New Zealand Law Society - Lester John Castle CMG, 1921 – 1986

Lester John Castle CMG, 1921 – 1986

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Lester Castle, President of the New Zealand Law Society from 1974 to 1977, died on 26 November 1986. His untimely and unexpected death was a shock to all those who knew him. It was only relatively recently that Lester Castle was appointed Chief Ombudsman and the profession as a whole was looking forward to having him in that position and having the benefit of his guiding hand for many years to come. That however was not to be.

Lester Castle had wide ranging interests and his contribution to the legal profession in the various capacities in which he served that profession is matched by his contribution to the Jaycees, New Zealand cricket, and his Church. In all those fields he was active and made notable contributions.

As President of the New Zealand Law Society, his diplomacy and skill and fundamental commonsense in dealing with many difficult situations shone through. As a representative overseas at many international conferences, Lester Castle ably assisted by his late wife Marie will always be remembered by those who came into contact with him on such occasions as a notable and personable character who left an unforgettable impression.

Born in Wellington, Mr Castle attended Christ’s College in Christchurch, where he was head prefect, captain of the First XI and a member of the First XV. He graduated LLB from Victoria University of Wellington in 1947, was admitted as a barrister and solicitor at Wellington in 1948 and the same year became partner to his father, Mr SG Castle, to form the firm of Castle and Castle. He was appointed Notary Public in 1969.

Mr Castle was first appointed a member of the Council of the Wellington District Law Society in 1963 and became President in 1971. He was a member of the Council and Standing Committee of the New Zealand Law Society in 1970-71, and succeeded the late Mr William G Smith as Treasurer of the Society in 1973.

With the sudden death of the new President, William Smith, in 1974, Mr Castle was elected President of the New Zealand Law Society in 1974 at the age of 53.

Lester Castle was appointed an Ombudsman on 6 April 1977 after completing his term as Law Society President. He was appointed as Chief Ombudsman on 16 October 1984, a position he held at the time of his sudden death.

From his Christ’s College and University days right through a notable career to the high office of Chief Ombudsman, Lester Castle is remembered for his kind words combined with his distinctive and commanding voice and use of the English language, as a leader of distinction, an outstanding contributor, a man with a keen sense of humour and ready wit, a person who could always see a glimmer of light no matter how grave and difficult the problem, a man who was a diligent worker, a clear thinker, a humble person with the human touch, a family man, a person with a love of life and living it and helping others to do the same, a prominent lawyer who has a firm and honoured place in the history of the profession in New Zealand. The CMG awarded to Lester Castle for his public service was richly deserved.

This obituary combines articles which appeared in LawTalk 5, 9 October 1974, and LawTalk 254, 11 February 1987.

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