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Colonial Cases

Colclough v. Johnson, 1876


Colclough v. Johnson

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
25 March 1876
Source: The Times, 27 March, 1876

(Present - Sir James Colville, Sir Barnes Peacock, Sir Montague Smith, and Sir Robert Collier.)
This was an appeal from the Supreme Court of the colony of Victoria. Three sisters - Mary Ann, Ellen, and Catherine Colclough - arrived together in the Colony of Victoria from Ireland in 1852. They did washing and sewing. They saved money, and in 1855 their brothers John and Richard came out, comparatively poor. The five commenced business in Melbourne as grocers and sellers of vegetables, in a small wooden store, on a piece of land bought for the purpose. They had a capital of £230 of which £170 was contributed by the sisters. "Colclough's General Store" was the title of the firm. In 1861 Mary Ann married one Richard Johnson, and left the business. Catherine married the next year. At this time the sisters' interest was valued at £900, and £300 each was paid to Mary Ann and Catherine. It was alleged that the third sister, Ellen, also agreed at this time to take £300 for her share.
  In 1868 Richard Colclough, one of the brothers, retired, and received as his share £2,500. John Colclough had once taken in many respects the leading part in the business, and he now asked his sisters to execute a deed on the basis of the arrangement alleged to have been made in 1861. The married sisters consented, but Ellen refused., and a partnership suit was instituted, in which Ellen and Mary Ann (with her husband) were plaintiffs, and the other sister and her two brothers the defendants. The real estate, the property of John or of the partnership, was in 1872, when the suit was brought, worth £6,000, and the stock-in-trade and assets of the business worth £10,000. The Primary Judge and the full Court having given conflicting decisions, this appeal was brought by John Colclough.
  Mr. Roxburgh, Q.C., and Mr. G. W. Lawrence were for the appellant; Mr. Westlake, Q.C., and Mr. R. B. Rogers for the defendants.
  The argument occupied part of Friday and the whole of today. It appeared that five more brothers and sisters and the mother went out when the business became prosperous, and were supported in the common house till they obtained settlement elsewhere.
  Judgment was reserved.

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