William Masterton (1792-1858)
Weaver and alleged bigamist
William Masterton appears in the records of the High Court of Scotland as the key protagonist in a case of bigamy. He lodged the defence of the impotency of his first wife, Elizabeth Machar. Before he died he had married three times and had fathered seven children.
William Masterton was the fifth child of Alexander Masterton and Margaret Thom of Forfar. This places him as part of the large group of Mastertons in and around Forfar and Dundee. His father Alexander was the eldest son of Alexander Masterton and Elizabeth Watson. A fuller genealogy of the extended family of William Masterton can be found at this link.
THE LORD JUSTICE CLERK
LORDS MACKENZIE, MEDWYN
HIS MAJESTY'S ADVOCATE - Sol.-Gen. Cuninghame-Napier
BIGAMY.-Informations ordered, on the competency of pleading the impotency of the first wife, as a defence against a charge of bigamy.
WILLIAM MASTERTON was charged with Bigamy,
IN SO FAR AS, having on or about the 18th of October 1813, been lawfully married, at or near to the village of Dunnichen, in the parish of Dunnichen, and county of Forfar, to Elizabeth Machir or Machar, then and now or lately residing in or near Forfar, in the county of Forfar, the marriage ceremony having been performed by the Rev. James Headrick, then and now or lately minister of the parish of Dunnichen foresaid; and having afterwards lived and co-habited with the said Elizabeth Machir or Machar as his wife, and the said marriage still subsisting, the said William Masterton did, upon the 15th September 1821, within the house, in or near Aberdeen, in the county of Aberdeen, then occupied by the Rev. Robert Doig, now deceased, then one of the ministers of Aberdeen aforesaid, wickedly and feloniously enter into a matrimonial connexion with Ann Walker, now deceased, then residing in or near Aberdeen aforesaid, and daughter of the deceased Jeremiah Walker, sometime soldier in the 91st Regt. of foot, the marriage ceremony having been performed by the said Rev. Robert Doig, and did afterwards, in Aberdeen aforesaid, and elsewhere, co-habit with the said Ann Walker as his wife; and this said William Masterton did, well knowing that the said Elizabeth Machir or Machar was still alive.
Farther, (2.) The said William Masterton having been lawfully married to the said Elizabeth Machir or Machar as above libelled, and the said marriage still subsisting, did, upon the 21st of June 1836, within the house in Midwynd, in or near Hawkhill of Dundee, in the county of Forfar, occupied by him, wickedly and feloniously enter into a matrimonial connexion with Catherine Burnet, now or lately residing in Midwynd aforesaid, the marriage ceremony having been performed by the Rev. Robert Thompson, Wesleyan minister, then and now or lately residing at or near Perth Wall, in or near Dundee aforesaid; and did afterwards at Midwynd aforesaid, cohabit with the said Catherine Burnet as his wife; and all this the said William Masterton did, well knowing that the said Elizabeth Machir or Machar was still alive.
The following special defence was lodged for the pannel.-"The pannel pleads generally, that he is not guilty of the crime charged. Without prejudice to this general plea, the pannel states, that Elizabeth Machir or Machar, with whom he is said to have married in October 1813, was by nature, imperfect and defective in her person, so as to be incapable of marriage, and no marriage ever took place or existed between the said Elizabeth Machir or Machar, and the pannel. And of this fact he craves to be allowed a proof."
Informations were ordered on the relevancy of the special defence offered for the pannel; and, in the meantime, the diet against him was continued.
Reports of Cases before the the High Court and Circuit Courts of Justiciary in Scotland
from November 1835 to December 1837
Archibald Swinton, Esq
Thomas Clark, Law-Bookseller, Edinburgh, 1838