Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

D’Aquino v. Thirkell, 1886


D'Aquino v. Thirkell

Civil Summary Court
14 May 1886
Source: North China Herald, 21 May 1886

Shanghai, 14th May 1886
Before George Jamieson, Esq., H.B.M.'s Acting Assistant Judge.
  JOHN GEORGE THIRKELL, editor and proprietor of the Shanghai Courier, appeared in answer to a claim of $71.50 brought against him by J. F. d'Aquino, a Portuguese compositor.  The claim was made up of $48, wages from April 1st to May 6th at $49 a month, and $23.50 for extra work.
  The defendant asked if it was not customary that accounts should be presented before a claim was made in Court.  He had never received any application for payment of any of this money except $20 for extra work during April.
  His Honour said it was a question which only affected the costs. If it appeared that the plaintiff had brought the case into Court unnecessarily he would have to pay the costs himself.  He asked the defendant if he admitted owing the money.
  The Defendant said he admitted owing ten dollars only.
  His Honour said in that case the defendant ought to have paid the $10 into Court if he wanted to avoid having to pay the costs.
  The Plaintiff said he was engaged by the defendant on the 28th February as a compositor, at $40 a month.  On the 24th March the foreman, whose name was Rozario, left to go to Tientsin, and plaintiff was asked by the manager, Mr. Martin, to do Rozario's work as foreman - I.e., to make up columns of type into pages ready for printing, Mr. Martin promising to speak to Mr. Thirkell about increasing plaintiff's wages.  He did the work, but did not receive any extra pay, and at the beginning of May he sent in an account for $20 for extra work during April.  On the 6th May he defendant, referring to the account, asked him what he meant by such nonsense, and added, "I pay you $40 a month to do anything you are told in this office. To clean my boots if I want you to." He could not submit to this insult, so he left the office and did not return.
  In answer to the defendant, the plaintiff said that Mr. Thirkell had employed him at the request of the Ladies' Benevolent Society, but denied that had offered to come for $25 a month.  He admitted that he had never been promised a specific increase of wages for "making up" the paper' but others who did this work received more pay, and he thought he was entitled to it. He admitted that when he was first engaged he had asked the defendant to become responsible for his house rent, that the defendant had consented, at the same time making him promise to pay the rent, and that a few days afterwards he (plaintiff) went to the compradore and got an advance of more than his months' wages, and that on the 6th May the defendant got an application from his (plaintiff's) landlord for two months' rent.   He did not leave the office because the defendant threatened to withdraw his guarantee to plaintiff's landlord, but because of the remark about cleaning boots.
  The Defendant entirely denied that anything was due to the plaintiff for extra work.  He admitted that the plaintiff had not been paid for April, never having applied for the money; but against this he (defendant) had paid or was responsible for three months' house-rent for the plaintiff, amounting to $30. There was therefore only $10 owing.  In addition to this, the plaintiff owed $16 to his (plaintiff's) Compradore.
  His Honour said he could not entertain the claim for extra work.  It was evident that the plaintiff had been employed to set up type or do any other work within his capacity in the printing office for $40 a month.  The defendant would, however, have to pay his wages up to the 6th May, as he had used language to the plaintiff which was rather too strong, He would therefore make an order for payment of wages from the 1st April to the 6th May at $40 a month, less whatever he defendant had paid on account of house-rent.  The costs would be divided.
  Defendant - Then your Honour holds that in consequence of my telling him he would have to clean my boots, he was justified in leaving me without notice?
  His Honour - Yes. You cannot expect a man to stay with you if you hurt his feelings in that way.
  The Defendant's compradore then came forward and asked if the $16 due to him from the plaintiff could be paid out of the money which the plaintiff would receive under this judgment (about $18.)
  His Honor asked the compradore if it was his own money or the defendant's that he had advanced to the plaintiff.
  The Compradore said it was his own.
    His Honour then said the money would be paid over to the plaintiff, and if the Compradore wanted to recover his $16 he must go to the Portuguese Consulate.
  The Defendant remarked that in his experience there was no satisfaction to be got from the Portuguese Court in any case.
  His Honour said if compradores chose to advance money to employees at interest, as had evidently been done in this case, he was certainly not going out of his way to assist them to recover any losses they might suffer.
  The defendant expressed himself pleased that his Honour took that view.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School