Re Cranston, Deceased Webb v Oldfield

JudgeM. R.
Judgment Date12 May 1898
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Docket Number(1897. No. 1022.)
Date12 May 1898

In re Cranston, Deceased.


M. R.


(1897. No. 1022.)









Will — Devise — Perpetuity — Charitable gift — Vegetarian society.

By her will a testatrix (after giving a life estate therein) devised portion of a perpetual yearly rent, issuing out of certain hereditaments and premises, to the trustee, treasurer, or other proper officer from time to time of the L. and M. Vegetarian Societies, in equal moieties, for the use of the said respective Societies, to be paid to them for ever. The Vegetarian Societies advocated the disuse of animal food and the use of fruits and vegetables for sustenance of life. Their objects were to put a stop to the slaughter of living creatures for food, which practice they thought was inconsistent with the rights of animals, was needlessly cruel to them, and had the result of producing demoralizing effects upon men. By advocacy of these principles the adherents of the Societies, according to their rules, aimed at securing the intellectual and moral improvement of men, as well as the physical benefit of men and inferior animals:—

Held, by the Master of the Rolls, that the object of the Societies might be fairly described as charitable within the principle of decided cases, and that there was a valid gift to the two Societies in equal moieties.

Decision of Porter, M.R., affirmed by the Court of Appeal; Holmes, L.J., dissentiente.

Originating Summons.

By her will dated 2nd December, 1893, Agnes Sinclair Cranston, after reciting that she was entitled to a perpetual yearly rent of £193 12s., payable out of certain hereditaments and premises in the city of Belfast, devised and bequeathed to Josefa Hollrigal, the yearly sum of £100 sterling, portion of said rent, the same to accrue due to her from the date of the decease of the testatrix and to be paid to her during her life on her own receipt without power of anticipation or alienation, and after her decease testatrix devised “the said portion of said rent to the trustees, treasurer, or other proper officers, from time to time, of the London Vegetarian Society and the English Vegetarian Society established in Manchester, in 1847, to be paid to them for ever according to the gale days thereof in equal moieties, for the use of the said respective societies.” She also bequeathed the following legacies:—To the London Society for the protection of animals against cruelty, £800; to the London Society for the total abolition of vivisection, £400; to the Belfast Free Library, £400; and to the Belfast Society for the protection of animals against cruelty, £400.

Testatrix devised and bequeathed all the residue of her real and personal estate (exclusive of certain property mentioned), according to the nature and tenure thereof, unto her trustees, thereinafter mentioned, and to the survivors and survivor of them, their, and his heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, upon trust after payment of debts and legacies provided for by the will, for certain residuary legatees, and appointed Charles Webb, Thomas Gerrard, and John Campbell White trustees and executors of her will.

By a codicil to her will, dated 20th February, 1895, testatrix devised and bequeathed the yearly sum of £93 12s., portion of the perpetual head-rent of £193 12s., mentioned in her will, to Panagiotes Kologeropoulos for life, and after his decease, to the London Vegetarian Society in the way provided by her will as regards the other portion of the perpetual rent devised to it.

Testatrix died 9th March, 1895, at Athens, and probate of her will and codicils were, on 12th June, 1895, granted to the plaintiffs, Charles Webb and John Campbell White, the other executor named in the will having predeceased the testatrix.

The plaintiffs issued an originating summons, dated 7th December, 1897, for the determination of certain questions arising in reference to the will of the testatrix, and the matter having been adjourned into Court, came on for hearing on the 28th January, 1898. The main questions arising for decision were as to the validity of the devises of the perpetual yearly rent of £193 12s. (after the determination of the life estates mentioned in the will and codicil) to the Vegetarian Societies.

The definition of the London Vegetarian Society, as stated in its report of 1896, was as follows:—“The London Vegetarian Society shall be defined as a combination of such individuals as may be willing to unite together for the promotion of Vegetarianism, i.e., abstinence from the flesh of animals (fish, flesh, and fowl), as food, and the encouragement of the use of seeds, pulses, grains, fruits, nuts, and all other wholesome products of the vegetable kingdom.” The objects of the organization were stated to be: “(a) to extend and organize Vegetarianism by the work of its members and associates, and the co-operation of its associated societies; (b) to promote fraternal intercourse between London Vegetarians, whether as individuals, or as members of societies.”

The aims of the Manchester Vegetarian Society, as stated in the rules adopted at a general meeting, in 1886, were as follows:—“To advocate the total disuse of the flesh of animals (fish, flesh, and fowl) as food, and to promote instead a more extensive use of fruits, pulse, cereals, and other products of the vegetable kingdom, and to disseminate information on dietetic reform by means of a magazine, or other publications, lectures, essays, letters to the press, and other opportunities as they arise, bearing upon the many physical, intellectual, moral, social, and other advantages resulting from Vegetarian habits of diet; and by these means and through the example and efforts of its members to extend the adoption of a principle tending essentially to true civilization, to universal humaneness, and to the increase of human happiness generally.”

Samuels, Q.C., for the executors and trustees of the will.

Gordon, Q.C., and Hume, for the London Vegetarian Society.

Serjeant Dodd, for the Manchester Vegetarian Society.

Stanley, Q.C., and Jefferson, for the residuary legatees and devisees.

Herbert Wilson, for a specific legatee.

The Master of the Rolls:—

The main questions for determination are as to the gifts to the Vegetarian Societies contained in the will and codicil. They are not legacies of lump sums of money to be paid down at once or spent in a few years, but gifts of portions of a fee-farm rentcharge issuing out of lands, and specifically described in the will as such.

It is necessary to decide two questions; first, whether the gifts are in the nature of perpetuities, and secondly, whether they are or are not charitable.

Mr. Gordon, for the London Vegetarian Society, was placed in this difficulty in presenting the case of his clients, that, as regards their claim under the codicil which was executed only a month before the death of the testatrix, the gift, being of real estate, if held to be charitable, would be defeated by the statute. It was his interest as to it, therefore, to contend that it was not a perpetuity and not charitable. But, as regards the gift to his clients under the will, it was his interest to argue that the gift was charitable if it be a perpetuity. I have, however, already indicated my opinion on this question of perpetuity, and I have no doubt that the gifts are both in the nature of perpetuities, and therefore void unless the objects are such as the law recognises as charitable. I arrive at this conclusion, not from anything in the constitution of the societies or the tenure of their officers, but from the nature of the property itself. It is my opinion that the trust was intended to last for ever. Each particular gale of this rentcharge, as it comes in, is impressed with a trust to the end of time. Mr. Gordon suggested that the annuities might be sold, and if converted into money, that money might be spent forthwith. But the rent-charge could not be sold for the reason that it is itself impressed with a trust, whether charitable or not. The trustee has no power to release the trust and so give title to it. Therefore, so far as the gift in the codicil is concerned, it goes by the board, because if not charitable, being a perpetuity, it is void; and if it be charitable, it is void under the statute.

The more important and interesting question remains, whether the gifts are charitable or not? As in so many cases this question depends not so much on the definition or description of the objects contained in the will as on the constitution and objects of the societies in whose favour the bequests are made. There is no question as to what societies are meant by the description in the will and codicil. Under Order LV. it would have been open to the trustees, if there was any doubt as to the identification of the societies, to ask for the directions of the Court: but no such directions have been applied for because the two societies are sufficiently designated. One is the London Vegetarian Society, and the other is a Vegetarian Society described in the will as connected with Manchester. The question then is whether the gifts to them, to be used for the purposes of their organizations and objects, are charitable or not? There would be great difficulty on a strict construction of the charitable objects enumerated in the first Irish Poor Law Act of Elizabeth in bringing these societies within its purview. In the days of that monarch, Vegetarian Societies had no existence, and one could not expect to find them specified; but these objects have received a wide construction. We have gone much further than the words of that statute; and the tendency of late years has been where a testator dedicates part of his property towards an object which is not illegal in itself, to give effect to the intention unless there is some coercive reason to the...

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