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Colonial Cases

Dickson v. Robinson, 1899



Dickson v. Robinson

Supreme Court for China and Japan
Hannen CJ, 31 May 1899
Source: North China Herald, 5 June 1899




Shanghai, 31st May.

Before Sir Nicholas J. Hannen, Chief Justice.


  This was an application in the case of John Robert Dickinson, suing by his attorney Captain William Robertson, against Robert J. Robinson, master of the sailing ship Garnet Hill. Mr. E. Nelson (Messrs. Stokes & Platt) was for the plaintiff and the defendant appeared in person.

  Mr. Nelson, in making the application, said it was for an interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant from applying  to the Customs authorities for clearance of the Garnet Hill, from pledging the credit of the vessel, and from removing her from Shanghai out of the jurisdiction of the Court until after the trial of the action. The learned counsel explained that the vessel was at present undergoing repair, and would be ready for sea in a short time, but pending the trial of the action, which was for the removal  of the master, the owners did not wish the ship to be taken from Shanghai, as it was feared that such a course, under the circumstances, might affect her insurances. 

  He did not see how the injunction could prejudice the defendant in the slightest, and would merely keep matters in statu quo. 

  Mr. Nelson was proceeding to discuss the right of owners to dismiss captains, when

 His Lordship asked the defendant if he opposed the application.

  Defendant said he had £500 invested in the ship, and held a letter from Mr. J. R. Dickinson telling him to retain command for the voyage.

  His Lordship pointed out that the main question was not now being decided.

  After some conversation, 

  Defendant agreed to the injunction being granted, and an order was made accordingly, costs to be costs in the cause.


Source: North China Herald, 26 June 1899



Shanghai, 21st June.

Before Sie Nicholas J. Hannen, Chief Justice.


  In this case Mr. E. Nelson (Messrs. Stokes & Platt), appeared for the plaintiff, and the defendant in person. The circumstances of the action are fully set out in the petition which Mr. Nelson read as follows:

  [1.] - The Plaintiff is a British Merchant carrying on business under the style or form of J. R. Dickson & Co., ship owners at Glasgow in the United Kingdom, and the Defendant is a Master Mariner and is a British subject.

  [2.] - The steel bark Garnet Hill belongs to and is registered at the port of Glasgow, and the Plaintiff on or about the month of June, 1897, was and still is the sole owner of the said bark and was then and still is registered as such sole owner.

  [3.] - On or about the month of August, 1897, the said bark sailed from the port of Middlesborough with a general cargo on a voyage to Yokohama in command of the said Defendant who had been appointed by the plaintiff and was then Master of the said bark.

  [4.] - On or about the month of February, 1898, the said bark arrived at the port of Yokohama and sailed from the port of Yokohama on or about the month of April, 1898, to the port of Kobe, and on or about the month of June, 1898, the said bark sailed from the said port of Kobe to the port of Portland, Oregon, in ballast.

  [5.] - The said bark arrived at Portland on or about the 12th day of July, 1898, and was there chartered to the Pacific Export Lumber Company. The said bark left Portland on or about the 31st day of August, 1898, and arrived at Astoria, on or about the 13th day of September, 1898.

  [6.] - The said bark sailed from Astoria for China, on or about the month of September, 1898, and arrived at Chefoo on or about the 9th day of January, 1899, and left that port for Taku on or about the 3rd day of March, 1899, and arrived there in the 5th day of March, 1899, and the said bark sailed from the port of Taku to Tientsin on or about the 25th day of March, 1899, arriving there on the 29th day of March, 1899. On or about the 3rd day of May, 1899, the said bark left Tientsin for the port of Shanghai, arriving there on the 15th day of May, 1899.

  [7.] - During the voyage from Middlesborough to Yokohama, when about three or four weeks out from the said port of Middlesborough, the said defendant became intoxicated and absented himself from his duties for a considerable period staying in his cabin.

  [8.] - When the said bark was sailing into the port of Yokohama the said defendant was intoxicated and interfered with the pilot in the execution of his duties. Whilst in the said port of Yokohama he was habitually intoxicated, as also when in the port of Kobe.

  [9.] - During the time the said ship was in Portland the defendant was habitually intoxicated, and frequented low resorts, absenting himself from his duties and was on many occasions not in a fit condition to carry out the business of the ship.

  [10.] - That the defendant delayed the ship at the port of Portland and also at the port of Astoria by reason of his drunken and intemperate habits. At the port of Chefoo the defendant was habitually intoxicated.

  [11.] - In the year 1898 the defendant rendered to the plaintiff a statement of account, dated Yokohama, the 6th of April, for $607.50 as having been paid to one H. Cook for caulking the said bark, which said sum was not incurred by the defendant on behalf of the vessel, the said H. Cook did not do such caulking it having been done by the carpenter of the bark.

  [12.] - That in the yeat 1898, the said defendant rendered to the plaintiff a statement of account, dated the 18th day of April, 1898, for $4,197.58 purporting to have been paid to T. H. Lathin for sails. The said sum of $4,197.58 was not incurred by the defendant on account of the ship and the said sum was not paid to the said T. H. Lathin.

  [13.] - On the 8th day of November, 1898, the plaintiff by letter revoked the appointment of the said defendant as master of the said ship. This revocation was conveyed on or about the 16th day of January, 1899, by William Roberts as agent for the said plaintiff to the said defendant. The said defendant was informed that the said William Roberts was deputed to take command of the said ship, but the defendant refused to allow him to do so.

  [14.] - On the 24th day of May, 1899,  the solicitors for the plaintiff gave the defendant formal notice and demanded that he should leave the ship within 24 hours. Upon the following day he attended at their office and refused to give up possession, and he still refuses to do so.

  The plaintiff therefore prays, 

  [1.] - That the Court may order that the Defendant be discharged from his position as Master of the aforesaid bark.

   [2.] - That he may be ordered to hand over possession of the said bark to William Roberts, the Attorney duly appointed by the said Plaintiff or to some such person as the  said William Roberts may direct.

  [3.] - That the said Defendant do pay to the Plaintiff his costs of this action.

  [4.] - That the said Plaintiff may have such further relief as to the Court may seem fit.

  Mr. Nelson, in addressing his Lordship, pointed out the right the owner of a ship had to at any time get rid of the master, who if aggrieved had his remedy at common law. It would be painful and troublesome if the whole case had to be fought out, and therefore he asked his Lordship to decide that one point, whether the plaintiff had not an absolute right to dispossess the master of command of the ship, leaving him to his remedy afterwards.

  The defendant said that he had an agreement with the plaintiff for the voyage, which was not yet completed.

  His Lordship - That enable you to claim against him for breach of agreement if you have any right to do so. But it does not  interfere with his right to relieve you in the meanwhile.

  The defendant said that he was without funds.

  Mr. Nelson offered on behalf of the owners, without prejudice, to allow the defendant £50.

   His Lordship observed that of course anything that was paid would be subject to accounts. It might turn out that some amount was due to the master, or that something was due to the plaintiff. In the meantime he thought that the plaintiff might allow the defendant something more than his bare fare, so that he would not land home penniless. He suggested £60.

  Mr. Nelson accepted the suggestion.

  His Lordship - Let us say £60 then. Upon their paying you £60 I shall order that the ship be given up. And I make it on the ground that the plaintiffs are entitled to put in command of the ship whom they please. What I say is without prejudice to any claim by the captain against the owners or by the owners against the captain.

  Mr. Nelson - That is exactly what we desire.  

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