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Lieutenant Massy Stacpoole

Birthplace:
- Kingston, Ireland

Birthdate:
- 7 September 1848

Nationality:
- Irish

Height:
- 5 feet 7 inches

Family Background:
- Stacpoole's father was the Reverend W.C. Stacpoole, LL.D., probably a teacher at Kingstown School, County Dublin, Ireland

At Sandhurst:
- Yes

Foreign Languages:
- None

Career before Halifax:
- Ensign, 16 October 1866 (purchase)
- Lieutenant, 27 February 1869 (purchase)

Postings while in NS Command:
- Halifax, 9 May 1869 to 22 June 1869
- Saint John, New Brunswick, 23 June 1869 to 3 August 1870
- Halifax, 4 August 1870 to 25 November 1871

Career after Halifax:
- retired by sale of commission, 6 January 1875

Stacpoole's father, the Reverand W.C. Stacpoole LL.D., was probably a teacher at Kingstown School, in Kingston, County Dublin, as this was the internal address on a letter which he sent to the Horse Guards on behalf of his son's application for a first commission in September 1866. Massy Stacpoole served as a captain in the Irish militia unit, the Royal North Down Rifles, and attended RMC Sandhurst before purchasing his ensigncy in the 78th Highlanders in October 1866.

Stacpoole seems to have been the 'bad seed' amongst the 78th Officers in Halifax - querulous, and sensitive to matters affecting his personal dignity. Indeed, after leaving the 78th in 1875 Stacpoole took the unusual step of bringing a civil action against Colonel Mackenzie for alleged unfair discrimination against him while he was an officer with the 78th. As reported by the London Times, the plaintiff held "That from the time of his joining the 78th Highlanders in 1867 [sic] up to the end of 1874, when he sent in his resignation, he had been subjected to a continuous and systematic course of unfair and malicious treatment at the hands of the defendant, the colonel of the regiment." Stacpoole cited a number of specific incidents of alleged discrimination. He claimed, for example, that a senior ensign at the time of the presentation of the regiment's new colours in Montreal in May 1868, it had been his right to receive them on the parade, but this had been refused him. He also claimed that when he had served in the detachment commanded by Captain Thomas Mackenzie in Saint John, New Brunswick, the latter had been instructed by Colonel Mackenzie to keep a close watch on him and report him if there was any incorrect behaviours. On another occasion, Stacpoole stated that after he had entertained some friend at the mess, he had received a message from Colonel Mackenzie to the effect that he was never again to bring "cads and bounders into the mess room." Stacpoole also claimed that Mackenzie had unfairly refused to recommend him for service in the Ashanti War of 1873-74. However, the action which Stacpoole seems to have been most disturbed by was an alleged misrepresentation of his role in an affair in a pub in Nairn, Scotland in April 1873, when he had reportedly been found engaged in a drunken brawl with a Catholic priest. After getting word of the affair, Mackenzie had placed Stacpoole under arrest, had him reprimanded by the General commanding the district, and in his yearly report to the Horse Guards called his conduct "a disgrace to the regiment." Mackenzie's treatment of him after this affair was apparently the last straw in what Stacpoole saw as a long history of unfair discrimination.

The trial of Stacpoole versus Mackenzie took place at the Court of Queen's Bench in London in December 1875. The only witness called in support of the plaintiff was Captain Thomas Mackenzie of the 78th who confirmed that Stacpoole had served in a detachment under his command for "about 14 months in the years 1869 to 1870" (ie. Saint John), and that during that time he had indeed been under instructions from Colonel Mackenzie to "keep a strict eye on [Stacpoole] and if he does anything wrong report him to me, and I will send another officer." Colonel Mackenzie testified that he was on this occasion motivated by a concern for the subaltern's youth. As for the other charges, Mackenzie stated that the occasion of the trial was the first that he had heard of Stacpoole's complaints about not being allowed to carry the new colours in Montreal; that his not recommending Stacpoole for service in the Ashanti campaign "was purely accidental, and happened in the case of several officers who applied"; and that after the affair at Nairn "he was fully justified in placing the plaintiff under arrest and in forwarding the report complained of to headquarters, and acted throughout the whole matter in the capacity as commanding officer and in the exercise of his duty as colonel of the regiment." During the trial Captain Edward Pakenham Stewart testified that apart from his once being charged with damaging the hut of another officer while intoxicated, no other action had been taken by Mackenzie against Stacpoole while the latter was in the 78th, but that "he was an unpopular officer in the regiment." Also, two policemen were produced from Nairn who testified that Stacpoole had indeed been in a drunken row with a priest in a pub in their town. They also stated that some time afterwards Stacpoole had requested a certificate from them swearing that he was sober at the time. When they refused he then "admitted that he and the priest were "tight" and that he received a black eye in a row with the priest." Probably most important, however, both Sir Hastings Doyle, commander in Nova Scotia when the 78th was there, and Sir John Douglas, commander at Fort George, Inverness, where the 78th was stationed at the time of the Nairn incident, argued that in his relations with Stacpoole Mackenzie had always acted within his rights as commander of the regiment. After a short deliberation, the jury delivered a verdict against Stacpoole and in favour of Mackenzie.

The interesting thing about this case is that the Lord Chief Justice, because he let it proceed as far as it did, evidently considered that it was not entirely without foundation. Stacpoole evidently considered that he had exhausted all the means of appeal available to him within the military, and all that remained was for him to resign his commission and hope his grievances would be resolved in a civilian court - for which mode of proceeding there evidently were some, though few, legal precedents. The trouble was that the problem of deciding where the legitimate exercise of a commander's authority left off and unfair discrimination began remained a difficult one, even for a civilian court; and Stacpoole simply failed to make a convincing case. Based upon the evidence submitted the jury could as easily have decided, and indeed probably did, that Stacpoole was an unruly subordinate. That he expected such an ill prepared case as this one obviously was to have succeeded at all says a great deal for Stacpoole's audacity, but not much for his intelligence.

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