New Zealand Law Society - Neil McNaught (“Boof”), 1939 - 2009

Neil McNaught (“Boof”), 1939 - 2009

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Neil McNaught, universally known to friends and acquaintances as "Boof", was a well-liked character of the Wellington legal scene.

Stories are legion of his ability and determination to build houses on sites where others would only dare to dream, as are tales of his so-called "extramural activities'". While he was a competent and professional lawyer, he found the time and energy to pursue many a venture including eel farming, snapper fishing and extensive travel.

Neil McNaught was born on 9 June 1939, in Wellington and attended Scots College as a day boy and then as a boarder in his final year. It was in the boarding school, it is said, that he became known as a bit of a "boof head", and the name stuck. Similarly, his penchant for finishing sentences with "Beep Beep" is remembered with affection though it is not known if the Roadrunner cartoons provided the model.

Neil McNaught studied law at Victoria University and was admitted in 1968. While studying he had worked as a law clerk at O'Regan Arndt & Peters and also at Webb Richmond Bryan & Bryan.

As a fully qualified lawyer Boof joined Brandon Ward McAndrew & Co. Friend John Lundon says Boof was given a tiny, converted broom cupboard as an office from where dense clouds of cigar smoke would billow as Boof puffed away on the Cuban cigars that he favoured. Michael Shanahan, who presented the eulogy at Boof's funeral, says that despite his eccentricities Boof won the respect of the partners in the firm.

Boof and Wisha Cahill were married in December 1966 and their first house was built with "blood sweat and tears, a State Advances loan and a lot of hope" – on one of the difficult sites that he specialised in. This first house in Mairangi Road, Wadestown, was followed by several others over the years.

Boof was noted for unusual forms of transport including Suzuki motor scooters, and a BMW Isetta "bubble car" accessed by opening the bubble windshield which also lifted the steering wheel and controls. John Lundon says Neil was the "fastest law clerk in town", parking in tiny spaces as he raced between the Land Transfer and the Land Registry offices.

John Langford, in practice with Boof for nine years and continuing to share offices for some years more, said life was never dull when he was around.

Neil McNaught was a loveable, decent man with an infectious personality. Sadly, he was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease in the last years of his life.

The large turn-out at his funeral, from the judiciary, the profession and the general community, attests to the esteem in which he was held.

He is survived by Wisha and their two children.

This obituary was first published in Council Brief, November 2009.

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