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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Armenian Life, Love and Loss. Malcolm Peter Gasper And His 'Singular Aversion To His Wife'.

Wall memorial
at the Armenian Holy Nazareth
Church Kolkata
Continuing my theme of highlighting individual Armenians with an India connection, this story is about the complex and tragic love of two most unlikely of individuals.

Malcolm Peter Gasper another successful barrister produced out of the Calcutta community born 1848 in Calcutta and tragically died at sea off the coast of Aden in 1890. His memorial stone reads: 
“Sacred to the memory of Malcolm Peter Gasper Esq., (barrister-at-law) eldest son of Peter Malcolm and Madeline Gasper born at Calcutta 15th June 1848 died at sea off Aden 3rd August 1890 aged 42 years 1 month and 19 days. Who after taking the medal at the Doveton College, Calcutta in the year 1863 completed his education in England where he was the first Armenian student who appeared and successfully completed for the Indian Civil Service examination in the year 1869 but his health failing him he soon after qualified for the Bar and came to India in 1872. By his own exertions he attained a prominent position among the leading members of the local Bar in which he distinguished himself by his exceptional talents. The untimely loss of one whose future was so bright and promising has been deeply mourned by a large circle of friends and admirers who being members of the Armenian community have erected this Tablet to his memory.”

As we can see from the epitaph above, he was by all accounts, in the prime of life. He had been a law student at Lincoln’s Inn, London in 1869 and called to the Bar in 1871. During the early part of 1870, whilst in London he met Louisa Prosser the daughter of a butcher from Worcester in the heart of England. Louisa did not admit her father’s humble trade on the marriage certificate but rather stated he was a “medical doctor deceased”. 

The marriage certificate between Malcolm Peter Gasper
and Louisa Pross
Malcolm and Louisa married at the registry office in St. Pancras London on the 20th July 1870. Their first child a son, was born just a couple of months later in September of that year in London, their second child a daughter was born in Calcutta in 1874. Louisa struggled with her health whilst in India and with her husband Malcolm Gasper busy carving a career in law, it was decided that Louisa should return to England in 1875. After two years away from her husband, Louisa returned in Calcutta on the 29th November 1877, six months later on the 30th June 1878 Louisa gave birth to a full term baby. Whilst in England Louisa had an affair.
The divorce petition between
Malcolm and Louisa
co-respondent Martin Sarkies
At first Louisa denied it, but the correspondence in the divorce proceedings shows that eventually, she admitted she had been unfaithful during her time in England and “threw herself on the mercy of her husband”. He continued his divorce on the grounds of her adultery in which Malcolm Gaspar named the co-respondent as Martin John Sarkies.
Martin John Sarkies born in Dacca in 1855 was the youngest son of the well known Armenian Dacca merchant John Carrapiet Sarkies. Martin was also a barrister. He went to school in Darjeeling and studied law at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge in the UK, eventually called to the Bar in 1882. However, as a young student he and Louisa embarked on an affair almost immediately she arrived in the UK. It appears to have started around May 1875 and continued to October 1877, the baby she bore on the 30th June 1878 in Calcutta was his.

The death record of little Bertie Gasper
With divorce proceedings ongoing, Louisa alone in Calcutta was facing the wrath of a cuckolded husband but even more tragically her baby, named Bertie, lived only 6 weeks, dying on the 13th August 1878. She had lost her husband, a baby and was rebuffed and rejected by Martin Sarkies. By 1881 Louisa was back in the UK living in Kensington with her young daughter by her husband Malcolm Gasper. The census record shows that she was supported financially by Malcolm Gasper, presumably because their daughter was in the UK for her education. It is unknown what happened to Louisa after this date.
The divorce of Louisa and Malcolm was completed in 1880.

The marriage certificate of
Martin Sarkies and Belinda Russell
Meanwhile in April 1881 Martin Sarkies was living in Brighton, still a student at law, and in August of that year at St. Mark’s Church, Brighton, he married the girl next door, Belinda Russell. Her family are on the same census sheet as Martin Sarkies in the next house. This was a short-lived union because in 1883 Belinda filed for a divorce citing cruelty. The divorce was reported in many UK newspapers as it was quite sensational for its time: 
Western Mail 30th June 1884
Divorce petition of Martin Sarkies
and Belinda
In the Divorce Court of Friday before the Right Hon. The President, the suit of Sarkies v Sarkies was heard. This was the petition of Mrs. Belinda Annie Marie Sarkies for the dissolution of the marriage by reason of the cruelty and misconduct of her husband, Mr. Martyrose Johannes Sarkies, a barrister. Dr. Deene, Q.C. and Mr. Searle appeared for the petitioner, and Mr. Inderwick Q.C., and Mr. Bayford for the respondent, but practically there was no defence. The parties were married on August 10, 1881, at Brighton, and the following day they came to London, putting up at the Grand Hotel. A few days afterwards the respondent ceased to sleep with his wife (who was the daughter of the late Colonel Russell), except at long intervals, and after December 1881, the co-habitation ceased. When remonstrated with by the petitioner as to his strange behaviour he replied that he could give no reason for his conduct except “that his idol was smashed”, and that he had ceased to care for her. According to the evidence of the petitioner, the respondent used abusive language towards her and had threatened her, in addition to which he had insulted her in the presence of her friends. While they were living at Radcliffe Street, Kensington, he told her that he only intended that they should live as brother and sister, when she asked him for some brotherly affection. He had called her a liar and hypocrite. In support of the cruelty evidence was given to the effect that the petitioner at times appeared very much distressed; that the respondent used to threaten his wife; and that he treated her with great neglect; while her mother, who was called, deposed to be struck on one occasion by her son-in-law. In regard to the other charge, testimony was adduced to the effect that the respondent consorted with loose women.
Sir James Elmnen was of opinion that the respondent’s misconduct was clearly established, but in regard to the cruelty the circumstances were not such as were usually laid before the court. He appeared to have conceived a most extraordinary aversion to his wife, whom he habitually neglected and insulted, although he never was guilty of actual personal violence. There was one insult of the grossest kind, which, the respondent, a barrister, and presumably, a gentleman, did not deny, and that was in regard to her having a divorce from him. Taking that in combination with the rest of the case, he (the learned judge) came to the conclusion that legal cruelty had been established, and he granted a decree nisi, with costs.”
Both Malcolm Peter Gasper and Martin Sarkies went on to marry again, but no amount of searching can bring Louisa up either in the UK or India.
Malcolm Peter Gasper’s second marriage took place with Alice Pringle in November 1881 in Calcutta, as we know from his epitaph his untimely death in 1890 meant she was left with two young children aged 5 and 7. Alice remarried in June 1895 to Frederick Kehl in Calcutta, dying there in 1937.
Insolvency notice of barrister, Martin Sarkies,
whose application for discharge was rejected
and put back 2 years six months.
Meanwhile, Martin John Sarkies seems to have been living beyond his means, enjoying the inheritance from his father’s estate. He first appears in the papers in January 1896 as insolvent, later in July 1896 he applied to the High Court for discharge from his insolvent state. However, the judge, Mr. Linklater (today, a very familiar name in the world of law) did not feel that Martin Sarkies’s speculations had been particularly professional and deemed that his discharge would be considered in a further two years six months from the day of the application. Presumably after he was cleared of bankruptcy he then went on to marry a few years after his divorce from Belinda to Ada Watkins in 1902 in London. They had no children. Martin died in Dinard France in 1915 his estate amounted to £40 his widow Ada died in 1940 also in France her estate amounted to around £300. Incidentally, Ada had also been previously married to Arthur Bloor, who ironically had committed adultery; her divorce from Arthur was granted in January 1900. I wonder if she ever knew the full story of the affair her husband Martin had had with Louisa?
Belinda also remarried in 1886.
It appears everyone, except Louisa, regained some sort of life with new partners after this tempestuous time.

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