In the 1950s, well before reaching double figures and alternating between living in a tiny cottage in Annerley, Brisbane and a cobbled-together farmhouse perched on 157 acres (“the Farm”) an hour to the north-west at Mount Samson, there were six precepts upon which my parents insisted:- a healthy, predominantly vegetarian diet; regular Sunday School; good reading; a fundamental understanding of mathematics; all-round sporting attainments and not being shy of physical work. Mum figured in the first three and Dad the balance.
Mum’s limited education didn’t deprive her of an affiliation with literature and the English language. She was determined to imbue that facility into her four children. An omnivorous reader and prolific correspondent in an era where writing letters was the principal form of communication, Mum was rarely without a book or pen and paper in her hands.
Dad was a fantastic sportsman. An A-grade cricketer at 15, he also played blistering tennis. Though a trained accountant, he preferred labouring to sitting behind a desk and worked at many jobs. The day after a drunk driver smashed into us in 1955, with broken ankle and large family to support, my father was back at work on the wharf.
At fifteen, I commenced an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner, and became a tradesman at nineteen. Just twenty, I began watch-keeping on the cargo ship M.V. Kaituna as fourth engineer on my maiden voyage from Mount Manganui in the North Island of New Zealand across the Tasman Sea to Sydney.
Marine engineering took me to much of the Far East and its near neighbours, as well as the west coast of the USA, Canada, the Australian coast and the coastlines of New Zealand’s North and South Islands.
Following a collision when proceeding into Vancouver Harbour on the M.V. Erawan, fate steered me on another course through the encouragement of a brilliant Canadian attorney who I came to know only as “Mr Cunningham”.
He needed to understand what happened on that dark and foreboding morning when an outbound ship almost cut ours in half. I had expressed admiration at his capacity to master principles of engineering and navigation. He encouraged me to study law.
Two and a half years later I was living and working at the Farm while matriculating by correspondence. At the University of Queensland, a Bachelor of Laws was conferred and articles of clerkship followed.
Mr Justice Shepherdson took me on as his Associate and I was admitted to the Bar in November 1982.
Private practice began in 1983. Over nearly thirty years, almost no legal jurisdiction was out of bounds.
A couple of my articles concerning suspicious wills and a paper on Agents Provocateur, found their way into legal journals.
As a kid, I had loved cricket and rugby league. Being a member of the Australian barristers’ team was the realisation of a dream to play in English conditions. That we defeated England at Radley College, Oxford on the very day Pat Cash won the Wimbledon Championship became a dual celebration.
While still practising at the Bar, my wife Anna and I published a fortnightly news/magazine called the Samford Times and I became the editor. We re-badged it as The Westerner and more than doubled the circulation until its sale in late 2002 when the pressure of legal work conflicted too frequently with deadlines.
There were other ventures along the way but a physical toll had been levied, by the law most of all. Severe heart disease was found. “You dodged a bullet—only just,” opined one doctor.
It was nearly eighteen months before I mended and plunged into the serious thicket of, Deeply With The Sun In Our Eyes.
There was some feature writing and sub-editing for a Sydney business journal called BiziNet, the wig and gown having by this time been consigned to posterity.