Monday, June 7, 2010

Lutwyche, the man

"Some are born to greatness, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them". Thus wrote William Shakespeare, and the quote came to mind when I was reading about Alfred James Peter Lutwyche, Queensland's first judge of the Supreme Court. Despite various unfortunate circumstances, any one of which might have caused him to falter, Lutwyche achieved greatness in many different ways. The son of a leather merchant, Lutwyche studyied at Oxford before becoming a barrister in London. He moonlighted as a journalist, reporting on parliament for the Morning Chronicle where Charles Dickens also worked. Lutwyche subsequently wrote law reports for The Times and also wrote a couple of law books while still practicing law. In 1853, after suffering some ill-health, he embarked on a voyage to New South Wales where he intended to take up a position as correspondent for the Morning Chronicle. The vessel in which he was travelling didn't make it to Sydney - it was shipwrecked on Amsterdam Island (halfway between Africa and Australia) in June 1853. Although three died, Lutwyche and the majority of passengers were rescued and taken to Mauritius. Lutwyche eventually arrived in Sydney in December 1853. He recounted his shipwreck ordeal for the Morning Chronicle and in his book "The Wreck of the Meridian", but Lutwyche decided against making journalism his career, accepting instead an appointment to the bar. He initially rejected an offer to become a member of the Legislative Council (which he refused on the basis that he would not take a seat "in any House that was not an elective one"), but he was later to become Solicitor-General and then Attorney-General in the New South Wales government. On 21 February 1859, Lutwyche was appointed judge of the Supreme Court at Moreton Bay. Here is a drawing of the man in his legal garb.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #21331)

Lutwyche had an interesting time as a judge. No shrinking violet, he freely and publicly criticised the government of the day on several matters ranging from legal issues relating to the separation of Queensland from New South Wales, to manhood suffrage (one man, one vote) and also to his own salary, which had been summarily reduced from the £2000 he was being paid by New South Wales to a mere £1200 from the Queensland government. These skirmishes came at personal cost - his wife was labelled "unfit...for the circle into which her husband's rank must place her" by the senior New South Wales judge Sir Alfred Stephen; and Queensland's governor Sir George Bowen sought advice from England as to whether he could refuse Lutwyche's promotion to Chief Justice if parliament were to so appoint him. Bowen subsequently even enquired whether he could remove Lutwyche from the bench. It wasn't until the arrival of wise counsel from England in the form of new judge James Cockle that Lutwyche was convinced that he should cease his public criticism of government and frequent outbursts to the press on various matters - Cockle became a close friend. For all that, Lutwyche's legal work was undiminished and untarnished. He was seen to be learned and perceptive, and he had become a public favourite because of his support for manhood suffrage.
(Photo: reproduced from SCQ Library web pages)

Not long after he arrived in Brisbane, Lutwyche bought property at Kedron Brook and had a house built there - we'll look at that next. A committed Anglican, he also bought and donated land for the building of an Anglican church in the suburb that now bears his name. He and his wife were heavily involved in the construction of the first church, made of wood, that opened in 1866; it was replaced by a more substantial brick structure in 1926. Lutwyche also donated freely to this church, and when he died in 1880 he was buried in its grounds. His grave is pictured below, set in a rose garden right next to the church. He left the church an amount of £100 for the upkeep of his grave, and his wife is also buried there.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: His house


  1. i know people who grew in Lutwyche area, Kedron specifically - they pronounced it "Luckwyche" - incredible

  2. Maybe they felt lucky to live there! Although they may not at present, the Northern Busway is disrupting everything.


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