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A Medium Strikes Back

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A Medium Strikes Back

Post by Candlelight on 24th April 2017, 17:39

(originally posted on 28 Aug 2016 03:43 pm)



Interesting article in this month's PsyPioneer Journal - about a medium I had not heard of before: Louisa Anne Meurig Morris.
The court case re this lady's mediumship happened in London in 1932.

A MEDIUM STRIKES BACK

Another cause célèbre which made history was the action of Mrs. Louisa Anne Meurig Morris, a trance medium, who sued the Daily Mail for alleged libel. In January, 1931, Mrs. Morris began a series of Sunday evening services at the Fortune Theatre, London. Her trance addresses, purporting to be delivered through ‘Power,’ her ‘spirit control,’ attracted considerable attention. In reporting these addresses the Daily Mail had issued a contents bill bearing the words: ‘Trance Medium Found Out.’ The alleged libel was in the wording of this bill, and in an article recording the proceedings at the Fortune Theatre.

The Daily Mail pleaded justification and fair comment on a matter of public interest. Mr. Norman Birkett, K.C., appeared for the Daily Mail, and Sergeant Sullivan, K.C., represented Mrs. Morris. The case was heard before the late Mr. Justice McCardie and lasted eleven days, from April 5 to April 19, 1932. Among the witnesses for the plaintiff were Sir Oliver Lodge and Lady Conan Doyle.

The Meurig Morris case was remarkable for three things: Mr. Justice McCardie’s summing up; the medium’s dramatic outburst on the last day of the trial; and the wording of the jury’s verdict. The Judge ruled that the matters in question were of public importance on which a defence of fair comment could be based. He asked the jury to consider whether Mrs. Morris could in fact convey messages from the dead; whether she was a genuine medium; and whether she honestly believed that she could do what she claimed. If she were honest, she ought to be Vindicated; if she were dishonest, she ought to be exposed.

During the Judge’s summing-up, he happened to point to Mrs. Morris with outstretched hand, whereupon she slowly rose and, apparently in trance, said in the deep voice of ‘Power’: ‘Hearken to my voice, Brother Judge.’ Obviously astonished, Mr. Justice McCardie ordered her to be removed from the court. When she was approached the same deep voice said: ‘Do not touch her till I have left the body.’ Mrs. Morris was carried to an anteroom where she remained unconscious for two hours. The case was adjourned for fifteen minutes, when the judge resumed. He said: ‘I hope I have not upset the feelings of anyone unnecessarily, but as a judge I care not for all the incarnate or discarnate spirits in the world . . . though there may be ten thousand million discarnate spirits around us.’

The jury’s verdict was: ‘We find for the defendants on the plea of fair comment on a matter of public interest, but we do not consider that any allegations of fraud or dishonesty have been proved.’ Whereupon the Judge ruled that there must be judgment for the Daily Mail. Mrs. Morris appealed and, after a hearing of four days, the judges (Scrutton, Lawrence and Greer) dismissed the appeal. The case was taken to the House of Lords, where the appeal was again dismissed.

The lay Press and legal journals gave great prominence to the case. The Law Journal regarded it as ‘a notable event, and, quite irrespective of the verdict, marked a tremendous advance, not only in spiritualism, but in toleration. . . .Another curious fact appearing from the trial and in the course of it is that the jury might be expected to find that a “discarnate spirit” might transmit messages through a medium.’ In the following issue of the Law Journal, in an article ‘Evidence and Psychic Phenomena,’ it is stated that the jury’s findings in the Morris case were being hotly discussed in legal circles as to whether the verdict was legally sound. The article, which is entirely sympathetic to Mrs. Morris, emphasizes ‘the astonishing interruption of the summing-up.’ The journal continues: ‘We find it frankly incredible that any litigant, if conscious, would have the effrontery to attempt a “stunt” of that sort at such a moment. Apart from the gross contempt of court which would be involved, it would be such singularly bad tactics. As it was, who can say what influence it had in persuading the jury to a verdict, which, whether technically correct or not, most people will probably think achieved substantial justice?’

Harry Price notes, “The case was taken to the House of Lords, where the appeal was again dismissed” the appeal hearing started on Tuesday February 7th 1933 the alleged libel was as noted contained in a bill issued by the Daily Mail on January 26th 1931. The appeal was dismissed with costs on Monday February 20th. The House of Lords appeal is covered in The Two Worlds February 17th & 24th 1933; any reader wishing a copy in PDF please contact the editor.



As a point of interest a short note appeared in The Two Worlds, July 16th 1932 page 5:


MEURIG MORRIS APPEAL
J. ARTHUR FINDLAY ONLY ONE TO OPPOSE

The Defence Committee which met on Monday at the Fortune Theatre decided to take the Meurig Morris case to the House of Lords. This meeting was attended by several prominent Spiritualists who were all agreed on this course, with the exception of J. Arthur Findlay, who opposed it.

He pointed out, that if the House of Lords reversed the decision of the last Court of Appeal, it would be almost impossible even for Spiritualists to publish the exposure of fraudulent mediums.

Following Mr. Findlay’s speech, Col. F. A. Wilson, who was a member of the British College, rose to support the resolution taking the appeal to the House of Lords. In concluding his speech, he said, “We must fight for the truth, fight for it always. Truth will conquer in the end.” Just as he had said these Words, he slipped back into his chair in a state of collapse and died.

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Re: A Medium Strikes Back

Post by mac on 24th April 2017, 17:41

The Movietone film (viewable by following the link) was interesting and dramatic. How different things are nowadays.
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Re: A Medium Strikes Back

Post by Candlelight on 24th April 2017, 17:43

@mac wrote:The Movietone film (viewable by following the link) was interesting and dramatic.  How different things are nowadays.

What link, mac?  What film?

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Re: A Medium Strikes Back

Post by mac on 24th April 2017, 17:44

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Re: A Medium Strikes Back

Post by Candlelight on 24th April 2017, 17:46


Thanks, mac.  I hadn't yet read that far. 

pp132-133 - (PsyPioneer Journal):
To tie up two loose ends; James Leigh made reference to “The circumstances attending the production of the Columbia gramophone record of “Power’s” voice …” and “Her remarkable “Movietone” picture created another sensation …” Below is taken from Nandor Fodor These Mysterious People, quoted from pages 235-236:

… The strange incident which occurred at the British Movietone Company when a talking film was made of “Power’s” oratory was declared by him a well-thought-out demonstration.

The microphones were seen by seventy people high up in the air held up by new half-inch ropes. A rope suddenly snapped and a terrific crash startled all present. Within half an inch of Mrs. Morris’ face the microphone swept across the space and went swaying to and fro.
A foreman rushed up and dragged the rope aside to keep it out of the sight of the camera. The camera man never stopped. Nor did Mrs. Morris. In spite of the obvious danger to her life she never stirred and went on undisturbed with her trance speech.

According to expert opinion the voice registering must have been a failure. Yet it was found that the accident had not the least influence. The record was perfect.  According to “Power” the rope was supernormally severed so as to prove, by the medium’s demeanour, that she was indeed in trance, as no human being could have consciously exhibited such self-possession as she did when the accident occurred.



Fodor continues:

A still more amazing incident, a veritable technical miracle occurred at the Columbia Gramophone Company’s studio in the course of recording “Power’s” voice. According to C. W. Nixon’s (of the Columbia Gramophone Company) publicly rendered account, an incident occurred at the very commencement of the operation which, by all the rules, should have soiled the first side of the record. Mr. Ernest Oaten, President of the International Spiritualist Federation, was in the chair, and being unaware that the start was to be made without the appearance of the usual red light, he told Mrs. Morris as she stood up: “Wait for the signal.” These words were picked up by the microphone and were heard by the engineer in the recording-room after the apparatus had been started. It was believed that they must be on the record.

Later, when the second side of the record was to be made, there was confusion in starting. Toward the end, as if to make technical failure a certainty, Mrs. Morris turned and walked several paces away from the microphone.

A week before the record was ready for reproduction Cowen rang up Nixon and told him that “Power” asserts that notwithstanding the technical mistakes the record would be a success, that Mr. Oaten’s words would not be reproduced and that the timing and volume of the voice would not be spoiled by the later accidents. This statement was so extraordinary and appeared to be so preposterous that Nixon had it taken down word by word, and sent it in a sealed envelope to Mr. Oaten in Manchester with the request that he would keep it unopened until the record was ready and the truth or otherwise of the prediction could be tested. The record was played in the Fortune Theatre on April 25th, 1931. It was perfect. The letter was opened. The prediction was found to be true in every detail.
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Re: A Medium Strikes Back

Post by Candlelight on 24th April 2017, 17:48

Trying to find the actual wording of the poster and article - Daily Mail, April 1932), headed 'Trance Medium Found Out', over which the libelous proceedings were brought by Meurig Morris. I couldn't find it (so far ...), but I did find an article in The Evening Independent - April 21, 1932, which covered the outcome of the court case:

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19320421&id=JONPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3FQDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6155,4190722&hl=en

and the Glasgow Herald - April 7, 1932
https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2507&dat=19320407&id=c1VRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=JjQNAAAAIBAJ&pg=1958,5568761&hl=en


ETA:  Found something with a bit more detail ...   In Daily News (Perth, WA) - Apr 8 1932

Headed: 'Power's Sermon Jargon'
https://www.myheritage.com/research/collection-10450/daily-news-perth-wa-apr-8-1932?itemId=30300782&action=showRecord#fullscreen

(The alleged libel was published on January 26, 1931.  Morris, the daughter of a market gardener, has been delivering trance sermons since 1924, particularly in the Fortune Theatre, London, where she attracted large audiences on Sunday evenings.   The sermons are delivered in a baritone voice which fills the theatre, the voice being allegedly due to a spirit.  The "Daily Mail" sent a representative to test the genuiness of Morris' mediumship, and he came to the conclusion that the same sermon was being repeated, whatever the text, the sequence of ideas only being altered.  The "Daily Mail" added:  The subconscious mind is crammed with spiritualistic jargon which it can trot out on any text.")

    Current date/time is 20th April 2018, 10:05