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12 September 2020

John Talbot divorced 1967

In 1961 John David Talbot married a widow, Mrs Eileen Poyntz, matron of an old people’s home in Brighton, Sussex. Eileen, now Mrs Talbot, realized that John was anatomically not the man she expected – but continued to live with him for a year.

Five years later she filed for divorce. The judge in the case, Justice Ormrod, declared that John Talbot was a woman, and immediately granted a decree nisi of nullity. John Talbot did not contest the petition and was ordered to pay the costs.

  • Talbot (otherwise Poyntz) v Talbot, (1967) 111 S.J. 213.
  • “’Husband’ was a woman”. Liverpool Echo, 27 February 1967: 14.
  • “’Husband’ turned out to be a woman!”. Reading Evening Post, 27 February 1967: 1.
  • Stephen Cretney. “The Nullity of Marriage Act 1971”. The Modern Law Review, 35,1, 1972: 57n4.
  • Christopher Hutton. The Tyranny of Ordinary Meaning: Corbett v Corbett and the Invention of Legal Sex. Palgrave MacMillan, 2019: 74, 83.

There seems to be a small confusion as to whether Justice Ormrod in this case is the same Justice Roger Ormrod (1911-1992) as in Corbett v Corbett. Cretney and Hutton write as if they are the same. EN.Wikipedia(Timeline_of_LGBT_history_in_the_United_Kingdom) says that the Justice was Benjamin Ormerod (1890-1974) – but is alone in this claim.

Hutton says p83: “Whereas in Talbot, Ormrod had in effect brushed aside the (non-)marriage, in Corbett he felt obliged to deploy the full range of medical and legal argumentation”.  Surely a pertinent difference was that April Ashley (Mrs Corbett) had had confirmation surgery but there is no suggestion that John Talbot had also.

The Inner Temple Library booklet Transgender Law: A Short History, Online, quotes Justice Ormrod as saying re Talbot v Talbot: “Marriage is a relationship which depends on sex, not gender”.  However this sentence is actually taken from his Judgment (p19) on Corbett v Corbett.

Several sites (example, example, example, example) repeat the Ormrod sentence assigned to Talbot v Talbot and actually add that he thereby ruled that transsexuals were not permitted to marry under British law. However as John Talbot apparently had not had surgery this was not so. Nor was Talbot v Talbot cited as a precedent in later cases.

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