New Zealand Law Society - Bryan Nelson Vickerman, 1910 - 2001

Bryan Nelson Vickerman, 1910 - 2001

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Bryan Vickerman died on 30 March 2001 at the age of 90. A week earlier he was still working five days a week as a consultant with McGrath Vickerman Campbell.

Admitted to the bar in April 1932, he was the oldest practising lawyer in Wellington, and one of the oldest in New Zealand.

Bryan Vickerman is described by colleagues as "a private person", "quiet and unassuming", "not prone to blowing his own trumpet". Without exception, friends and associates describe his scrupulous honesty."His word was his bond", "One of nature's gentlemen", "Straight as a die" are the phrases used to describe him.

Among his accomplishments and associations were the following:

  • Founding member, honorary solicitor and life member of the Paraparaumu Golf Club.
  • Honorary solicitor and life member of the Kapiti Bowling Club.
  • Honorary solicitor of the Paraparaumu RSA (for over 50 years).
  • President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, 1973-74.
  • Defence lawyer in courts martial in Japan following World War II.
  • Member of boards, among them AC Hatricks, Nielsens Electrical, Denhards baker, Tourist Souvenirs, Bonds Hosiery.
  • Commissioned territorial officer in the New Zealand Army for many years.

Bryan Vickerman's son Mark Vickerman delivered the eulogy at Bryan's funeral and the following is taken from that:

"He was a simple man. Not commonplace, but a rare man, who lived his life by simple, heartfelt and Christian principles, by virtues easily mouthed but rarely lived so fully.

"My father was a soldier. I learned only the other day from the official history that he was wounded in Italy in September 1944. But he never told us that. I think that was because, in common with all those who served and returned with the peace they had won, he wanted to shield us from the terrible cost of that peace.

"Actually, it's not true that he never talked about the war. He did tell me one story. One hot night in Italy he and his crew were sleeping under their tank. He was sleeping in his underpants when the balloon went up. As he scrambled over the side and into the tank a branch from an overhanging tree caught and took his underpants. And so he went into battle naked.

"I think for his there was another reason he did not talk about the war - he was a humble man, a man without ambition for himself - he had no vanity or self-pride. He believed that merit was its own reward.

"So I will not read you a list of his achievements - he would not have wanted that.

"Some mistook his humility for weakness rather than see if for the strength it was. And shamefully they tried to exploit him. He was a trusting man - he trusted unless proved wrong. His hand was always open. And when he was wronged he was not angered but saddened, believing that those who had wronged him had betrayed not him but themselves.

"So there was humility and trust and loyalty and compassion. These are old-fashioned words and I use them in the old fashioned sense. These are not words he would have used about himself but living principles infused in every fibre of his being.

"He subordinated the loss of Joan, his wife and our mother, the infirmities of old age, and the treachery of his partner, to the welfare of his family, his friends and his clients for all of whom he worked indefatigably.

"The American author, Felix Adler, said: The dead are not dead if we loved them truly
In our lives we give them immortality
Let us arise and take up the work they have left unfinished
And preserve the treasures they have won
And round out the circuit of their being to the fullness of the ampler orbit of our own. 

"Bryan Nelson Vickerman - husband, father, soldier, solicitor, loyal and faithful friend.

"Go gently into the night
As gently as you walked among us."

This was published in the May 2001 issue of Council Brief, the monthly newsletter of the Wellington District Law Society.

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