Julia McEvers was the youngest child of Mary Frances Bourke and John Francis McEvers, a Doctor of Medicine of Camden Place in the City of Cork. Julia was baptised on 19 October 1856 at St Mary’s Church in Cork. Her mother passed away not long after she was born and she was raised by her father, her siblings and extended family.
Julia had four older brothers including Daniel and John who were following in their father’s footsteps and training to become doctors and Ivor who was in the Royal Navy and Walter, who was expected to go into business. Her sisters were Catherine, Mary and Nora. Catherine, or Katie as she was generally called, was the oldest of the girls and had married James Seymour Lambkin on 10 June 1873 at St. Mary’s in Cork City.
On 2 November 1874, John Francis McEvers died at Rushbrooke in the County of Cork, leaving a sizeable inheritance to be divided amongst his children.
And I appoint the residue of said Trust moneys to my other three daughters Mary Nora and Julia McEvers
When Julia was old enough, she was sent to school in England to complete her education at a convent school in Abingdon in the Berkshires but at the age of sixteen, her education was judged to be complete and her brother Walter came to London to collect her, bringing Nora with him in July of 1876.
During their time in London, the siblings stayed on Craven street in Westminster near the Strand and they were entertained by a family friend, William Lane O’Neill. W Lane O’Neill had been a bookkeeper and clerk for Julia’s uncle, John Walter Bourke who was a solicitor in Cork City but now worked as a solicitor in his own right in London.
Julia would later testify that she saw Mr. O’Neill in London several times on Craven street in London where he showed her considerable attention. She explained that O’Neill asked them to accompany him to the theatre and he entertained them at a hotel one evening. At dinner, he offered her a ring with two diamonds in it but she had declined, saying she did not know him sufficiently.
He took her gloves as a souvenir to remember her by.
The next time Julia saw O’Neill was in January 1878 when she met him at Patrick’s place where she was staying with her brother and sister Nora. He dined with them in Cork on several occasions and one evening, asked to speak privately with her in the parlour. He told her that he was attached to her and asked of her feelings and she told him she liked him very much.
O’Neill used to visit her aunt Miss Bourke and her sister Mrs. Lambkin in Cork and she dined with him there. Julia later testified that on one such occasion, he had kissed her and she said ‘please don’t’. He gave here three gold rings, a gold watch and a locket along with several books and photographs. O’Neill was in Cork again in August 1878 and she saw him then. O’Neill spoke to his former employer, John Walter Bourke, of his intentions to marry Julia, but said there were some business obstacles to his marriage. He went to Killarney with a friend named O’Keeffe from where he sent Julia a telegram and on his return, he stopped in Cork for about a week to spend more time with her.
Julia recounted that he had spoken to Nora and asked Julia if Nora would live with them in London when they were married and whether she would like that and Julia had answered that she would not. Julia’s uncle, John Walter Bourke was abroad at that time and O’Neill asked her if she would marry while he was away and she said it must wait for her uncle’s return. He asked her if she would be married in the pink dress she had on and she said that she would not and would marry in white. He asked how many bridesmaids she wanted and she replied three, and named them.
From Cork, O’Neill went on to Dublin and he wrote to Julia.
A frequent correspondence ensued, with flowery letters coming from O’Neill frequently, speaking of his feelings for Julia.
Later, Julia would recount that she used to sing for him, including a song called ‘The Gypsey’s warning’.
The words were ‘do not trust him, gentle lady, though his voice be low and sweet’.
At the time, Julia had no way of knowing how prophetic those words would turn out to be.
The Other Woman
Even as William Lane O’Neill had been pursuing Julia McEvers, he was hedging his bets by also courting a young woman named Charlotte Caroline Gilbert.
Caroline was the daughter of James Gilbert and Sophia Lucy Ann Carbery. She had been born in Calcutta, India where her father was an Engineer for Jessop & Co and property owner of some standing. On 9 February 1872, while homeward bound on board the P & O steamer Deccan, James Gilbert had died at age 46, leaving Sophia the widow to raise young Caroline and her siblings.
Sophia continued on to England, settling in Chiswick, at 11 Linden Gardens in a modest two storey house with her three daughters, Alice, Florence and Charlotte and her son James who was studying to become a medical doctor.
James had left two thirds of his estate to Sophia which was in excess of 10,000 rupees (about £22,000), with instructions that she should look after their children and
…the remaining one third of such stocks funds and securities and the interest dividends and income thereof in trust for all my children or any child who being son or a son shall have attained or shall attain the age of Twenty one years or being daughters or a daughter shall have attained orr shall attain that age or shall have married or shall marry under that age and if more than one in equal shares…
As a young heiress, Charlotte Gilbert was apparently an attractive alternative to become O’Neill’s future wife.
Several letters written by O’Neill did not reach Julia and were returned through the post. Thinking he had forgotten her, Julia reproved him for not writing and she received a last letter dated 22 January 1879 written from 110 Cannon Street, London. The letter was very cool.
By the time Julia McEvers received the last letter from O’Neill breaking off their relationship, he was already married to Charlotte, having wed the young heiress quietly in the first months of 1879 in St. Giles, London after she became pregnant with his child. Gilbert Joseph Lane O’Neill was born either just before or just after the marriage took place at O’Neill’s residence at 45 Guildford street, Russell square in London.
By 1881, mother and child were living at 11 Linden Gardens with Sophia Gilbert.
Class: RG11; Piece: 1350; Folio: 138; Page: 4; GSU roll: 1341328
In August 1879, the case of McEvers vs W.L. O’Neill was tried in Cork, Ireland with Julia McEvers as the plaintiff, charging that William Lane O’Neill, solicitor was guilty of breach of promise to marry her and she was asking for damages in the amount of £10,000. After hearing testimony from the McEvers family and from O’Neill himself, including the reading of many of the love letters written over the course of the romance, Julia was granted damages in the amount of £1000.
O’Neill wasn’t about to accept the verdict, however and took the case to the Exchequer Division of the High Court of Justice in early November where a conditional order for a new trial was granted on the grounds of misdirection by the learned judge.
On 18 February 1880, the matter came before the Exchequer Division befor Barons Fitzgerald and Dowse. O’Neill’s defence was that he had never promised to marry Julia. He stated that her family sought to entrap him into a marriage. At the conclusion, Barons Fitzgerald and Dowse upheld the original verdict in the case, ruling that a promise could be inferred from the whole tenor of the correspondence between O’Neill and Julia.
Whether O’Neill eventually paid the awarded sum is unknown.
Running for Office
Just days before the motion to overturn the verdict in the breach of promise case was heard, O’Neill announced his intention to stand for Mallow, Ireland in the general election to be held from March to April in 1880.
Soon after it was announced that Barons Fitzgerald and Dowse upheld the original verdict in the breach of promise case however, O’Neill withdrew his candidacy.
Outrage Against a Servant
The following year, O’Neill was arrested for having assaulted a servant by the name of Attrill and committed for trial. He was given bail but when the case came to trial, he did not appear and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Fled the Country
With his London life in ruins, William Lane O’Neill set sail for America, abandoning his heiress wife Charlotte and their son. He arrived in New York City on 23 February 1881.
Upon his arrival, O’Neill renounced his Irish roots and declared his intention to become an American Citizen. 1National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, DC; ARC Title: Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906; NAI Number: 5700802
Back home in England, he was adjudged for bankruptcy.
On 16 September 1886, his petition for naturalization in the United States was granted. He went on to practice law in New York, leaving his family to their own fate back home.
Charlotte Caroline O’Neill
Charlotte Caroline O’Neill died on 22 January 1937 leaving £9019 to her son Gilbert Joseph Lane O’Neill so presumably O’Neill never gained access to her inheritance.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, DC; ARC Title: Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906; NAI Number: 5700802|