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BAILII Citation Number: [1867] UKHL 1


Date: 31 May 1867

- v -



    May 31.


    My Lords, this is an appeal against a decree of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, of the 14th of June, 1865, dismissing a Cause Petition which had been filed by the Appellant on the 9th of April, 1864, pursuant to the Chancery Regulation Act of 1850. The object of the Petition was to be relieved from an agreement, dated on the 14th of October, 1863, by which the Petitioner agreed to become tenant to the Respondent Phibbs, for three years, of the salmon fishery of Ballysadare, in the county of Sligo. The ground of the relief asked was, that the Petitioner had entered into an agreement in mistake as to his rights. He thought that the fishery belonged to the other Respondents, for whom Phibbs acted as trustee; but he was in truth himself the owner of the fishery as tenant thereof in tail.

    It is necessary to state shortly the title. [His Lordship fully detailed the facts of the case.]

    The mistake, as the Petitioner says, arose in this way. The Ballysadare property borders on, and is traversed by, the two rivers which I have mentioned - the Arrow and Owenmore - which unite about a mile above the town of Ballysadare, and so united fall into the estuary about a quarter of a mile below the town. The salmon were unable to get from the estuary up these rivers by reason of ledges of rock obstructing the free passage up the rivers. This prevented the fish from going up and depositing their spawn in the waters higher up. It was important for the owners of Ballysadare to get these obstacles removed, and it had been intended in the lifetime of the lunatic to obtain parliamentary powers enabling him to divert the course of the stream, or rather the united streams, or otherwise to prevent the effect of these obstructions; and a bill had been introduced for that purpose in the session of 1837, in the lifetime of the lunatic. But while that bill was before

    Parliament the lunatic died, and the right to the fishery descended on Edward Joshua, his eldest nephew. The bill was then altered by reciting the death of Joshua Edward, and the powers intended to have been conferred on him were conferred upon Edward Joshua. The royal assent having been obtained to the bill, it became law on the 30th of June, 1837.

    It is necessary very shortly to advert to the terms of that Act of Parliament. It begins by reciting, "Whereas the rivers Arrow and Owenmore rise from two large lakes in different parts of the county of Sligo, in Ireland, and after flowing through a very large tract of country, unite their streams at about a mile above the town of Ballysadare, in the said county, from whence they flow in the same channel to the bay of Ballysadare, where by one mouth they discharge their waters into the said bay of Ballysadare at a distance of about a furlong below the said town; a considerable portion of their course between the said town and the sea being interrupted by a series of ledges of rock, in passing over which their waters form a number of cascades or waterfalls: And whereas numbers of salmon yearly congregate within the said bay of Ballysadare and below the said waterfalls, near the said mouth of the said united rivers; but by reason of the said cascades or waterfalls they are prevented from ascending higher into the said rivers and into the lakes connected therewith, so as to deposit their spawn in a safe part of the same; some of them, however, at high spring tides ascending the lower fall, but are unable to ascend the continuing cascades or falls from the shallowness of the water preventing them from making their spring, and therefore they return again into the ocean." Then it recites that the rivers and waters in question "are well adapted to invite the spawning of fish therein, and to protect the breeding of salmon; but no salmon fishery has or could have heretofore existed in any part of said rivers above the said waterfalls for the cause aforesaid." Then it goes on to say, "And whereas a safe and commodious passage for the fish up the said rivers, for the purpose of depositing their spawn therein, might be effected by the construction of passages or water cuts on the eastern side of each of those places where, as aforesaid, the ledges of rock obstruct the channels of such rivers: And whereas Sir Edward Crofton, Baronet, by a certain deed executed by him, and bearing date the 12th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1806, granted and conveyed all his estate and interest in and to the said town and lands of Knockmuldowney, otherwise Ballysadare, aforesaid, comprising the entire eastern bank of the said river below the said town, together with the salmon fishery and all other the fisheries of the river commonly called the river of Ballysadare, unto Joshua Edward Cooper " (that is, the lunatic) "who was the uncle of the said Edward Joshua Cooper, and to his heirs and assigns for ever, of all which portion or part of the said town and lands of Ballysadare, and fishery, and rights of fisheries, the said Joshua Edward Cooper up to the time of his death continued seised in fee simple, together with a very large proportion of the lands through which the said rivers flow, particularly in, about, and between the towns of Collooney and Ballysadare: And whereas the said Joshua Edward Cooper " (that is, the lunatic) "did after the said conveyance, and to the time of his death, uninterruptedly exercise and enjoy the exclusive right of taking the salmon which so as aforesaid annually congregate within the mouth of the said united rivers, which after their union are called the river of Ballysadare, and also immediately below the waterfalls situate at Ballysadare aforesaid: And whereas the said Joshua Edward Cooper died, on or about the 8th day of June, 1837, intestate, whereby all the aforesaid estates, towns, lands, and fishery have descended to, and are now vested in, the said who is the nephew and heir-at-law of the said Joshua Edward Cooper: And whereas the said is desirous of constructing the said canals or water cuts at his own expense, on the terms that the exclusive right of fishing for, and the protection of, salmon and other sea fish in the said rivers, lakes, and bay, shall in consideration thereof be vested in, and confirmed to, the said Edward Joshua Cooper, his heirs and assigns."

    Then, after certain recitals, which are not important, it enacts, "That the said Edward Joshua Cooper, his heirs and assigns, shall be, and he and they are hereby fully authorized and empowered, at his and their own proper costs and expenses, and by his and their deputed agents, workmen, and servants, to divert and turn the waters of the said rivers, by making, completing, and maintaining two canals, passages, or cuts, one communicating with the said united rivers of Arrow and Owenmore, near the bridge of Ballysadare, and the other canal or cut communicating with the said river Owenmore, and extending forty-three perches from the upper fall at Collooney, to the foot of the lower fall, and running at the back or west side of the town of Collooney, in such manner as may be sufficient to effect the aforesaid object of enabling the said salmon to ascend into the said rivers and lakes: provided always, that in making and completing the said canal, passages, or cuts, the same shall be altogether situated on the estate and property of the said Edward Joshua Cooper, and that no trespass be in any manner committed on, or injury done to, the land of any other person or persons whomsoever." Then it is provided also that the waters should not be diverted from their former course in such a manner as to injure the mills; and then afterwards, by the third section, it enacts, "that it shall be lawful for Edward Joshua Cooper, his heirs or assigns, and he is authorized to purchase from any persons incapacitated," & c., "their rights of salmon fishery in the bay." I think it is unnecessary to advert particularly to any other part of the Act.

    Now, Edward Joshua Cooper said, and probably truly said, that, under the powers of that Act, he laid out large sums of money in improving the bay, and had purchased up fishery rights in the bay, amounting to between twenty and thirty, all of which were conveyed to him in fee, and that the fishery was thus made very valuable. Edward Joshua Cooper considered that under this Act, and by the outlay he made, he became owner of the fishery in fee, and he so represented to the Appellant. He continued in possession till his death, which happened in April, 1863, and the question would then arise as to his title. If he was, as he supposed and represented himself to be, seised in fee for his own use and benefit, then, on his death, the right of the fishery descended on his five daughters, the now Respondents; but if the fishery, like the rest of the Ballysadare property, was subject to the covenants of the deed of 1827, then it passed to the Appellant.

    The first question, therefore, is, "Did the deed of 1827 extend to and comprehend the fishery?" Now, the fishery was conveyed to the lunatic by a person of the name of Crofton, on the 12th of

    May, 1806, with the town and lands of Ballysadare. It was there described thus: "All that and those the town and lands of Knockmuldowney, otherwise Ballysadare, together with the tolls and customs of the fairs and markets thereof, and the salmon fishery, and all other the fisheries of the river, commonly called the river of Ballysadare, or by what other name or names the said town, lands, and other premises, or any of them, is or are called." That is the description in the conveyance to Joshua Edward, the lunatic. That description, however, was not adopted in the description of the parcels as they were settled in 1827. The parcels are there merely described as the town of Ballysadare, otherwise Knockmuldowney, with certain appurtenances connected with it. But then it goes on to say that the covenant is to extend to "all other estates of inheritance whereof the said Joshua Edward Cooper shall die seised or possessed of, or so many of them as shall descend in the manner therein mentioned."

    Although the description of the parcels does not in terms mention the fishery, yet, inasmuch as the fishery certainly was an hereditament of which Joshua Edward died seised in fee - and that is expressly stated in the Act of Parliament, - it seems perfectly clear that that deed must have extended to the fishery, under the general words, of "all other estates of inheritance and hereditaments." But the Court below, it appears, thought that the fishery was not intended to be included; and, my Lords, the first question that one would put upon that is, why they should say that it was not intended to be included. It is certainly included in the general words; and I do not think your Lordships are at liberty to speculate as to the probability of what the parties intended to include, if they have used words which actually include it. That seems to be a conclusive answer to the suggestion. I must say, farther, that if we were at liberty to speculate, I think that anything less probable than that the parties could have intended to settle the lands, and not include the fishery, can hardly be imagined. It is to be recollected, that, at the time this deed was entered into, no such question as now arises could possibly have existed, from the fact that the settlor, Edward Joshua, had no male issue, or, indeed, any issue from his first marriage. He was then going to be married a second time, and it was just as probable that he should have male issue as that he should have female issue; therefore the improbability seems to me excessive, that they could have meant to settle the lands, and not to settle the fishery. I just make these remarks upon the question of probability. At the same time, that is not a matter upon which we are entitled to enter into any speculation, because it is quite clear that, under the general words, the fishery was included.

    The consequence was, that the present Appellant, when, after the death of his uncle, he entered into the agreement to take a lease of this property, entered into an agreement to take a lease of what was, in truth, his own property - for, in truth, this fishery was bound by the covenant, and belonged to him, just as much as did the lands of Ballysadare; therefore, he says, I entered into the agreement under a common mistake, and I am entitled to be relieved from the consequence of it.

    In support of that proposition he relied upon a case which was decided in the time of Lord Hardwicke, not by Lord Hardwicke himself, but by the then Master of the Rolls, Bingham v. Bingham(1),where that relief was expressly administered. I believe that the doctrine there acted upon was perfectly correct doctrine; but even if it had not been, that will not at all shew that this Appellant is not entitled to this relief, because in this case the Appellant was led into the mistake by the misinformation given to him by his uncle, who is now represented by the Respondents. It is stated by him in his Cause Petition, which is verified, and to which there is no contradiction, and in all probability it seems to be the truth, that his uncle told him, not intending to misrepresent anything, but being in fact in error, that he was entitled to this fishery as his own fee simple property; and the Appellant, his nephew, after his death acting on the belief of the truth of what his uncle had so told him, entered into the agreement in question. It appears to me, therefore, that it is impossible to say that he is not entitled to the relief which he asks, namely, to have the agreement delivered up and the rent repaid. That being so, he would be entitled to relief, but he is only entitled to this relief on certain terms, to which I will presently advert.

    (1)     1 Ves. Sen. 127.

    Before I do so I must refer to an argument which was relied on very much by the Respondents, namely, that the fishery conveyed in 1806 by Sir Edward Crofton was not the fishery in the estuary, but only in the livers, and that consequently the nephew, had no right whatever in that fishery under the descent from his uncle. I cannot think that there is any foundation for this suggestion, because the Act of Parliament expressly states that the fishery, in the estuary and at the mouths of the rivers, had descended from the lunatic uncle upon Edward Joshua. But even if it had been so, in my opinion it would not have made the least difference, for the right of fishing in rivers traversing the lands is an incident to the right of property, and that property certainly was governed by the covenant of 1827.

    The argument on the part of the Respondents is, that the right to make the new cuts conferred by the Act was a new right, and that that new right was granted to Edward Joshua in fee. I do not think that that is a true construction of the Act, but if it was it would be a right which Edward Joshua obtained by virtue of his light to the lands and to the fishing in the fresh waters. As to that right he stood in a fiduciary relation to those interested under the deed of 1827. But for his right under that instrument he could not have obtained the powers conferred by the Act. In my opinion the very same doctrine that is acted upon so continually, that a tenant for life of a renewable property, if he renews it, cannot by possibility renew it for his own benefit, applies in principle to this case. If the facts had been such as the Respondents contend they were, namely, that he was the owner in fee simple under the Act of Parliament, and that the property was not governed by the covenants of 1827, still, even if it was not governed by those covenants, he stood in a fiduciary character, which disqualified him from making any such contention as that. Therefore, it is clear to my mind that the Appellant is entitled to the relief he asks by getting rid of this agreement.

    Then the next question is, what are the terms upon which this relief is to be given? Now,the Respondents allege that their father, Edward Joshua , in making the canals and other works necessary for establishing the fishery, and also in purchasing up fishery rights in the bay, expended very large sums of money.

    First of all he was at the expense of obtaining the Act of Parliament. It was intended that the Act of Parliament should be passed in the lunatic's lifetime, but the lunatic having died, it was treated as being from the beginning Edward Joshua's expenditure. He was at great expense in purchasing up the rights of fishery of different proprietors on the banks, and he was at very large expense in making cuts and removing obstructions, so as to make the fishery available. That, at least, is the allegation of the Respondents. Now, if that is so, the question is, upon what terms ought this relief to be granted? It is impossible to decide the merits of this claim in the absence of the persons entitled to the corpus of the estate. On the marriage of the Appellant, in 1858, the property was settled to uses, and on trusts, for the benefit of the Appellant and his wife, and the issue of the marriage. The Appellant, therefore, has not brought before the Court all the persons interested in this question. If the Respondents succeed in establishing their lien, it will be a lien affecting the life interest of the Appellant, as well as the rest of the corpus of the property, and so justice would not be done to them if we were to give relief to the Appellant by simply setting aside the agreement on which they claim a lien. They have a right to have that question disposed of. I submit to your Lordships, therefore, that all that we can do is to remit the case to the Court of Chancery in Ireland, with declarations which shall enable the parties to have this question properly decided.

    The declarations that I would suggest to your Lordships as the proper ones to be made, are these: To declare that the lands and hereditaments conveyed to Joshua Edward Cooper by the deeds of 1806 (including the fishery of Ballysadare ), were comprised in the settlement of the 13th of February, 1827, and were bound by the covenant of Edward Joshua Cooper therein contained; and that at the time of the passing of the Act of Parliament of 1 Vict. c. 89, the said Edward Joshua Cooper was a trustee of the lands, hereditaments, and fishery of Ballysadare, for the persons entitled under the trusts of the aforesaid settlement of 1827, and that the rights, powers, and interests granted to the said his heirs and assigns, by the said Act of Parliament, must be deemed to have been taken by him as a trustee for the persons entitled under the settlement of 1827, including himself as tenant for life; and that all the estates, rights, and interests acquired by the said Edward Joshua Cooper, under and by virtue of such powers; and the canal and works made and constructed by him, by virtue of the said Act, were acquired, made, and held by him in like manner, in trust for himself and the other persons entitled under the said settlement of 1827. And farther declare: that the lands and fishery of Ballysadare were also comprised in the settlement of the 6th of August, 1858; and that under and by virtue of the said several settlements, the Appellant was, at the time of the making of the agreement of the 14th day of October, in 1863, in his Petition mentioned, entitled as tenant for life to the said lands and fishery of Ballysadare, including therein the rights and interests and works acquired and made by the said as aforesaid (save and except only the piece of land demised by the deed of the 27th of September, 1858, and the buildings thereon). That alludes to a lease that was granted by the Appellant, the details of which it is immaterial to allude to, for this question. And farther declare: that the aforesaid agreement of the 14th of October, 1863, in the said Petition mentioned, was made and entered into by the parties to the same under mistake, and in ignorance of the actually existing rights and interests of such parties in the said fishery. And farther declare: that the said agreement is not in equity binding upon the Appellant and Respondents, but ought to be set aside, subject to the Appellant paying to the Respondents a proper occupation rent for the said excepted piece of land and cottage, to be ascertained by the Master in the usual manner; and subject also, as hereinafter is mentioned, that is to say, the Respondents claiming to have a lien on the said fishery on account of the moneys said to have been expended by the said Edward Joshua Cooper in obtaining the said Act of Parliament, and in purchasing the said rights of fishery, and in making and improving the same. Let the said Petition stand over for six months, with liberty for the Appellant to bring before the Court, by Supplemental Petition, all persons interested with respect to the said claim, and refer it back to the Court to do as may be just on such Supplemental Petition, having regard to the aforesaid declaration; and if the Appellant shall fail to file such Supplemental Petition within the period aforesaid, or such farther period as may be allowed by the Court, then let the present appeal be dismissed with costs.

    Upon these grounds, I move your Lordships that the decree below should be reversed, subject to those declarations.


    My Lords, for the purpose of determining the question raised by this Cause Petition, it is necessary to ascertain the rights and interests of the parties at the time of making it. Now, it is clear I think, beyond the possibility of argument, that the hereditaments which constitute the estate of Ballysadare, including the fishery, were comprised in the covenant and agreement of and Edward Joshua Cooper, contained in the settlement of 1827. That settlement plainly indicates, in every part of it, the agreement of the parties to include all the estates that should descend from the lunatic, Joshua Edward Cooper. First, with regard to an annuity given as a provision for it is charged on all the estates, "on all and every the other estates of Joshua Edward Cooper, situate in the county of Sligo, "not comprised in two indentures which are therein specified; and then the covenant and agreement comprehend "all other the estates of inheritance," whereof the lunatic, Joshua Edward Cooper, should die seised. The effect, therefore, of this extent of the deed of 1827 was to make Joshua Edward Cooper, at the time of the obtaining of the Act of Parliament of the 1st Vict., a trustee in fee seised of the legal estate in fee for the parties entitled under the uses and trusts of that settlement.

    Now, I must of necessity assume that Edward Joshua Cooper had the intention of stating the truth and the fact to the Legislature. When, therefore, I find in this Act of Parliament a recital that this fishery, together with the other hereditaments, on the death of the lunatic descended to Edward Joshua Cooper in fee, that must be taken to represent to Parliament that the trust estate did so descend. Your Lordships are bound to assume honesty and integrity of purpose, and therefore you cannot for a moment impute to him that he intended to conceal from the Legislature the fact of the property being bound by the trusts of the settlement. You must take the recital contained in the Act of Parliament as a recital intended to denote the descent of the legal estate in fee held by him upon trust, and you cannot impute to him an intention of representing to Parliament that it was his own property, because you cannot for a moment suppose that he was ignorant of the agreement or contract contained in that deed, or that he intended to repudiate the obligation which he had contracted under that deed.

    Then, if it be taken that he stood before Parliament as a trustee, the powers and authorities conferred upon him by that Act of Parliament are conferred upon him in his character of trustee. They are attached to the ownership in fee, which he represents himself to have had, and as that ownership was subject to the trust, the powers and authorities attached to the ownership are in like manner subject to the obligation of that trust, and the things acquired by virtue of those powers and authorities would also be subject to the trusts which affected the individual who becomes the parliamentary donee of those powers. There can be no doubt for a moment, therefore, with regard to the settled principles of equity, that what was given to him in the character of owner in trust for the other persons, and what was acquired by him by virtue of those powers, became also subject to that trust. The result, therefore, is, that all that he acquired by virtue of the parliamentary powers would become subject to the trusts of the settlement of 1827, subject only to the repayment to him by the parties entitled under those trusts of the moneys properly expended by him in acquiring additional rights of fishery, and improving the whole.

    The Act of Parliament contemplates that there would be one fishery only, a fishery constituted of the original right in the fishery of Ballysadare, and augmented and improved by gathering in other rights of fishery, extending over the shore of the bay, which he had the power of acquiring, so that there might be one large profitable fishery. Now, the fishery, in point of fact, ends with the estuary, and with the beginning of the cut, because the cut or canal was intended only to improve the fishery, I might almost even say to continue the fishery, because we well known that there can be no fishery from the resort of salmon, unless the salmon have the means of ascending to the breeding grounds in the higher quarters, and they resort to these places only when they have that opportunity. One fishery, therefore, was constituted by virtue of those powers, and that fishery was again conveyed by the settlement of 1858, under which the present Petitioner is tenant for life.

    The result, therefore, is, that at the time of the agreement for the lease which it is the object of this Petition to set aside, the parties dealt with one another under a mutual mistake as to their respective rights. The Petitioner did not suppose that he was, what in truth he was, tenant for life of the fishery. The other parties acted upon the impression given to them by their father, that he (their father) was the owner of the fishery, and that the fishery had descended to them. In such a state of things there can be no doubt of the rule of a Court of equity with regard to the dealing with that agreement. It is said, "" but in that maxim the word " jus " is used in the sense of denoting general law, the ordinary law of the country. But when the word " jus " is used in the sense of denoting a private right, that maxim has no application. Private right of ownership is a matter of fact; it may be the result also of matter of law; but if parties contract under a mutual mistake and misapprehension as to their relative and respective rights, the result is, that that agreement is liable to be set aside as having proceeded upon a common mistake. Now, that was the case with these parties - the Respondents believed themselves to be entitled to the property, the Petitioner believed that he was a stranger to it, the mistake is discovered, and the agreement cannot stand.

    But then, when the Appellant comes here to set aside the agreement, an obligation lies upon him so to constitute his suit as to enable a Court of Equity to deal with the whole of the subject-matter, and once for all to dispose of the rights and interests of the parties in the settlement. Now although the agreement was inoperative for the purpose of giving to the Petitioner a valid lease of the property, yet it might operate to this extent, that so far as the Respondents had in equity a lien upon the property, their estates and interests in respect of that lien might be affected by the agreement. And there is another particular also which must be noticed, which for the moment, I think, in the preparation of these minutes, has escaped our attention, namely, that unquestionably the Respondents were entitled to the cottage and to the piece of land, upon which no rent has been paid. But, during the time that has elapsed, I understand the fact to be, that the Petitioner has had the possession and enjoyment of that cottage and of that piece of land. In respect of those particulars, therefore, a proper occupation rent ought to be paid by him.

    What, then, are the rights and interests of the parties which ought to be ascertained? They are, as I have already observed, the sum of money due to the Respondents, and charged upon the property, as being the expenditure of their father, the benefit of which the Petitioner, as tenant for life, has enjoyed. Now, no doubt that expenditure constitutes a lien - a charge in the nature of a mortgage charge upon the property. It must be ascertained, and an obligation lies upon the present Appellant to give the Court the means of ascertaining it. That is the reason, therefore, why the decree is proposed to be put in the form which your Lordships have heard, namely, that although a declaration is made, in order to shew the basis upon which the opinion of the House is founded, with respect to the invalidity of the agreement, yet the House stops short of giving positive relief, except on the terms imposed on the Petitioner, to which in reality, by the prayer of his Petition, he submits, by giving an opportunity to the Respondents to ascertain the full measure of their rights and interests, in order that complete justice may be done, by declaring that they will be entitled to a charge for the principal money so ascertained, and to interest thereon, at the rate of 4 per cent., from the time of the death of their father, Edward Joshua Cooper, who was the last person in possession of the fishery antecedent to the title of the present Appellant, and declaring also (which must be added to that), that they are entitled to an occupation rent during the time that the present Appellant has been in possession and enjoyment of the cottage and the piece of land.

    My Lords, these terms, I have very little doubt, will be submitted to by the Petitioner, because they are consistent with the willingness, which he has expressed in his Petition, to have the whole of the rights ascertained. And if that be done, and if he brings before the Court, by Supplemental Cause Petition, the parties who are interested in the ascertainment of those rights, the subject will be disposed of; but, if he does not do so, then he has brought forward an insufficient and incompetent Petition, upon which full equity and full relief cannot be given, and the only result must be, that his Petition to the Court below ought to be dismissed, though it must be dismissed upon quite different grounds.

    My Lords, I regret to find that observations have been made in the Court below, though I cannot at all suppose that they were the ratio decidendi, that upon some extrinsic evidence it appeared to the Court below that the fishery was not intended to be comprised in the deed of 1827. When there is an application to correct an instrument, or to set aside an instrument, the intention of the parties is to be collected from the words they have used; and no words can be more pertinent or more comprehensive than the words in the settlement of 1827, and the words in the settlement of 1858, to denote the intention of including the fishery in the provisions of those deeds, and making it subject to the trusts which are thereby created.


    My Lords, I do not think it necessary to add anything to the observations which have been made by my noble and learned friends. I entirely concur with the views which have been taken as to the relative rights of the parties in this case, and I think that the course which has been suggested for doing justice between them, in regard to those relative rights, is the best calculated to attain that end.

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