Farmer sues Whitby corn merchants

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1914 Court

At the Scarborough County Court, Thomas George Green, farmer, Court Green Farm, Cloughton, sued RD Spavin and Company, Whitby, corn merchants, for £10 damages for breech of agreement.

Mr J Whitfield was for plaintiff, and Mr C Royle for defendant.

Mr Whitfield said that Spavin agreed to buy certain barley at 32s. a quarter. According to the usual custom he should have removed it in not less than a fortnight, but he failed to do this, and when pressed to remove it, the market price having dropped, he failed to fulfil the contract. The case was important to farmers, because if the latter had to have transactions thrown up by corn dealers, it was an unfortunate thing for the farmers, and also for the corn dealers with whom they dealt.

Plaintiff in evidence said he had since sold the barley to a firm at York for 27s. 6d. a quarter, and had received no complaint about it. There was 37½ quarters, and he had used seven or eight quarters himself. He had lost quite £10 over the transaction, besides other costs and expenses.

His Honour: Perhaps you will get that back.

Plaintiff: Oh, I don’t know; when lawyers get hold of it (laughter).

Mr Royle, in cross-examination, contended it was a sale by sample, but plaintiff said it was a sale by bulk.

Questioned as to the phraseology of a letter, plaintiff said they were not trained to the law.

Mr Royle: You ought to be thankful you are not (laughter).

Plaintiff: I don’t know. You never see many farmers with motors (loud laughter).

Plaintiff denied that the barley was subsequently sold as “smelly barley”.

Other evidence was called, Mr JB Westwood, Scarborough, stating that at the time plaintiff sold the barley for 27s. 6d. a quarter, it was at that time a fair market price. He would not have given 27s. 6d. for “smelly barley”. Selling by sample meant that a sample was shown on the market, not on a farmstead.

By Mr Royle: He had not bought barley in bulk, and he did not know anyone who had. That was the usual rule. The buyers could refuse it, and the farmer could make other arrangements. The price of barley fell rapidly at about the time in question.

For the defence Mr Royle called Thomas Alfred Hunton, of Newcastle, who said he was principal salesman and buyer for his firm between Berwick and Leeds. One of their warehouses was capable of holding 20,000 quarters. A second warehouse did not hold quite as much. It was customary to buy from sample. He found it necessary, in the course of business, to refuse deliveries. Defendant would have the right to refusal if the barley had been sold by sample. If a sample was not a “bulk sample” it was not a sample at all. At the time of this transaction fine barleys dropped very little in price, but second quality dropped about 4s. If he gave 32s. a quarter he would expect very good barley. Prices for good barley, at that time, ranged from 32s. to 35s. a quarter. Asked as to the quality of the sample barley produced, witness said he would say it was good barley – it “handled” well. On a second sample being handed to witness he pronounced it fusty. Twenty-seven and sixpence was a good price for the latter barley.

By Mr Whitfield: The only bulk sales of barley he had known had been by auction. It was possible that about 40 quarters might be in heaps for buyers to test on a farmstead. Visits to farmsteads to buy were sometimes made, but it was unusual, except to buy hay. If barley was piled up against a wall and kept in that position long it would be fatal to the barley.

By Mr Royle: If there was a heap of barley, and he was testing it he would go right through it. He thought the barley in question had been badly got.

By His Honour: There was no fixed time for removing barley.

The case, at seven o’clock in the evening, was adjourned until the next court.