Torquay resident Violet Tweedale (1862-1936) was an author, poet, and spiritualist.
Born in Edinburgh, she moved to London in 1889 where she wrote her first novel, And They Too, and became involved in humanitarian ‘rescue work’ in the East End. While in London, she moved in the best social circles and was a friend of the poet Robert Browning
Claiming to be psychic from a young age, she became involved in Spiritualism and Theosophy, and was a close associate of Helena Blavatsky. Violet was also a member of the magical Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, one of the largest single influences on 20th century occultism.
She was a prolific writer and wrote over 30 books on spiritual subjects, such as The Cosmic Christ (1930), and on her own personal psychic experiences. Her investigations of Torquay’s reputedly haunted Castel-a- Mare were documented in Ghosts I have Seen (1920). Violet lived in the Warberrries.
As a specialist on all things supernatural, Violet was called as an expert witness in a famous legal case when a well-known medium sued the Daily Mail for libel.
This was Mrs Meurig Morris who had begun her long career contacting the dead at a séance in Newton Abbot in 1922.
In early 1931, Meurig Morris held a series of Sunday evening services at London’s Fortune Theatre. These trance addresses were supposedly delivered through her ‘spirit control’ known as ‘Power’.
The Daily Mail wrote an article titled Trance Medium Found Out, and Meurig Morris sued for libel. The newspaper pleaded justification and fair comment on a matter of public interest.
The case was heard before Mr Justice McCardie and lasted eleven days in April 1932.
The judge asked the jury to consider whether Mrs. Morris could in fact convey messages from the dead; whether she was a genuine medium; and whether she honestly believed that she could do what she claimed.
Joining Violet as a witness for the defence was Lady Conan Doyle, wife of the Sherlock Holmes author, a regular visitor to Torquay and another committed spiritualist.
The proceedings caused something of a sensation.
During the judge’s summing-up, he pointed at Meurig Morris. She then slowly stood up and, apparently in a trance, said in a deep voice “Hearken to my voice, Brother Judge.” Mr Justice McCardie ordered her to be removed from the court. When she was approached, the same voice said: “Do not touch her till I have left the body.”
Mrs. Meurig Morris was carried to an anteroom where she remained unconscious for two hours. When the judge resumed, he commented:
“’I hope I have not upset the feelings of anyone unnecessarily, but as a judge I care not for all the incarnate or discarnate spirits in the world… though there may be ten thousand million discarnate spirits around us.”
The jury found that, while The Mail wasn’t liable for damages and had published in the public interest, no allegations of fraud or dishonesty against Meurig Morris were proved.
Mrs Meurig Morris appealed but this was dismissed. The case was taken to the House of Lords, where the appeal was again dismissed.
Here’s Mrs Meurig Morris in action, channeling her spirit control ‘Power’: