New Zealand Law Society - Frederick John Shaw, 1927 – 2013

Frederick John Shaw, 1927 – 2013

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By Garry Thompson

When Fred Shaw died in his sleep on 29 May 2013, the day after the annual Christ’s College/Boys’ High rugby match, the profession lost one of its identities.

Fred lived all his life in Christchurch and in fact until his home was wrecked by burglars four years prior to his death he had lived all his life in the same house. In his last four years he lived in the Blenheim Road Motor Inn.

He was born on 19 January 1927. Fred’s father had a dairy farm at Old Tai Tapu Road but wanted Fred to join a profession. Fred went to Medbury and did well academically as well as being in the top rugby and cricket teams. Fred went on to Christ’s College and excelled similarly but had the rare distinction of captaining both the First Rugby XV and the First Cricket XI. Less than 10 people in the history of that school have captained both.

When Fred left school initially he worked for the accountants Hoare Taylor and Quirk but after one year decided to change to law and started at Charles S Thomas and Thompson on January 1946. With various name changes and a takeover of the firm by Purnell Creighton in 2005 he worked in the same office for the following 66 years.

Fred was a modest man who described himself as a conveyancing hack, but he was much better than that. Not only did he do considerable commercial conveyancing for many years, he also had some success in other fields.

In the 1950s he was junior counsel to Bruce Weir in Sleeman v Colonial Distributors Ltd [1956] 1 NZLR 188. This was heard before Sir Francis Adams. Fred was successful. For some years this was a leading case on leases and it was reported in the New Zealand Law Reports.

In the early 1960s Fred registered a lien on behalf of Farrier-Waimak Ltd against Hornby Developments Ltd and this became a leading case on indefeasibility of title. The Privy Council held that Fred’s lien took priority over a Bank of New Zealand mortgage (Farrier-Waimak Ltd v Bank of New Zealand [1965] NZLR 426; [1965] AC 376).

Fred had a great feeling for the law and if anyone tried to tell him that a particular scenario was what Fred considered it should be not, his favourite expression was “this can’t be the law”. He usually engaged someone to research the matter and was invariably correct.

Fred had a clean record as a lawyer. He had no complaints against him and was never accused of overcharging. When he died he had the record of being the practitioner in Canterbury who had held a practising certificate for longer than anyone else. It is understood that there are only two members of the profession in New Zealand who have held a practising certificate for longer.

Outside the law Fred maintained his passion for sport and played senior cricket for Old Collegians for 12 years after he left school. Were it not for Canterbury being extremely strong in cricket, Fred would have been a regular Canterbury representative.

When he retired from senior cricket Fred played lower grade cricket for 14 years and continued to make runs. At one stage during a season he was once out for approximately 400 runs.

Although Fred did not continue with his rugby career when he left school he took up golf and got to a nine handicap.

Fred enjoyed horse racing. He was a steward for the Canterbury Park Trotting Club for 28 years prior to the three Addington clubs becoming one in 1998 and although a very small punter he was very successful.

Fred was generous to the organisations that he was involved with. He gave to the Canterbury Club, the Valley of Peace Cricket Club and at the time of his death was the longest continuous sponsor at Addington Raceway.

Fred will be missed by all who knew him. Having started in my firm four months after I was born, he certainly played a big part in my life.

This obituary was first published in Canterbury Tales, July 2013, page 3.

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