From the Glasgow Herald, July 31, 1936, page 12:
ACTION BY GREENOCK PROVOST
Woman Councillor's Denials: Collapse During Evidence
The hearing of evidence was resumed in Greenock Sheriff Court yesterday in the action by Provost J.W. Bell against Councillor Mrs Catherine McLeod for £150 damages for alleged slander. The parties are members of the Labour group of Greenock Corporation.
During the day evidence was given by the defender, who stated that she had never employed the words "dirty scum" and had never said that Provost Bell had been living off the backs of the workers.
Near the close of Mrs McLeod's cross-examination she collapsed on to the seat in the witness-box and burst into tears.
Through her sobs she declared that she had never uttered the statements imputed to her, and that she had tried without success to approach the Provost to explain to him that wicked men were trying to do harm to the Labour Party.
The evidence for the defender had not concluded when the Court rose, and the case was continued until October 19.
At the outset of the sitting Bailie Porter, for the pursuer, spoke to meeting Peter Swan, John Bain, and Joseph Heron in Cathcart Square. Swan told him that Mrs McLeod had come out of the Council Chamber and had referred to the Provost as a "dirty scum," and had also said that "he had lived on charity and on the backs of the workers ever since he went into the Council Chambers." Witness told the Provost, and later Bailie Lyall and he made certain endeavours to mediate between the Provost and Mrs McLeod.
MRS MCLEOD IN THE WITNESS-BOX
EXPENSES INCIDENT AT MEETING
This closed the case for pursuer, and evidence was led for the defender. After several witnesses had been heard Mrs McLeod entered the witness-box.
"I have never thought," she said, "that Provost Bell was using his office for his own private gain, and have never said so. I have never said anything implying it or inferring it."
Mrs McLeod went on to state that she had been a member of the Corporation for nearly 10 years, a magistrate for four years, and was at present convener of the Public Health Committee.
Questioned about a Finance Committee meeting on August 20, Mrs McLeod explained that she was late for the meeting. When she went in Mr Rooke, the Town Chamberlain, came over and said to her -- "Your accounts have been questioned, Mrs McLeod." She asked by whom, and the Chamberlain replied -- "You had better ask."
The Provost was speaking about something else at the time, and when he had finished she said -- "I understand my expenses have been questioned." The Provost just waved his hand aside and said -- "See the Chamberlain about it."
Mr McCalman (agent for defender) -- At that stage were you annoyed to think that your expenses had been questioned? -- No. I would not have minded any member questioning my expenses, but I did object to the supposed leader of my group raising the question in public. It would have been an easy matter for the Provost to have spoken about it at a Labour group meeting.
"NOT ALLOWED WORD OF EXPLANATION"
When Mr Rooke told her that her expenses had been questioned, she wanted to explain how the matter arose, because she knew that she was leaving for Portugal on the Friday. The Provost would not allow her a word of explanation.
He said -- "You have charged a day extra." She said that her expenses were out-of-pocket expenses. She only laid down the receipts and said to Mr Rooke -- "I have spent more than you have given me."
Mr McCalman -- It has been suggested, only by the Provost, I think, that you threw the papers in Mr Rooke's face? -- I have known Mr Rooke too long and the officials too well to do anything of the kind. It is quite untrue.
I think at a later date you came back to adjust the matter with Mr Rooke? -- Yes, as I was leaving on Friday for Portugal I said to my husband -- "I had better go down and see the Chamberlain and get this business cleared up." I went down to Mr Rooke's office and said that I wanted to see about the account. Mr Rooke said -- "It is all right. It is just a change of date, and everything is all right. There is really nothing in the matter at all."
Mr Rooke changed the dates on the accounts.
CONVERSATION WITH A WITNESS
Mrs McLeod went on to describe a conversation she had with the witness Swan in Cathcart Square. Swan started to criticise the deputation expenses of certain councillors, and, striking his breast pocket, he said -- "I have got yours in here too. You have a day here you are not entitled to."
She told him she was never afraid of her expenses, because the ratepayers in the First Ward knew her too well to know that she would not do anything wrong. She said to him -- "I am not living on charity. It is a loss to me when I go on deputations, because I have nurses to pay, and I have to leave some one in the house, and it is no gain to me."
It has been said in evidence that you used the phrase "Dirty scum." -- The reason I am defending this action is because I never used that expression in my life.
Or "living off the backs of the workers"? -- I never used that.
LETTER FROM PROVOST
DENIAL OF PHRASE "DIRTY SCUM"
Mrs McLeod said that she got a letter from the Provost referring to the alleged slander when she returned from Portugal. On opening the letter she got a terrible shock when she saw the words "dirty scum." That word was not in her vocabulary.
Mr McCalman -- Did you write any reply? -- No, I got into touch with Mrs MacArthur and Bailie Lyall, and showed them the letter, and asked them what I should do. We decided to telephone the Provost, and Mrs MacArthur and I went to the telephone. I told him that I had received his letter, and that I denied the stalements.
He said that he would see me, and I asked if Mrs MacArthur could come with me. He agreed, but at two o'clock I received a leter from him stating that he had reconsidered his decision, and wanted Mr Campbell (solicitor) to be with him. I said that I would have to get legal advice if he was going to put it in the hands of a lawyer.
Mrs McLeod went on to say that she was at a meeting of a Corporation committee, and told Bailie Lyall about the position, stating that she was going to Glasgow to see a legal freind. He asked her to wait a moment, and he and Bailie Porter left the meeting. They went to see the Provost, but she did not know what took place.
When they came back Bailie Lyall told her that the Provost would accept nothing but a public apology. She told them that there was nothing left for her but to go and see her friend in Glasgow.
ALLEGED TALK WITH SWAN
Mr McCalman -- On the way to the station did you meet some one? -- I met the man Swan, who was on the other side of the street. It was the first I had seen of him since I came home.
At this stage Mrs McLeod produced a sheet of paper on which were some notes purporting to refer to a conversation she had with Swan.
Mr H.A. Shewan, advocate, who appeared for the Provost, objected to the witness reading from them, and Sheriff Macdonald ruled that the witness could only use them to refresh her memory.
Mrs McLeod stated that Swan explained that a week after she left for Portugal he met Bailie Porter and told him some story about her saying that Provost Bell was living on charity. On the next day Provost Bell came down to him and asked him to go to the office of Mr Cameron, the solicitor.
Swan also told her that Bain and Heron had been called in separately, and had given different stories.
"A BIT OF A TEMPER"
Mr Shewan, cross-examining -- You had been on the Town Council as a Labour representative a good many years before ever Provost Bell came on? -- Yes, six years.
When the time came for a Labour Provost to be elected he was appointed although he had been a councillor only for one year? -- Yes.
Did you have any particular feelings about that? -- Yes. I resented it very much. I did not think he was capable of holding the position.
Are you a person, Mrs McLeod, who has a bit of a temper? -- Yes. I am Highland.
After Mrs McLeod had stated that she was not given an opportunity to make an explanation at the Finance Committee meeting, she said -- "In my opinion, the Provost was glad to be able to bring it up."
Mr Shewan -- Is it your opinion that the pursuer made an unfounded attack on your character? -- Yes. He said I had charged a day too much.
Do you regard the Provost's action at that meeting as being, in fact, an accusation of dishonesty? -- Yes, I do.
You were not asked to refund any money? -- No.
PROVOST'S FINANCIAL POSITION
In further cross-examination, Mrs McLeod said that the Provost repeatedly made statements about his financial position, and people were asking how he lived. That was before the present action was raised.
She thought the Provost's wife was mistaken in saying that the statements as to the alleged slander were widely circulated, and she did not believe that stories had reached Mrs Bell through her boy at school.
Evidence for the defender's case was also given by other witnesses.