New Zealand Law Society - Robert John Craig, 1922 - 2010

Robert John Craig, 1922 - 2010

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By Peter Connor and John Hanning

Bob Craig, for 50 years a highly respected solicitor in Wellington, died on 7 October 2010.

Bob was born in 1922. His law studies at Victoria University College were interrupted by service in the navy in World War II. As was common at that time he worked as a law clerk while studying. As he waited to be interviewed an elderly partner walked by and said “Ah, Craig the beneficiaries want us to get Probate in the X estate. Where is the file?” Bob reminded him that four years previously Bob had drafted the application and then as directed by the ancient partner had put the file on a particular shelf in the safe. Bob was escorted to the safe and there was the file exactly where he had left it.

Notwithstanding such sterling work there was no job.

Bob’s great friend Tim Blennerhassett has written that he and Bob, despairing of finding a job after many rejections by law firms, resolved to start their own search and registration agency. The Law Society got wind of it and would have none of it and Tim and Bob were hauled before the then president and firmly warned of the consequences of what was deemed to be a breach of the Law Practitioners Act.

Fortunately, Bob soon found employment and then a partnership with Stewart Hardy (later a Magistrate). Later partners in the firm included distinguished lawyers like Dick Heron (later Justice Heron) and characters like Gavin Loe and Kit Bond. Among a host of law clerks over the years were Sir Brian Elwood and Sir Ted Thomas.

As a practitioner, Bob was a generalist, a stickler for high ethical standards and a man dedicated to giving good service to his clients whether they could afford to pay or not. In particular, he was always willing to help returned servicemen and he developed considerable expertise in pursuing appeals before the War Pensions Appeal Board. He was for many years solicitor to the Wellington RSA.

Bob was a keen cricketer and an enthusiastic golfer being a noted character in the Devil’s Own for many years. He was a founder member of the Karori Golf Club where in later years his buggy driving was “to look out for”.

At Bob’s funeral, his son-in-law John Shewan noted that Bob was not a believer in the policy of the clear desk. His offices, first in the old Harcourts building in Panama Street and then in the DIC building, were unbelievably cluttered – but he knew where everything was – especially his putter, his cricket bat and his bottle of Scotch. One of the present authors is completely sympathetic to the clutter and the other to the necessity of good Scotch.

And so when Bob joined us at Hanning Connor in 1992 it was a meeting of like minds as Bob eased himself out of what had been a busy and thriving practice. It was a joy to practise law with him over the next six years.

Bob was pre-deceased by his beloved wife Trish and survived by his equally well loved daughters Janne Shewan and Robin Jones.

[The writers of this obituary drew upon Tim Blennerhassett’s book Echo Echo and the funeral eulogy given by Bob’s son-in-law John Shewan.]

This obituary was first published in Council Brief, November 2010.

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