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Alfred James Lutwyche (1810–1880)

from Brisbane Courier

Alfred Lutwyche, c1859

Alfred Lutwyche, c1859

State Library of Queensland, 54618

On Saturday morning, a little before 7 o'clock, Alfred James Peter Lutwyche ceased from his long and honorable service in this colony.

The news of Mr. Lutwyche's demise was a painful surprise to all of us, as, although he had been too ill to discharge his judicial duties for some little time past, his family and immediate attendants had no idea he was so near the end, and he himself thought he was sufficiently recovered to dispense with medical attendance. For years Mr. Lutwyche had suffered from most painful and violent attacks of gout, and the same quiet fortitude with which these had been borne characterised his last illness. The frequency of these attacks had probably familiarised both himself and his nearest friends with his invalid condition to an extent to allay those apprehensions of fatal consequences that serious illness awakens in more robust sufferers, and the day before his death the deceased gentleman declined to see a doctor, and spoke cheerfully of his speedy convalescence. Shortly before midnight, however, a sudden and unfavorable turn took place, and it became evident that the vital forces were too exhausted to admit any hope of the patient rallying, and at ten minutes to 7 o'clock on Saturday morning the late Judge passed peacefully out of existence.

Mr. Justice Lutwyche has been associated with this colony since its foundation twenty-one years ago, having filled one of the most responsible offices during that time with much credit to himself and advantage to the State. He was the first of our Judges, having occupied the position of Resident Judge of Moreton Bay for ten months before Separation was obtained, and for nearly three years after the birth of this colony Mr. Justice Lutwyche was the sole representative of its Supreme Court Bench. The astute and discriminating intellect of Mr. Lutwyche eminently qualified him for the discharge of the weighty responsibilities of his position, and during the long term of his service nothing has ever occurred to shake public confidence in his high ability and integrity as an impartial dispenser of our laws, while the lucidity of his summing up in intricate cases, and the general perspicacity of his judgments, have worthily upheld the dignity and fair repute of our Queensland Bench. The life of a public man who has for so long been one of the most prominent figures in the community has an interest for all, and such facts as we have been able to glean concerning the late Judge's career will doubtless be welcome to our readers.

Mr. Lutwyche was born in London in 1610. In a biographical notice published by a contemporary, and prepared and revised by the deceased himself, the late Judge with pardonable pride commences his history with Doomsday Book and Hugo do Lutwyche. A man's ancestors, however, have little interest for anyone but their immediate descendant, so we may accept the late gentleman's family-tree as one of ancient and honorable growth without tasking the patience of our readers by any enumeration of its ramifications. As the memory of Mr. Justice Lutwyche would be none the less respected were he the first of his race who had made his mark in the world, and as his useful life and worthy actions are all that give the chronicle of his career its interest for Queenslanders, we pass over the honorable descent so dear to the late gentleman, merely mentioning that his father, Mr. John Lutwyche, was of a Worcestershire family, and coming young to London, embarked in business in the leather trade, and was fairly successful. The firm of Lutwyche and George, of Skinner-street, Snow Hill, was well known and of good repute in the city. Alfred James Peter was the eldest son, and his father's means were sufficient to give him the best English education procurable. At fourteen he was sent to the Charterhouse, where he remained for four years, at the expiration of which time he went up to Oxford as a member of Queen's College. While at the university he resolved upon the law as a profession, and before taking his degree entered as a student at Middle Temple. Then when Alma Mater cast him forth well equipped to win his way in the world, he commenced the hard study of the law in a conveyancer's chambers. For two years he worked at conveyancing and fitting himself for the duties of a special pleader, and at the end of this term practised in the latter capacity till he was called, which event took place on May 8, 1840.

A young man of ability, striving to win his way in London at a profession that is thronged with men of talent, must not only possess patience if he would succeed, but some readiness of resource in providing himself with an income that will enable him to outlive that inevitable neglect of attorneys which is such a sore discouragement at the opening of a barrister's career. The Press usually provides employment for the restless intellectual energies of those who find insufficient outlet for them in their legitimate profession, and to the Press Mr. Lutwyche turned to supplement an income that must have been slender enough for the first few years of his practice. He found employment on the Morning Chronicle, Charles Dickens being a fellow-worker with him on the same paper, and he was wont to express his gratification at having belonged to the Fourth Estate, and at being claimed by Pressmen as one of themselves. At this time he joined the Oxford circuit, and attended at some of the Midland County Quarter Sessions, but symptoms of failing health warned him that his constitution was unequal to the severe strain of his English life, and he turned his attention to a newer field, where competition was less keen, advancement less doubtful and more rapid, and the exile by no means insupportable. In 1853 Mr. Lutwyche, then 43 years of age, embarked in the Meridian for Melbourne. He was, however, fated to many wanderings before reaching his destination. On the same day that the Meridian left London, another ship - the John Sugars - also started from the same port for Melbourne, and between the respective captains of the two vessels was a strong spirit of rivalry as to who should first pass through Port Phillip Heads. The voyage was looked upon as a match, and the anxiety as to the result felt by the captains infected the passengers, and bets were freely booked on board both ships as to the result. During the voyage every vessel that could be seen from the deck of the Meridian steering a similar course was anxiously scrutinised to see if it were the John Sugars, and when this latter vessel reached Melbourne it was a joyful relief to all on board to find the Meridian had not arrived. As the weeks passed, however, without tidings of the lagging vessel, the exultation of the victors gradually changed to apprehension. The Meridian never finished in that race. Running before a strong westerly wind she came, just before daylight one morning, with all sail set, clean on to the island of Amsterdam. The captain, who had his wife on board, was the only man lost, but that any of the passengers were saved was little short of a miracle. The eastern side of this barren little spot in the ocean is a precipitous cliff rising to the height of about 200ft. out of the sea, and so close had the wrecked vessel driven that her main mast going overboard rested against one of the lava ledges that score the face of the cliff. Along this spar all on board passed, and the sailors managing to scale the cliff hoisted the passengers on to the top, where, although rescued from the waves, their situation was a most critical one. Mr. Lutwyche lost all his family plate and extensive library, and a considerable amount of other property, by this mischance; but, what was of far more consequence, the rapid breaking up of the wreck afforded no opportunity of saving any stores for the sustenance of the castaways. Fortunately the rocky coast of this little island abounds in fish, so that starvation was never imminent, and after twelve days of anxious suspense a whaler took them off and landed them in Mauritius. The courage which, in a moral form, was one of the late Judge's most emphatic characteristics he at Amsterdam showed himself to possess equally in its physical character. Those who remember Mr. Lutwyche's behavior during this trying time agree that concerning his own fate he showed no sort of solicitude, and that his bearing under very perilous adversity was not only composed but cheerful. From Mauritius the authorities forwarded the passengers and crew of the Meridian onto Melbourne, and Mr. Lutwyche came on at once to Sydney. At the New South Wales bar Mr. Lutwyche's abilities and experience obtained him an immediate practice and position, and after two years of successful toil he was chosen as the Solicitor-General in the brief administration of Mr. Cowper in 1855, and appointed to a seat in the Council. Mr. Cowper's tenure of office on this occasion was of the shortest, and Mr. Lutwyche had for the four succeeding years to sit in the cold shade of Opposition. As a politician he was keen, vigilant, full of partisan zeal, an earnest Liberal, and an opponent of some weight in debate; and when in 1857 the second Cowper Ministry succeeded to office Mr. Lutwyche came in with them as Solicitor-General, with the lead in the Upper Chamber. A year later Mr. Martin left the Cabinet, and the Attorney-Generalship was given to Mr. Lutwyche, who at the same time received the silk gown. He occupied this position only a few months, as a vacancy in the Supreme Court Bench occurring, Mr. Lutwyche was appointed to fill it, and came as Resident Judge to Moreton Bay. Within the year Moreton Bay had become Queensland, and Mr. Justice Lutwyche was the sole occupant of the Supreme Court Bench of the new colony.

Fresh from political strife of an exciting and somewhat embittered kind, it was difficult for a man of the late Judge's naturally combative nature to at once divest himself of all party feeling, and during the first year or two of his judicial life he was constantly colliding with either the Governor or the Government. But for this attitude of pugnacity there is no doubt Mr. Justice Lutwyche would have been the first Chief Justice of the colony, and the late Judge made no secret of his mortification at the appointment of Mr. Cockle. A few years of association, however, entirely obliterated any feelings of hostility to the Chief Justice that this event may have originally engendered, and the two Judges became sincere and attached friends. Sir James always paid a very marked deference to the opinion of his learned brother, and the amiable disposition of the Chief Justice so wrought upon the sterner nature of his colleague that when Sir James left for Europe two years ago, the parting was a severe trial to Mr. Lutwyche, who was extremely affected at bidding goodbye to a friend whom he rightly divined he was never to see again. On Sir James Cookle's retirement, Mr. Lutwyche's physical infirmities forbade his appointment to the Chief Justiceship, though the promotion of a junior was doubtless an implied slight that was keenly felt. But, although infirm of body, and incessantly tortured by a malady that had become chronic and was constantly threatening his life, to the very end the deceased gentleman preserved his mental faculties in their full vigor; and it will be long before his well-known features, with the bright unblinking eyes, fixed always with a strange intentness on witness, counsel, or his own notes, will fade from the recollection of visitors to the Supreme Court.

Outside his duties, the late Judge had many of the tastes of an English squire. He was a great poultry fancier, and his opinion on the merits of various breeds was an authority no breeder ventured to dispute. His Honor was also a sportsman, though he took to the turf somewhat late in life, and had no very marked success on it. In 1870 he won the Brisbane Cup with Dandy, and Flirtation also won him a race or two. Isaac Walton, Mayflower, Young May Moon, Master Mariner, and other second and third class animals also carried the Judge's colors at a number of meetings, but beyond a Sapling Stakes in Ipswich, and a race in Toowoomba, we can recall no triumphs secured for their owner. For some time past Mr. Lutwyche's failing health, rather than his want of success, had forced him to relinquish all active interest in racing matters.

It is one of the most melancholy tasks of journalism to record from time to time the disappearance of some well-known figure that has been long an object of respectful interest to the community, though on such occasions it is well if the biographer have no unworthy passages to hurry over or doubtful actions to glance at or charitably pass in silence. Concerning Alfred James Peter Lutwyche we know of nothing that if living he might not fearlessly challenge us to proclaim. We know that he was an upright, honest, fearless gentleman, with a certain lion-hearted courage that never permitted him to retreat from any position he had once maturely affirmed, and we know also that he possessed a frank generosity that prevented him from ever resenting any of the hard knocks that are sometimes exchanged between the bench and the bar. Mr. Lutwyche was not a man of many intimates. The few he had deeply deplore the loss of a warm-hearted friend, whilst with the general public regret at the removal of a trusted officer and worthy gentleman will be the universal sentiment. As an expression of this feeling the Supreme Court and various public offices were closed on Saturday, and most of the shops had some of their shutters up.

Mr. Lutwyche is to rest in the family vault at St. Andrew's Church, in the locality to which he has given his name. The funeral is appointed for tomorrow, and leaves Kedron Lodge at 3 p.m.

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Citation details

'Lutwyche, Alfred James (1810–1880)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Alfred Lutwyche, c1859

Alfred Lutwyche, c1859

State Library of Queensland, 54618

Life Summary [details]


26 February, 1810
London, Middlesex, England


12 June, 1880 (aged 70)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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