1917 court: Who is liable for £100 Malton brewery debt?

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At the Scarborough County Court, his Honour Judge Lock gave judgement in the case of Russell and Wrangham, brewers, Malton, against the officials of the Oxford Club, Scarborough, now off the register.

This was a case in which the brewers sued the committee and other officials urged that the whole matter of the finances, the ordering of goods and so forth, reposed in the hands of the manager, William McLorinan, whose whereabouts were now not known, but who was supposed to be in Newcastle-on-Tyne.

His Honour said the first question he had to decide was: What was the nature of this club? Was it a members’ club, or a proprietary one? The rules and regulations did not assist him in that. The principal fact with regard to this club was that the members had no tenancy. The freehold of the property belonged to Robert McLorinan, and the tenancy to Wm. McLorinan, who was the manager.

The minute book did not show that any members ever spent any money in furnishing the club which produced the assumption that this was not a proprietary club, Wm. McLorinan, who seemed to be a masterful man, and a man of considerable temper, sometimes closed the club earlier than the usual time, and turned the members out. The club suddenly ceased to exist.

After quoting some of the rules the judge said they were consistent with either a members’ club or a proprietary one. The fact that there was a committee made no difference. The minute book showed nothing except that the main business of the committee was to elect and expel members.

Continuing, the judge quoted the minute adopted after a new secretary (Simpson) was appointed: That the full responsibility of this, the Oxford Club, be in the hands of the owner, Mr Wm. McLorinan; also that he should have full power to order goods, pay accounts, and order anything necessary for the welfare of the members.

The object of that minute, said the judge, was to make Wm. McLorinan responsible, but Simpson was not a lawyer. Had the minute stopped at “Wm. McLorinan” it would have been all right, but it went on instructing him to order anything necessary for the welfare of the members. That brought the members into it, but the effect of the minute was that Wm. McLorinan was the master, and that he could do as he liked. If it was in fact a proprietary club the statement as to full responsibility had only the effect that Wm. McLorinan was the proprietor.

There was no doubt that when McLorinan assumed control of the club, the plaintiff’s traveller, Camidge, became a member and arranged for McLorinan to open an account. He (the traveller) didn’t want to see whether the committee were going to authorise him to deal. However, an account was opened with McLorinan, and the latter ordered goods. It was suggested at the opening that Camidge went on the Monday night because the committee met them, and Wm. McLorinan came straight from the committee-room and gave the order. He (the judge) came to the conclusion that this was a propriety club, and that McLorinan was, prima facie, liable for all contracts made for the club, and that in fact he might have been sued as the Oxford Club. Although the club might have been a proprietary one, there might be furniture or other property belonging to the club. Wm. McLorinan in a letter - not in his handwriting - had disclaimed ownership of the furniture and fixtures, and on the other hand the members did the same.

There was money in the hands of Mr Harland (auctioneer), and that, technically, belonged to Wm. McLorinan, or the members, and was property which belonged to the club, and was liable for the debts of the club. As to the members being liable the judge dismissed action against them with costs; the McLorinans - Robert and William, were retained.