Archive for May, 2012

Why I am not a critic – 6

May 31, 2012

On two recent weekends (not so recent as when I started writing this post) to concerts by the SSO conducted by David Zinman.

The first was a combination of the Poulenc Gloria and Mozart Requiem.

For a work which has only rarely been performed in Sydney, the Poulenc seemed strangely familiar. Had I sung some bits of it (surely not all) in my musical youth? Had I perhaps done some rehearsal pianising of it? There were some figure in the “Laudamus Te” which seemed to call forth some finger-memory, but I can’t work out when that could have been imprinted. It could all just be an illusion based on listening to recordings, though I don’t remember any recording in particular.

It was pretty good.  Zinman ran a tight ship.  Poulenc’s characteristic lucidity well brought-out with the air of a Gallic show-band in a real-live Mercury living presence (even if, see link above, that was not strictly the case).

I’ve been to a few ho-hum performances of the Requiem – sufficient to prime me mentally in an almost defensive way to the “it’s a great work” response.  No such defence was necessary on this occasion, and the programming with the Gloria actually worked well to set up the sombre spirit.  I only wished that the tenor, Paul McMahon, could have at least looked as if he was singing a bit more out of the box of his comfortable zone.  That’s the Mozartean tenor problem again – it’s always tricky, especially when, as here, with a really big choir, the musical environment was pretty monumental.

The program for the second was:

Berlioz – Overture to ‘Benvenuto Cellini’
Beethoven – Piano concerto No 2 – soloist Andreas Haefliger
Elgar – Falstaff Symphonic Poem
Berlioz – Roman Festival Overture (that’s the customary translation; the concert title of “Carnevale” drew on the original.)

Unfortunately I’ve left it too long to give a fair evaluation other than to say I enjoyed it all and I have a particularly soft spot for Berlioz overtures, but by the end of the Elgar it had not exactly outstayed its welcome but at least demonstrated why though welcome it was nevertheless probably deservedly a rarity.

There’s been a bit of action on the Australian ex-ABC orchestras’ front lately. Asher Fisch has been announced as the new chief conductor of the WASO, Andrew Davis of the M[elbourne ]SO and David Robertson of the SSO. At the time of these concerts, an SSO announcement was in the offing, and Murray Black in The Australian made a brick with that very little straw (1, 2)to suggest that David Zinman might be a suitable next appointment for the SSO. Given Zinman’s age and that it was ten years since Zinman was last here, that seemed pretty implausible to me, but I suppose it is nice to dream.

I’m not so sure about Robertson as an appointment, though that is obviously a view or rather a lack of a view formed (or not formed) in ignorance of the real (as opposed to: in Murray Black’s dreams) alternatives. Robertson is a man who seems able to say sweet things to everyone. I suspect such affability. It is said that the orchestra loves him, but that is not always a good thing. They loved Gianluigi Gelmetti too, but that ended rather mutedly and now history has been rewritten about GG’s “limited repertoire.” I don’t think that was exactly the problem. Sometimes a tougher love works better.

Before that announcement, on the Monday night, Andreas Haefliger backed up for a recital. The program was:

Liszt, selections from Annees de Perelinage – Year I – Switzerland
Debussy – Images, Book II
Beethoven – Sonata Op 106 “Hammerklavier”

Afterwards, I took the train home with the Dulwich Hill gang with whom I generally attend these recitals: J and my former high-school English and drama teacher, Lx. Lx said “that was rather ordinary” but in fact I had really enjoyed it. I was just in the right mood for it, even though I don’t really think that the Swiss book of the Annees is the strongest and I could have wished for a more dashing approach to the Vallee d’Obermann.

It seems that critical judgment was with Lx, as Peter McCallum subsequently wrote a swingeing review, describing the whole thing as “inspired in conception but disappointing in execution.” It’s clear that he would have preferred a more sinewy approach to the Hammerklavier, whereas that clearly just wasn’t Haefliger’s approach. He played with what I can only describe as “fluffy fingers” or (to use a phrase imprinted on my memory from a production of Bernard Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion directed by Lx for which I played the incidental music, “velvet paws.” I didn’t really measure Haefliger’s performance by expectations of what it should be, which I suppose is another reason why I am not a critic.

The subsequent Saturday night I went to UNSW to hear the Australia Ensemble. The program was:

Wolfgang MOZART (1756-1791): Sonata for flute, violin, viola and cello in C K285b (1778)
Paquito D’RIVERA (b 1948): Aires tropicales for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon (1971)
Peggy GLANVILLE-HICKS (1912-1990): Profiles from China for tenor, piano, string quartet and double bass (1945) -100th anniversary of the composer’s birth
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893): Piano Trio in A minor Opus 50 (1882)

It is saying something for the rest of the program that the Mozart was the weakest link. That’s more a question of the piece than the performance. The Tchaikovsky was definitely the strongest. The Glanville Hicks gained savour by my overhearing the people behind me reminisce about Ms Glanville Hicks in her final years in Sydney. Professor Covell was atypically reticent in failing to unpick in his (usually more than copious) program notes any of the cultural referents for the text, which was an odd kind of Chinoiserie. One song was about the Guanxu emperor but in the absence of further information it just came across as generic Forbidden City intrigue. Paul McMahon was the tenor and he amply redeemed my former misgivings over his performance in the Mozart Requiem. The D’Rivera is unequivocally a modern classic, though one movement (I think the Habanera) featured the most alarmingly unidiomatic writing for the horn which Robert Johnson handled bravely.

I could probably say more, but I’ll leave that to any critics and reviews published elsewhere.

Testing the water

May 27, 2012

My elder sister, YY, lives in London – in Pooter-country.  For those who don’t click on the links, that’s Holloway, near the women’s prison and just across from Camden.  In fact, these days she lives in Upper Holloway.  From there it is not too far to Highgate and Hampstead Heath.

In recent years  YY has attempted, not entirely successfully (last winter was just too cold) to swim year-round at Hampstead Ponds.

The secret, apparently, is to maintain your acclimatisation to the temperature throughout the year.  The City of London, which (reluctantly) administers the ponds, recommends that, if you are planning to swim in waters below 12 degrees (Celsius) you should maintain acclimatisation by getting in to the water, even if just for a minute or so, three or four times a week.  Otherwise (though this has not ever happened, they say, at Hampstead), the cold water could kill you.

That shouldn’t be necessary in Sydney, given that the water temperature never gets much below 17 degrees even in winter.  It all puts the big splash at the Bondi Icebergs into proportion.

I have found it difficult to swim in the sea in Sydney much past the beginning of June, and a dip at Wylies Baths last August in the company of my sister definitely gave me something of a chill.

Maybe that was because I was not acclimatised.  I’m seeing this year if I can keep things up, even if I only manage to get there on weekends.

Today, after a few windy days in Sydney, the water temperature was reported as 19 degrees.  That was one degree down on last week, and I could really feel the difference.  The tide was high and there was a lively swell.  There were only 3 others in the water when I got there at about 3.30 pm and notably they were all sporting bathing caps.   It was all very invigorating.  A hot shower afterwards was definitely a comfort.

Apparently a bathing cap helps keep your head warm. Previously my only familiarity with bathing caps has been in China where they are compulsory at swimming pools, along with a little health check from the doctor and even a little swimming test before they’ll let you in the deep water in some pools.

But I digress.

Afterwards, D and I went to the back of the Botany Cemetery, next to the Yarra Bay Sailing Club.  It’s a funny pocket of Sydney.  I was interested to see the Chinese market gardens, currently being eyed by  the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park (that is, the cemetery), backed by the Greek Orthodox Church, in particular, as land for potential expansion.  There’s not very much to see from a distance, but then nor is the cemetery particularly prepossessing.

My own allegiance is to the preservation of the gardens.   If people want to continue burying bodies, let them do it some place else.

As I said, it’s a funny, scrappy, area.  There are even a few horses kept here.  D patted one.

At Yarra Bay itself the lads (and a few lasses) from the State Emergency Service were finishing up some kind of marine rescue exercise.  Their red overalls were quite eye-catching in the late afternoon sun, even if I didn’t quite manage to get them properly in focus.

Sleeping on the job

May 26, 2012

The current excitement about Craig Thomson is not something I was planning to refer to on this blog, but I think this little euphemism committed by the Letters Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald (emphasis added) deserves attention:

With the news that Channel Nine had interviewed a prostitute who claimed she slept with Thomson, calls for the media and the opposition to back off intensified, raising a question still to be to be resolved: “How far is too far?”

Family Feud

May 13, 2012

I find I have been neglecting a fascinating resource.

Since perhaps the beginning of 2011, the High Court has been posting on its internet site materials about cases before the full bench.  After the cases are heard, links are added to the transcript of the hearing and, in due course, the decisions.

There you can find not only a reference to the decision being appealed against and transcripts of the special leave application (and in due course, the hearing of the appeal and the decision), but also pdf copies of submissions filed by the parties and a chronology filed by the appellant.  Publication of the submissions provides a rare opportunity to assay the styles of written appellate advocacy in that court.

Beck v. Weinstock and Ors, to be heard on 21 June (but now adjourned: Now to be heard on 9 November with a “related matter” Weinstock and Anor v. Beck and Anor – see further further update below), is the latest of many rounds or many cases involving the children of Leo Weinstock and various companies established by him before he died in 2003 and his widow, Hedy, died in 2004.  I have written about an earlier round (which is, in fact, a related but separate strand of the dispute between two of Mr Weinstock’s children) here.

This is very much a case for the company-law nerds.  I shall nevertheless try to explain it just a little.

It involves a company founded by Mr Leo Weinstock. Mr Weinstock was born in Germany in 1916 and emigrated to Palestine in 1934. Tami Beck and Ami Beck are his daughter and son. They emigrated to Australia with Mr Weinstock and his second wife, Hedy, in 1954.  Mr Weinstock died in 2003 and Hedy died in 2004. Mr Weinstock was survived by another daughter, in Israel, but she does not appear to be involved in this particular dispute.

After Mr Weinstock’s death, Hedy, had 8 “C” class shares in a  family company.  These shares were described in the articles of the company as redeemable preference shares.  The significance of redeemable preference shares is that these are shares which can be bought back by the company – in effect by repaying the capital contributed for the purchase of the shares in exchange for surrender of the shares and hence any rights they might have to control the company, receive dividends or receive a share of the surplus on a winding up.

Such shares are an exception to what is usually held to be a very fundamental rule about companies, sometimes called the rule for the maintenance of capital, which says that persons dealing with a company are entitled to believe that, whatever a company is worth, the money that the shareholders put into the pot to fund the company is still in the pot and has not been taken out by them.  From this principle, enshrined in the 1887 House of Lords decision Trevor v Whitworth, all sorts of incidental prohibitions arise on transactions which are in effect a return of that capital to shareholders by some other means.  Some of those prohibitions are judge made, some are, one way or another, the result of statute or at least are implied by specific limited exceptions provided for by the statute, of which the power to redeem preference shares is one.

After Mrs Weinstock’s death, the company bought back her shares.  According to the articles, the company had the option to do so, at a nominal price.  The company was controlled (or purportedly controlled: see the separate strand of the dispute referred to below) at this time by Ami.  The result of this was to reduce the value of Hedy’s estate and hence the half share her daughter, Tami, had been left under her will.

Tami said that there was no power in the company to purchase the shares because, regardless of how they were described in the articles, the shares were not preferential shares because they enjoyed no preference over any other share because no such shares had been issued.  The buy-back was instead an impermissible diminution of that money the law strictly requires will still be there in the pot to meet the claims of any creditors. (Never mind that the money itself need not in this case actually still really be within the company. It could be spent and its value lost: the important thing was that it not have been returned to the shareholders.)

Tami succeeded at first instance; Ami on appeal to the Court of Appeal.

On current form, my bet is on the High Court upholding the appeal.  It will appeal to the court’s recent preference for strict legalism even when the results are a bit inconvenient in an area (company law) where strict legalism is considered to be important and there have been ample opportunities to change the law.

That is even though the rationale of the rule has very little if anything to do with the dealing between the company and its shareholders which is challenged.  It would not make the slightest difference to people dealing with the company whether Mrs Weinstock or her children still had those C class shares or whether the company still had the $8 it paid her estate for them.  Indeed the state of share capital is irrelevant to most companies and particularly to most closely held companies such as this.    The paid up share capital is usually nominal. That capital could be entirely wiped out by losses that a company has otherwise incurred.   The real protection to potential creditors of the company comes from the obligation of the directors to ensure that the company remains solvent – an area where the law has developed since 1887.

You might say that Tami’s invocation of the rule to invalidate the redemption is opportunistic, but from her perspective so was invocation by Ami of the rule in the articles to enable the purchase of the shares and diminish the value of her mother’s estate and hence her share of it.

If I have the energy, I may supplement the list below (based on that given at the High Court site but adding the first instance decision) to add some of the other strands of this dispute.

Earlier proceedings

Beck v Tuckey Pty Ltd [2004] NSWSC 357

27, 30 April 2004

Unsuccessful application by Tami in relation to dispute with her brother concerning Tuckey Pty Ltd, during the period after their father’s death when their mother was still alive but incapacitated by dementia.

Weinstock v Sarnat [2005] NSWSC 744

19/11/04, 23/12/04, subsequent written submissions, 27 July 2005.

Proceedings brought by Ami in relation to a claim brought against him by Ms Sarnat, Leo Weinstock’s daughter by his first marriage, who lived in Israel, concerning the ownership of Swiss bank accounts established by Leo Weinstock.

Weinstock v Beck in the Estate of Weinstock [2007] NSWSC 193

26 February, 12 March 2007

Unsuccessful application by Tami to prevent Ami and an accountant appointed along with Tami as the three executors of Hedy’s estate from obtaining probate. Tami wanted a neutral administrator (ie, not an executor appointed under the will) to be appointed. The issue appears to have been that the accountant was plainly in Ami’s camp. It appears from the chronology to the High Court appeal that neutral administrators were eventually appointed.

Alem v Brandup [2007] NSWSC 897

11/07/07, 23/08/07

A sidewind. Mrs Beck obtained control of Alem (a company) and disputed (unsuccessfully) a debt claimed by a creditor arising out of dealings with Alem when it was controlled by Ami.

Beck v Tuckey [2007] NSWSC 1065

1, 3 August 2007

Successful application by Mrs Beck to oblige the registration of a share transfer by her to her daughter of shares in Tuckey. Ami (the other director) refusing to co-operate. I think the significance of this was that Mrs Beck needed more than one shareholder on her side to be able to use her controlling voting shares in the company because with only one shareholder she couldn’t have a quorum and Ami could stop anything happening by never coming to a meeting of shareholders. Ami was ordered to pay indemnity costs for the way he resisted this application.

Decision at first instance:

17/09/2010 Supreme Court of NSW (Hamilton AJ)

[2010] NSWSC 1068

[Interruption: other strand of dispute]

Beck v L W Furniture Consolidated (Aust) Pty Limited[2011] NSWSC 235

24, 25 February, 1 April 2011

See my previous post. Barrett J validated appointment by Ami of his wife as a director to fill a casual vacancy when nobody (including Ami himself) was a director and there were not any shareholders who could elect any new director. Overturned on appeal in 2012 (see below).

Lower Court Judgment

17/08/2011 Supreme Court of New South Wales (Court of Appeal) (Giles JA, Handley AJA, Young JA)

[2011] NSWCA 228

Documents

10/02/2012 Hearing (Special Leave Application, Sydney)

24/02/2012 Notice of appeal

09/03/2012 Written submissions (Appellant)

09/03/2012 Chronology (Appellant)

30/03/2012 Written submissions (Respondent)

[Interlude again: appeal of other strand] (see here)

Beck v LW Furniture Consolidated (Aust) Pty Ltd [2012] NSWCA 76

24, 25 February, 1 April 2012

Decision of Barrett J re appointment by Ami of his wife as a director overturned.

10/04/2012 Reply  (Appellant)

Update

On 21 June the appeal was adjourned to allow a separate special leave application, in relation to whether there were any directors of the company, catch up (if such special leave is granted: it will be expedited) with the appeal in relation to which special leave has already been granted.  Talk about a lawyers’ feast!

Further update – yet another strand previously overlooked

Beck v Weinstock Beck v LW Furniture (Consolidated) Pty Ltd[2011] NSWSC 1195

18 August 2011, 11/10/2011

There was another company, Zipor.  While Hedy was still alive, Ami used a power of attorney to transfer one of her shares in Zipor to his wife, Helen.  The effect was to give control of Zipor (and in particular, the power to declare dividends, which, unusually, was vested in the shareholders) to Ami and Helen.  Dividends were declared to Ami and Helen and also to LW Furniture Consolidated Pty Limited.

This had been litigated in proceedings commenced in 2007 (these are the proceedings which are now, on other issues, already in the High Court) and consent orders made about that in 2010 which dealt with some of the Zipor dividends, though in fact there were other dividends that Tami said were not disclosed to her at that time.  By a notice of motion in these proceedings Tami sought fresh orders in those proceedings as to the construction of the consent orders or to vary them. Tami also commenced fresh proceedings in 2011 to similar effect, claiming, amongst other things, that Ami had breached his fiduciary duty to his mother and so as to deprive Tami of a share which should have been hers and hence also deprived her of the dividends which he had obtained with the control so obtained.  She sought restitution of this.

The Ami parties said that the question of the Zipor dividends had all been settled by the consent orders and that it was therefore res judicata – that is, a concluded matter which could not be relitigated.  That’s a bit of a simplification but it will have to do for now. Justice Gzell agreed with them.

Beck v Weinstock;Beck v L W Furniture (Consolidated) Pty Ltd[2012] NSWCA 289

The Court of Appeal upheld Tami’s appeal though along the way it was conceded by her counsel that some things would need to be recast.

The basic reason for this was that the consent “orders” which she was seeking to revisit were not properly orders of the court, but rather an agreement between the parties which the court “noted.”  Res judicata did not apply to these.  It might have been different (probably would have been different) if the noting of the agreement was coupled with an order that the proceedings were “otherwise dismissed,” since this would lead to an estoppel of all other claims brought which were dismissed by that order (and an Anshun estoppel which is a kind of extended bar to bringing claims in new proceedings which should have been brought in earlier proceedings).

Sigh.  The struggle continues.

Further further update: Original interlude resumed

07/09/2012 Hearing (Special leave application on the “are there any directors?” point – Ami’s interests are the appellants on this) – Special leave granted by Hayne and Gummow JJ – Richard McHugh unable to dissuade them from a course to which they appear to have been predisposed.

21/09/2012 Written submissions (Appellants)

21/09/2012 Chronology (Appellants)

10/10/2012 Written submissions (First Respondents)

17/10/2002 Reply (Appellants)

There is a tantalising hint in the final submission by Mr McHugh for the respondents in the special leave hearing that if the point on the “just and equitable winding up” point goes against Tami, there could still be an application on the oppression ground.  Tell me it isn’t so! (Tell me, that is, because I have tired of delving into the details to see if it could be.)

Even further update: a day and a bit in the High Court

Transcripts from the hearing of the appeals on 14 and 15 November are:

Weinstock and Anor v. Beck and Anor [2012] HCATrans 283 (14 November 2012)

Beck v. Weinstock and Ors [2012] HCATrans 284 (14 November 2012)

Beck v. Weinstock and Ors [2012] HCATrans 285 (15 November 2012)

The last word?  Judgment day

In judgments handed down on 1 May 2013 (1) and (2) Ami’s side (the Weinstock side) was successful in both matters.  It isn’t the last word really, of course, in the fullness of the issues between the parties, but I haven’t time to digest it all yet.

Stalking

May 11, 2012

Tonight I am going to the second of two programs by the SSO conducted by David Zinman.

For both these programs the SSO has a guest concertmaster, Andrew Haveron.

Another guest musician, Teije Hylkema, is playing principal cello.

In the SSO just now there seems to be a vacancy for both a second concertmaster and a second principal cello after not-particularly-explained disappearances from those positions, and I imagine Haveron’s and Hylkema’s presence may be something to do with steps being taken in relation to that.  The saga of the cello position has been going on for a while – I’m pretty sure there were auditions advertised in Europe when the orchestra went there in 2010.

For what it’s worth, I thought the violins sounded pretty good under Haveron’s leadership.  Possibly it helped that Dene Olding, the regular concertmaster, was also playing up the back.  At the last concert, as far as I can recall, Hylkema didn’t get to sit in the very first desk for the celli, but maybe that will come tonight.

Scouting around to find out a bit more about both, I came across this duet recorded just now in Sydney by the pair of them and uploaded to youtube by Mr Hylkema.  It’s good to see that they are not just hanging around in their serviced apartments getting bored.

戏子无义 婊子无情

May 3, 2012

The above is a Chinese saying: actors are not truthful; prostitutes are not sincere or (probably more accurate) “a performer is unrighteous, a whore is heartless.”

Reports are in  today of the sentencing hearing in relation to a (male) prostitute who killed an older gay man.

The prisoner left the (about 40 years) older man (IC) bound and gagged to die in IC’s flat whilst he took IC’s ATM card which he used.  That in itself seems a really stupid and senseless crime.  How could he not have been caught?  There was a claim on the part of counsel for the prisoner that he suffered from a mental illness and you have to wonder.  It’s hard to see things coming to this point just because of a desire to get money (which was the line taken by the prosecutor) – he only got $7,000 (I think at $1K per day) before the game was up once IC was eventually found dead.

It’s a grim end and one of a type to which older gay men are, I think, particularly susceptible (especially if they are susceptible in the “very susceptible Chancellor” sense), though fortunately the numbers are not large.

One press account speaks of the two men as having been in a relationship – certainly the two had been seeing each other for a while.  As to whether you could call that a relationship, well that is exactly the problem which the proverb directs attention to.

The young man (who has pleaded guilty to manslaughter) claimed that the older man was blackmailing him to continue to have sex with him (I think this means: not for payment) on pain of intimate pictures being released.  This seems rather R v Greenish, and it doesn’t sound as if Justice Christine Adamson was convinced.  The young man said he had been drugged in order for the pictures to be taken.  That is even less convincing., in the circumstances.

I’ll be watching for the sentencing remarks.

Postscript

Mr Li was sentenced to a total of 10 years’ imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of eight and a half years. He has been in custody since he was apprehended, so will be eligible for parole in March 2018

Sentencing remarks here.

Roddy’s Folly

May 1, 2012

Last week to the launch of this book, which is a memoir by Damien Freeman of the late Roddy Meagher.

Richard Ackland has posted some video highlights.

Professor Bashir, attended by a woman in naval dress uniform who I presume was her ADC,  spoke briefly.  As Quentin Bryce was away somewhere, she was there as administrator of the Commonwealth.  She told how Roddy once invited her to a dance at St John’s college and had to take her home early (to Women’s College) when she fell ill.  MB referred more than once to Riverview (where Meagher went to school) as “one of the great schools of this nation.”

I’m constantly being told that Professor Bashir is a universally loved figure.   I have nothing against her, and have even spoken cordially to her when she sat next to me (ADC again in tow) at a concert, but I’m still at a bit of a loss to understand the reason for the ascribed love of a loyal people.

It all rather puts me in mind of the praise heaped on the substitute queen at the opening of the factory in Michael Frayn’s Tin Men.  It’s enough that she (in the Frayn it is a young man from accounts or somesuch, who, having stood in for the rehearsal, stands in when the Queen is a no-show.  “She was so natural!” exclaimed all) is in a position entitled to respect and that she is inoffensive in it.  Beyond that, I can only think the secret is MB’s ability to flatter serially her various audiences by appropriately buttering-up remarks to suit the occasion.

I just wish Professor Bashir had as many occasions to talk up, say, Brewarrina Central School, as one of the great schools of this nation as she does SIC.  Maybe that’s not entirely MB’s fault.  Maybe that’s the world.

Dyson Heydon delivered some enumerated points.  I think there were five.

Tony Abbott’s address is here.  It’s mostly the script of what he said, save that he stumbled over Michael Kirby, whom he first identified as Michael Kelly.  Just nominal aphasia and tiredness, I’m sure.

Meagher’s main claim to fame is as the first-named author of Meagher Gummow & Lehane (routinely, MGL), a textbook on Equity which pins its flagrantly conservative colours to the mast in a battle royal against fusionists and other would-be modernisers from standpoint of possibly (I have not checked) the last jurisdiction in the world to submit to the 1873 Judiciary Act reforms – the administration of equity and common law was not merged in NSW until 1970.  It was of course a shibboleth that only the administration had merged, and that the principles remained distinct.  It’s all to do with the confluence of the Rhone and some other river whose name presently escapes me.

When I was at law school Meagher was something of a cult figure.  Freeman’s book in fact quotes from a fanzine-ish interview produced for the Law School annual, Blackacre, from about that time.

All three MGL authors lectured to us.  We thought that was something pretty special and in a way it was, though why we had to spend quite so long on charitable trusts and assignment of causes of action still defeats me.

The launch was held in the Ass[embly] Hall, site of these lectures.  From memory, these were given at 8.15 am and 5.15 pm in parallel, which is an impressive commitment from a bunch of practitioners.  I can’t say they were particularly scintillating lectures.  Lectures given by people who have written the book often are not.

The book assembles a lot of material, mostly favourable, concerning Meagher.  It is the sort of book which counts “chattering classes” as a neutral term of argument, and it doesn’t mean by that the well-disposed-to-Meagher of the Sydney bar giggling over Meagher’s latest “naughty” remarks.

Some of Meagher’s jokes were kept up for a long time.  His affected ignorance of the geography of western Sydney goes way back, which is a bit rich for a man born in Temora.  More than once “epigone” has been pressed into duty as a a stunning Atticism. Freeman even light-heartedly dates one manuscript by reason of its predating Meagher’s adoption of “hairy-legged lesbian” as his chosen term for a species (to which he was averse) of woman getting ahead in the modern legal world.

From pages 379 to 387 there is an odd passage where Freeman riffs on Meagher’s conservatism by reference to enumerated characteristics of conservatism expounded in Tony Abott’s book, Battlelines.  I do wonder if some of this material crept in by osmosis from other pursuits Freeman was engaged in at the time of writing.

At page 36 the highest that Freeman can put the Meaghers’ claim of descent from the first Earl of Chatham (emblazoned in Meagher’s middle name, “Pitt”) is that “it is possible that Thomas Taylor was the medical man from whom William Lipscomb was descended.”

Freeman does attempt a more dispassionate analysis from time to time, but in the end the book is too cosily partisan to make good as a biography.  The chronology is also rather too general.  The book is more of an appreciation or even a tribute, tempered with conscientious inclusion of some of the leading criticisms (though mostly from still-friendly sources).  It will appeal to admirers of Roddy and otherwise strictly to the cognoscenti.  It would probably also annoy others but most of them probably won’t be bothering to read it anyway.