sarah Ann, who managed the house well.
Mr Glasson, on behalf of Glasson’s Brewery, was a little more modern in his thinking!
Since 1870, a married woman was perfectly capable of holding a licence on her own behalf.
Mrs Doran had managed the pub well for nine years and the brewery wished her to continue. They didn’t want Mr Doran to have it.
He drew laughter with:
‘Dr Johnson said that second marriages were a triumph of hope over experience. Supt Bell’s opposition seemed to be a triumph of experience over hope. He had no hope for Mrs Doran.’
Richard Mason – a tragic accident
Richard Mason’s death wasn’t the result of illness, but a tragedy. The inquest heard he’d set off for Clifton on April 28 to fetch some furniture. He’d seemed fine. But witnesses said they’d seen him, on his return, lying on his back in the ‘lorry’, while the horse was galloping fast. His head struck a wall several times. He later rolled off and was dragged 20 or 30 feet. He wasn’t killed, but despite an operation on May 6, died a few hours later.
The inquest was held in the Horse and Farrier and found a verdict of accidental death.
His funeral was reported in the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald. In spite of constant rain, there was a big turn-out of ‘almost all the licensed victuallers in Penrith,’ plus ‘country people who were accustomed to make the Horse and Farrier their headquarters on market day’.
Later in May, there was an auction of ‘valuable horses and posting plant, etc’. The sale included four horses (all said to be ‘quiet’). And ‘a light lorry’.
Richard left Sarah Ann Mason a widow with two sons and seven daughters, two of the latter being married. It was one of the daughters, Elizabeth Hannah Mason, who formerly identified his body. She told the inquest her father was a native of Kirkby Stephen, had lived some time in Carnforth, and came to Penrith circa 1891.
The 1901 census puts his place of birth as Warcop, wife Sarah Ann’s as Penrith. Children Elizabeth Hannah (19), Kate (17), Florence (14), and Edith (11), were all born in Carnforth. Eleanor (9), Richard (6), and John Edward (4) were born in Penrith.
1891 gives us the older daughters: Mary Ann (born Kirkby Stephen) and Sarah Jane (born Warton, Lancs). But has them at The Gate Inn, also King Street (no 36).
1881 (Warton, Lancs) has Richard Mason’s place of birth as Bleatarn, and his occupation as iron worker.
John Edward Mason
John was a farm hand, aged 19 years 11 months, when he enlisted in the West Cumberland Yeomanry in 1914.
His war service record says he had light brown hair and brown eyes. And was an acting corporal serving with the Military Mounted Police when he died. He had transferred there when the Yeomany split up.
Until the Covid pandemic, memories of the 1918-20 global influenza pandemic had rather been forgotten, overshadowed by the horrors of the First World War that preceded it.
But while the terrible war claimed an estimated 16 million lives, the influenza epidemic killed an estimated 25-50 million people. You can read more about it here:
The Penrith Observer says his mother had received a telegram saying he was dangerously ill, followed by another that he had died – both delayed.
One can only imagine how it felt to have the joy and relief of a loved one surviving the war unscathed, only for them to be taken from you by influenza a few months later.
The only slight consolation was that he had come home on leave a few weeks earlier, returning to Germany 11 days before his death.
By 1906, Sarah Ann Doran was at the Railway Tavern, in Castlegate. As she was when she died ten years later.
Let’s rewind… This competent business woman was born Sarah Ann McGarr, in 1856. She married Richard Mason in the December quarter of 1876, in Penrith district.
Richard died in May 1902.
Sarah Ann Mason married William Doran in the September quarter of the same year.
This must have raised local eyebrows at the time. It wasn’t just how soon, but also the fact that Sarah Ann was some 16 years older than her new husband. Who was only seven years older than Sarah Ann’s oldest daughter.
They had a daughter together, Annie Doran, in June 1903. William Doran died in 1913, aged 39 (GRO).
Sarah Ann is recorded on the gravestone of her first husband with no mention of her later surname.
But then, the second marriage wasn’t ‘made in heaven’.
‘Hope over Experience’
In 1902, William Doran is described as ‘a well dressed young fellow’. But in September 1903, he was in the dock. Along with his older brother, Frank Doran, of King’s Arms Lane, Carlisle, William was charged with being drunk and disorderly at Carlisle’s Citadel Station. And with assaulting a station policeman and two porters.
And with assaulting his wife, Sarah Ann.
It seems William and Frank Doran were seen fighting on platform 5. William at one point had struck Sarah Ann, blackening her eye. He had also threatened to throw her in front of a train. Baby Annie was three months old.
Frank Doran was fined 5 shillings plus costs. William Doran was jailed for one month, for the assault on the police officer….
Sarah Ann was back in court in October, seeking a separation order from William. And 2 shillings and 6 pence a week maintenance for baby Annie. This was granted by the Bench, who also fined William Doran one guinea plus costs, or another month in prison, for assaulting his wife.
And yet reconciliation?
The licence hearing for the Railway Tavern, in July 1906, tells us Sarah Ann moved to Manchester after the ‘trouble’ with William. But he was now working there.
Mrs Doran wished to have the licence of the Railway Tavern in her own name, and undertook to manage the house in a proper way. There would be ‘no molestation’. The owners of the premises were happy about this. The police were only concerned as to whether ‘the husband would keep away’. The transfer was granted.
However, on the 1911 census, William Doran is living with Sarah Ann at the Railway Tavern. And a death notice says he died there (aged 40).
1884 Housebreaking by boys
William Doran was born about 1873, brother Frank about 1870. Another brother, Robert, was three years older.
In May 1884, Robert Doran (16, imperfectly educated) was one of three boys charged with burglary and theft from a house in the city. Francis (sic) and William Doran, both on bail, were charged with a similar offence, but the Grand Jury returned no bill (due to their age). Robert and the others were found guilty. Two other similar cases were taken into considerations.
Robert Doran had been in a reformatory school for four years, and had been flogged, but ‘it had done him no good’. He was sentenced to 12 months with hard labour, partly because he was leading his brothers astray. Frank and William Doran could now be sent to an Industrial School.
Robert had, aged ten, stolen 73 eggs (May 1877), and broken into an office and stolen a pair of clogs (June 1877). And in August 1878, he was found hiding under a desk after breaking into another office. And in March 1884, was among a group of boys charged with breaking into a shop and stealing tobacco and cash. He was acquitted of the last offence, being found guilty only of ‘aiding and abetting, but not stealing’.
He doesn’t look to have troubled the courts after 1884.