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Maxwell Rae Grierson OBE, 1900 - 1994

The elder statesman of New Zealand’s legal fraternity, Maxwell Rae Grierson, OBE, died in Auckland on 10 June 1994 aged 93.

A founding partner of Simpson Grierson Butler White, he was the Commonwealth’s oldest legal practitioner and was in his office just a week before his death working on client business.

He is survived by his wife, Freda, to whom he was married for 60 years, his daughter Heather and sons Bruce and Ian. He had 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Born on 22 November 1900, he was the last surviving member of an illustrious Auckland family of five brothers and three sisters, all of whom were leaders in their chosen professions.

Known affectionately as “M R” by colleagues, friends and clients alike, he specialised in arbitration, construction and engineering law. He was President of the Auckland District Law Society in 1951-52.

In his youth he was a leading athlete at Auckland Grammar and later at Auckland University. He is the only person to be three-times Captain of the Auckland Grammar School First XV, a record which still stands.

He played rugby for Auckland against the Springboks in 1921 and in the same year he was selected to play as an All Black. But he never wore the black jersey, choosing instead to complete his legal exams which coincided with the rugby training camp.

Mr Grierson was admitted to the bar in 1922 and two years later set up his own practice at Pukekohe. It was the same year he was asked to trial for the Invincibles, but again, his legal career was the path he chose.

He soon became involved in Pukekohe community activities including working with the needy during the Great Depression of the 1930s and took a leading role in the region’s war-time civil defence effort. He was mayor of Pukekohe from 1940 to 1950.

As mayor, he was the chief liaison between American Marine forces based in the area, developing many lifelong American friends. He also found time to hold the title of Pukekohe Golf Club champion twice.

Mr Grierson was renowned for his charity work over the years including the setting up of the Auckland Sheltered Workshops and the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

President of the Auckland Grammar Old Boys’ Association (for 3 years in the 1960s), he was a member of the Auckland Grammar Schools Board for 14 years and its chairman from 1970-75.

He was a life member of the Franklin Club, the Pukekohe Golf Club, the Franklin Racing Club and Patron of the Franklin Club.

On moving his legal practice to Auckland in the 1950s, Mr Grierson’s first Auckland partner was Mr David Beattie, later to become a High Court judge and then Governor-General Sir David Beattie. Later partners included the Hon Justice Smellie and the Hon Justice Blanchard.

Mr Grierson was a talented violinist who gained much enjoyment from both classical and light music throughout his life. Known by all who had contact with him for his wisdom, wit and professionalism, Mr Grierson said on the occasion of his 90th birthday: “I have no hobby that I like better than going to the office and doing law work.”

This obituary was first published in LawTalk 416, 27 June 1994, page 1.

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Last updated on the 16th January 2013