OBITUARIES:Walter D'Arcy Hart

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The Independent Online
Walter D'Arcy Hart was the epitome of an old-fashioned private client solicitor. He dedicated himself to the interests of his clients, and was dogged in the pursuance of their entitlements under the law. He was also a brilliant lawyer, who rarely lost a point.

His encyclopaedic knowledge of personal taxation law and his tenacity in dealing with the tax authorities made him a daunting adversary. One junior Inland Revenue inspector was alleged to have resigned in despair at his own comparative ignorance of tax matters.

In the courts D'Arcy Hart achieved a notable victory in White v Franklin (1965), in the days of Income Relief. He instructed counsel to argue that dividends from shares in a family company received through a trust, whilst the recipient was employed by the company, should be treated as earned income - and the Court of Appeal agreed with him.

Years later, when well into his eighties, he appeared in person before the Special Commissioners of Income Tax. Although his client had lived in England for most of his life and the issue was one of domicile - which is determined by length of residence -he successfully argued, against the odds, that his client was domiciled in Australia.

D'Arcy Hart spent the greater part of his career at Gilbert Samuel & Co, now amalgamated with Frere Cholmeley, Bischoff. He joined the firm in 1921 and was a partner for more than 40 years. Much of his practice was concerned with the setting up and administration of trusts and settlements, and financial planning through trusts.

He was also a scrupulous executor, acting for the estates of, among others, Duff Cooper, Freda Dudley-Ward (whose name was at one time linked to the Duke of Windsor as Prince of Wales) and Dame Ellen Terry. Decades after Terry's death, D'Arcy Hart would meticulously apportion and distribute small royalty payments due to her legatees.

Long-standing clients included members of the families connected with the merchant bankers Samuel Montagu, in part because D'Arcy Hart's mother was a Montagu, a daughter of the first Lord Swaythling. When Samuel Montagu eventually ceased to be a purely private concern, D'Arcy Hart continued to look after the affairs of a number of directors and staff.

Until the 1950s Gilbert Samuel undertook a good deal of correspondent work for the French lawyers Fery d'Esclands. When, in those days, a Frenchman died leaving shareholdings in an English company it was necessary to obtain an English grant of probate. Clients in this context included the family of the Marquis de Sade.

D'Arcy Hart was a lifelong bachelor, but not by design. In 1964 his bride-to-be died a few weeks before their wedding. He bore the blow with great fortitude, as he did the deafness which hampered him increasingly throughout his life. He was a man of unflinching determination, who was writing letters to friends the evening before he died.

Walter D'Arcy Hart belonged to a generation that has all but vanished. He well remembered attending a dance given for the young Cynthia Noble (later Lady Gladwyn) at Kent House, Sir Saxton Noble's great Knightsbridge mansion. And by the time of his death, aged 97, he was the oldest occupant of chambers in Albany.

Fond of reminiscing, he used to relate how at the age of three months (according to older members of his family) he was presented to Gladstone, who shook his hand. Recounting the story he liked to add, with a slightly uncharacteristic levity, "Gladstone died shortly afterwards."

George Ireland

Walter Louis D'Arcy Hart, solicitor: born London 15 September 1897; served Royal Field Artillery 1914-19; admitted solicitor 1921; Gilbert Samuel & Co 1921-72 (senior partner 1954-72); partner, Bischoff & Co 1972-74; died London 27 December 1994.

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