New Zealand Law Society - Gordon L McLeod, 1908 - 1983

Gordon L McLeod, 1908 - 1983

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The death occurred in February 1983 of Dr GL McLeod, a partner in Macalister, Mazengarb, Parkin & Rose, Wellington.

Gordon McLeod was born in 1908 and was intensely proud of the fact that he established himself in life through his own efforts and without medical support.

His first chosen profession was that of medicine and through hard work and dedication he put himself through medical school. He never lost his interest in medicine and even whilst practising law he remained a keen reader of medical journals and was determined to keep up to date with the latest medical developments. He was noted for the depth and breadth of his medical knowledge and his knowledge of people and events in the profession.

No doctor for whom he acted was able to pull the wool over his eyes on a medical topic. Many an excuse for an operation or a treatment that had gone wrong was subjected to critical analysis. He would never be a party to advancing an excuse that was medically unsound. He was critical of anyone in his own profession who had allowed standards to slip but when an error occurred he was diligent in establishing why it had occurred and to sheet home the blame to the right quarter.

Dr McLeod's active medical career after graduation started in 1927 when he went to England to join the Royal Army Medical Corps. He loved Army life, with the discipline and protocol that attached to it. It can truly be said that he had not two, but three careers, the third career being that of a soldier. He admired the English way of life, he was a true Royalist and retained many friendships in England.

His first period of Army service lasted until 1937 during which time he saw service in India. After discharge he held posts as a surgeon in England until the outbreak of War when he returned to the Royal Army Medical Corp. During this period of Army service he became aware that his hands were unable to stand up to the rigours of surgery.This was a great disappointment to him, but it was typical that he applied his talents within the medical field to administration. Again he succeeded. As the administrator of an Army Hospital he was outstanding and insisted upon the highest standards, standards that he maintained himself. Everything had to be right and nothing escaped his sharp eyes. His ability in this field was demonstrated by his rapid promotion and he became the youngest full Colonel in the British Army.

At the end of the War he returned to the United Kingdom where, aware that he could not return to active surgery, he studied at the Institute of Hygiene and Public Health. After only one year he was appointed Medical Officer of Health at Ipswich.

In 1946 he returned to New Zealand to take up the position of Medical Officer of Health at Timaru. Timaru was the hometown of his wife, whom he married in the United Kingdom. Whilst in Timaru he formed a close friendship and admiration for his wife's father, Mr WD Campbell, a Barrister and Solicitor, and Crown Counsel. His interest in law was stimulated from this association.

His rise in the Health Department was rapid and he became in Head Office the Director of Child Health for New Zealand. The office of Director of Health for New Zealand was probably within his grasp, but he had turned his eyes to further goals in the field of law. Whilst in the Department he obtained his law degree in 1952. During his period in the Health Department he was a member of the Commission of Inquiry on child delinquency chaired by the late Dr OC Mazengarb. He always claimed that this Commission was the only one that until then had ever delivered its report without asking for an extension.

In 1955 he joined Macalister, Mazengarb and Co as a staff solicitor. Despite his seniority in years no task was too menial for him. He applied himself to the practice of law as opposed to academic learning and was always prepared to learn. he did not mind being relegated to a lower rank and took everything in his stride. It is to his great credit that he never either whilst a staff member or a partner took advantage of his age seniority. His worth and ability were soon recognised and he was admitted to partnership in 1955 after obtaining a dispensation from the then Supreme Court as he had not had the requisite three years experience in practice.

Dr McLeod was a fighter. There was nothing he loved more than, to use his own expression, "putting on his wig and going into battle". As an adversary in the courts he commanded great respect not only in the field of medico/legal litigation where his knowledge of medical matters made him supreme, but also in other fields of litigation. As an examiner of witnesses, his formidable manner stood him in great stead and this, coupled with his knowledge of the art of interrogation learned during his service in the Army, demolished many an opposition witness.

There are other facets of his life that merit comment. He was a master of the English language. His command of the language and his presence enabled him to be in charge at all times and many a person, a client or oppoent, was put in his place with a few well-chosen words accompanied by a direct and piercing glance and a bristling moustache.

His prodigious memory was apparent in all fields, medicine, law, the literary field and the Bible. A true Christian in every sense of the word and not just a good churchgoer, he was charitable, and prepared to forgive people who had let him down or who had been guilty of what he regarded as reprehensible behaviour. He was not a man to harbour a grudge.

With his wit and memory he was a tremendous raconteur and after-dinner speaker. He had the ability to speak without notes with great fluency and keep his audience's attention throughout. It might be more appropriate to call him an orator. Gordon received many requests to speak to a variety of audiences and many of the requests came from the medical profession, the profession that he had left. His standing with the medical profession was demonstrated when, in 1980, he was made a Fellow of the New Zealand Medical Association, a great honour for any practising doctor, but a much greater honour for one who had left the profession many years earlier.

He is survived by his wife, daughter, and grandchildren.

This obituary was first published on page 2 of the March 1983 issue of Council Brief, the monthly newsletter of the Wellington District Law Society, now the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Law Society.

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