by Jon Malings

Transcribed from The Times, May 10th, 1927 



Reference to an alleged payment of £35,000 into the Lloyd George Fund by a Yorkshire shipowner and baronet on the occasion of that honour being conferred upon him was made before Mr. Justice Salter in a Civil Court at Leeds Assizes yesterday afternoon in an action in which Robert James Watkin, of Leafield, South-street, Cottingham, ship-broker, claimed £1,350 as remuneration for services rendered from Sir Henry Samman, Bt, of The Manor, Willerby, Yorkshire. 

The defence was that the plaintiff had been already well, and even generously, paid for all his services. 

Mr. Burnand, opening the case, said that the plaintiff entered the service of the defendant’s firm, H. Samman and Co., ship-owners, as an office boy in 1896, rose to be chief clerk, and in 1917 was admitted to partnership by the defendant, who gave him £1,000 as a free gift to put into the firm as his part of the capital. This was in consideration of plaintiff’s good services. Sir Henry Samman in 1921 dissolved the partnership. In addition to managing the affairs of the company during Sir Henry Samman’s absence, the plaintiff had had to manage the defendant’s private estates, and had controlled his investments during Sir Henry Samman’s absence on a trip round the world, for which special services the present claim was made. 

The plaintiff, in the witness box, said that in 1917 he discovered defalcations by an employee, who was dismissed and Sir Henry Samman, who was in a hurry to go off fishing in Scotland, said, “You must look after the cash Watkin, and I will see you all right.” A little later the plaintiff had also to assume the private secretarial work, so saving two salaries.

Cross-examined by Mr. Mitchell-Innes, K.C., the witness admitted that Sir Henry Samman had given him £100 for ten days’ work done on the outbreak of war, when the defendant was in Norway; had given him £1,000 and admitted him to partnership in the company of Samman and Co. (which managed Sir Henry Samman’s privately owned ships) doubled his salary of £200; allowed him £200 a year for ship-managing; and allowed him one-third of the brokerage, which in the first year represented as his share £697, and paid the whole of the losses in the next two years. It was not until he asked for this extra payment that Sir Henry Samman showed a changed feeling, and said he had crossed him out of his will. 

Mr. Mitchell-Innes.—Sir Henry had not only been fair. He had been generous to you. 

The witness admitted that in a letter written in October, 1923, he had acknowledged that he had no legal claim for the payment of this demand, but still considered that he had a claim, as he hoped Sir Henry Samman would recognize it for reasons well known.

Mr. Mitchell-Innes.—What did you mean by that? You need have no fear to answer. Is it not that you knew that a sum of money had been transferred for the benefit of two women; that you knew that one was a lady by whom the defendant had had a child, and that the other was that child? You admitted that you had no legal claim. Did you put that sentence because you thought Sir Henry Samman would be content to buy your silence at a price? You know that it is not pleasant for a man to have all things that may have happened before his marriage raked up and ventilated in a law Court. Why did you put in that phrase? 

The plaintiff—Just to mention the sort of claim, it showed the valuable nature of my services.

Mr. Mitchell-Innes.—What were your services? P—Attending to his investments.

But his scrip was in the bank. One of your claims is in respect of the transfer, as you say in your letter, of £35,000 from the National Provincial Bank at Hull to the National Provincial Bank at London for payment into the Lloyd George fund in consideration for a baronetcy being conferred upon the defendant. Do you think it was decent or fair to put that into your letter when making a claim against him? Did you think that Sir Henry Samman would be willing to pay instead of having this matter ventilated in Court?

The witness said that that was not his intention. It was mentioned to show what he had done. He had had, moreover, to write replies to letters of congratulation.

Mr. Mitchell-Innes.—Twelve only. What did you mean by the phrase, “I will take the first opportunity of putting the full facts of the excess profit duties before the Solicitor of Inland Revenue”? Was that a threat ?— No.

Mr. Mitchell-Innes.—Did you put that before the solicitor ?—No; I changed my mind. I did not know that the solicitor is the officer who originates proceedings.

Mr. Mitchell-Innes.—Was the inference that you had formed that Sir Henry had done something fraudulent? P—Not at all. I only wanted an amicable settlement.

Re-examined by Mr. Burnand, the plaintiff said that there never was any idea in his mind of the reasons suggested by Mr. Mitchell-lnnes. No threat was intended. He meant by reference to E.P.D. that he wanted the full fact of the payments by the partnership so that he might recover his share of overpayments.

Mr. Burnand—And about the baronetcy?

The plalntiff.—l mentioned that because Sir Henry had not time to find out the facts himself, and asked me to undertake the work of tracing his pedigree and tracing his relations. There were many letters to write and inquiries to make.

Mr. Justice Salter.—Is there any claim for pedigree tracing?

Mr. Burnand.—No, my Lord. It is a account for work.

This concluded the case for the plaintiff and the hearing was adjourned until to-day. 

Transcribed from The Times, May 11th, 1927 







The hearing was concluded in the Civil Court at the Leeds Assizes yesterday, before Mr. Justice Salter, of the case in which Robert James Watkin, of Cottingham, a shipbroker, sued Sir Henry Samman, Bt., of Willerby Manor, Hull, shipowner, for £1,350 for special services rendered between 1917 and 1923 outside the ordinary duties of his employment. The claim was denied.

The jury returned a verdict for the defendant.

When the case, was opened on Monday, Watkin said he had risen from office boy to chief clerk in the firm of H. Samman and Co., shipbrokers, and was given a partnership by Sir Henry together with a free gift of £1,000. The partnership was dissolved in 1921 and was followed by a dispute in 1923 when Watkin wrote making the present claim. Watkin denied that he had intended to threaten Sir Henry by forcing him into Court in respect to payments made to a woman, by whom Sir Henry, when a young man, had had a child. Further, he said he had no sinister motive in a reference in a letter to the payment of £35,000 to the Lloyd George fund in connection with Sir Henry’s baronetcy.

Yesterday evidence was called for the defence.

William Henry Williams, part of whose duties Watkin claimed that be had performed following certain alleged irregularities, stated that Watkin’s work was only part of the office routine. Watkin spoke to him of his claim, and said he intended “to put Sir Henry into quod” if he did not pay.

Answering Mr. Mitchell-Innes, in cross examination, Williams said that when he had completed 21 years of service in the firm, Sir Henry presented him with a silver rosebowl inscribed, “For loyal service.” In August 1917 he was required to return it to Sir Henry.


Sir Henry Samman, examined by Mr. G. F. L. Mortimer, K. C., said that Watkin had nothing to do with the conduct of his investments, which were all gilt-edged and of which the bank had control. It was untrue, he said, that Watkin had anything to do with the management of his estate.

Counsel—Did you ever entrust him to buy shares?

Sir Henry.—Oh dear no. I know too much to entrust a boy like that with such affairs. He had the capacity, certainly, to buy a red herring. I often wondered if he were nosing about the office into my affairs. 

Did you ever request him to arrange for the transfer at the bank of £35,000 in connection with the baronetcy?—It is absolutely untrue, it was certainly not a thing I should have gone shouting about.

Did you ever request him to write letters in respect to the conferring of the baronetcy, before the bestowal? —Nothing of the sort, but he may have written some letters in reply to congratulations.

Cross-examined by Mr. Burnand, Sir Henry said it was false that he discussed the probable bestowal of a knighthood which materialized into a baronetcy. The gift of £1,000 to Watkin and a share of a partnership were not in recognition of his appreciation of the pIaintiff’s service, but because, owing to the war and shortage of staff at the front it was a question of either having a partner or “shutting up shop.” It was true that he had put Watkin into his will for £1,000, but he never told him of it, and did not know how he got to know it.

“I put him in the business,” said Sir Henry, speaking with emotion, because my son had come back from the war badly smashed up after two years service.”

If Watkin had been entitled to anything he would have paid him, as he would to-day, but he would not to be bluffed.

Mr. Mitchell-Innes, K. C., addressing the jury for the defendant, said he would be one of the last men in the world to launch a suggestion without cause of a charge of conduct amounting to what was known as blackmail. The innuendoes that had been referred to in evidence had not been raised in that Court by the plaintiff, but they had been forward in the document by the plaintiff, acting on his own responsibility or under his advice. They were cowardly and ungrateful suggestions connected quite clearly with matters which it should be painful to any man to have made public, and on which it might be calculated that silence would be bought at a price.

It was true that when a young man Sir Henry Samman became the father of a child by his housekeeper. What could be worse than fear following a threat of disclosure of this old indiscretion after a long marriage? A weaker man might have been cowed, and it required a man of courage and constancy to stand up against it. Then, in respect of the baronetcy, it was thought that sooner than be laughed at he might be willing to pay. That was plain, because evidence had been given that the plaintiff  had said that if Sir Henry did not “dib up” he would put him in “quod.” 

Mr. Burnand, for Watkin, commented upon the fact that, whereas Sir Henry had described the plaintiff’s ability as that of buying a red herring, he had admitted him to partnership. It was counsel for the defendant, said Mr. Burnand. who had suggested that Sir Henry had bought his baronetcy, and it was the defence who had brought into the case the much more painful incident that had been referred to. It showed the extent to which Sir Henry was prepared to go to resist the claim of the plaintiff. The defendant had been described as generous. He (Mr. Burnand) did not ask for generosity, but for fair treatment of a man who had slaved and worried for Sir Henry for 26 years.


MR. JUSTICE SALTER, summing up, said that undoubtedly services were rendered, but it was another question if payment for them was due. In any event, under the Statute of Limitations two years only of the five claimed for, could be due. It was not for the jury to say what sum would be handsome for Sir Henry to pay. They were there only to give what was legally due.

Was it or was it not understood between them that Watkin’s services were to be paid for? It could not be denied that Sir Henry, in giving the plaintiff £1,000 and the partnership, did a generous act, and no doubt Watkin thought so at the time. The point was, was it agreed between them at the time that services outside the partnership were to be paid for, and it that were so, were the services of any value, and if so, what? The plaintiff had claimed that he had rendered services in the transfer of a. large sum of money from the bank in Hull to the bank in London, but he had added that the money was for the purpose of being paid over to the Lloyd George party fund as a consideration for the conferring of a baronetcy upon the defendant. 

What had the purpose for which the money had been paid to do with the service rendered? What did it matter to him if the money was for a party fund or for missionaries in Africa? Why was that passage put in? People who received baronetcies did not want others to think they had bought them. Why, also, had the plaintiff in his claim for payment for buying and selling £600 worth of stock added that it was done by him and not in the defendant’s name for a certain reason? An elderly man, long since married, with grown-up children, and who had attained a responsible position in life, would not want the indiscretions of his youth raked up. Was it that those unnecessary statements were made to support an unfounded claim and to bring pressure on a rich man? 

The jury returned a verdict for the defendant, and judgment was entered accordingly with costs.