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Geoffrey Charles Pitt Beadel, 1932 - 2017

By Sir William Young

Geoffrey Beadel died on 14 October 2017 after a long struggle with cancer. He was a long-serving and redoubtable member of the local profession who will be remembered with affection by those whose professional careers were underway before the turn of the current century.

Geoffrey was born on 21 November 1932 and named after his uncle, Geoffrey Beadel, who died at Bapaume, France on 4 September 1918. Like his uncle, Geoffrey attended Elmwood Primary School although he had his last two years of primary education at Medbury. When playing for the Medbury 1st XI, he achieved the remarkable bowling figures of nine wickets for no runs. He was at Christ’s College between 1946 and 1950 where he became a very successful sportsman – a member of the 1st XI for three years and the 1st XV for his last year. He must have been a reasonable scholar too as, in his last year of school, he sat and passed stage one Latin at university. He was head of his house at college and also a school prefect.

While at college, he also took up dancing – waltz, foxtrot and quickstep – and it was at dancing that he met Mary Ballantyne. At the 1949 college ball, there was what he later told me a “spark of interest” between them. Geoffrey and Mary married on 2 March 1957. They had a long and happy marriage which was brought to an end by Mary’s death in 2013. Their three children, Tammy, Sarah and Gordon, have been successful in life and Geoffrey was extraordinarily proud of them and, of course, his grandchildren.

Between 1951 and 1955, Geoffrey was pretty busy. He studied law, with the first year full-time and the rest part-time, at what was then Canterbury University College. While studying part-time he worked as a clerk first for Weston Ward and Lascelles (for £2 10s a week) and then at Saunders and Heney.  In 1956 Geoffrey was awarded his LLB by the University of New Zealand – the last year that institution awarded degrees – and he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor. He became a partner in Saunders and Heney in 1960 and in 1969, when Ken Heney died, the firm became Saunders Beadel.  That partnership came to an end in the 1970s and in 1977 he started his own firm in which he was later joined by Jeanette Ching.

From the late 1980s until my appointment to the bench in 1997, I had many professional dealings with Geoffrey as he frequently instructed me as counsel.  As a result, I saw a great deal of Geoffrey the lawyer.  He always took a full role in the conduct of litigation and associated negotiations.  He had a sound legal mind, good commercial judgement, considerable commonsense, a high level of energy, huge determination and drive and terrific commitment to the interests of his clients.  Geoffrey set high standards for himself and for others (including the counsel whom he instructed).  To use old-fashioned expressions which are appropriate for the man he was, he had a code of honour by which he lived and a strong sense of duty.  

In 1995 Geoffrey suffered significant injuries in a car accident in Australia.  Although these injuries soon healed, an unfortunate sequel to the accident was a flaring up of Geoffrey’s bi-polar disorder which contributed to his retirement in 2000.

Geoffrey’s many interests in life  

He completed his compulsory military training and joined the territorials, in which he was commissioned in January 1955 as a 2nd lieutenant.  He was later to become a captain.  

He played senior cricket for Old Collegians for 15 years. He served on the Old Collegians Club Committee and ultimately became club president. In more recent years he was a generous supporter of the new Hagley Oval.  He was also a competitive squash player, playing virtually every lunchtime for many years. He was a member of the Officers’ Club team which won the senior squash championship in 1962. He served as a member of the Committee of the Christchurch Squash Club and later as its President.  

He gave up squash in the late 1960s when his regular opponents abandoned the game. In place of squash, he took up running and he ran around the park most lunchtimes for the next 20 years.

One sport Geoffrey never gave up until near the end was golf.

Golf was in the family as his Beadel grandparents were both golfers. As well, his aunt Mab was a fine player and became president and patron of the ladies club at Shirley. Geoffrey was not able to join the Christchurch Golf Club as a member until he turned 15 but by then, he already had full playing rights. He was an extremely effective golfer and played off single figure handicaps for many years. He did, however, have an unusual style which involved substantial head movement; which, amongst other things, meant that those not used to playing with him could find themselves standing in his unusually broad field of vision. He played interclub golf and against the Otago and Wellington golf clubs on many occasions. He also served on the committee. Geoffrey was heavily involved with the establishment of the Shirley Open and indeed played in it for the first few years. He was also very generous financially with the club. His contribution to the Christchurch Golf Club was recognised twice last year; first by the naming of the Beadel Annex off the boardroom and secondly by the club making him an honorary life member.

Geoffrey was on the board of Bishop Julius for 30 years, retiring in 2000. He gave even longer service on the board of College House serving for some 40 years in many roles, including as sub-warden. He played a major and very successful role in the financial affairs in the college and, along with Alec Baird, was responsible for the accumulation of its remarkable art collection. His services were recognised in 1994 when the college named one its new houses, Beadel House.

On occasion impatient, and not always the soul of tact, Geoffrey was nonetheless a charming and convivial companion who always maintained close connections with his friends, including many of his former professional colleagues; by all of whom he is much missed.

This was first published in Canterbury Tales, December 2017, page 10.

Last updated on the 29th November 2017