Obituary: His Honour Thomas Kellock
Monday 01 February 1993
THOMAS KELLOCK'S successful career at the bar and later on the bench was the background to a lively and effective presence in Commonwealth and African affairs. Called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1949, when the rush to colonial independence was on, Tom Kellock was already a member of the Bars of what are now Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Sierra Leone, often representing political leaders in legal battles with the Crown in the dying days of Empire. Many became his friends as did the opposing counsel or juniors on the spot, who were sometimes - like Charles Njonjo, from Kenya, or the late Herbert Chitepo, at the time the only black barrister in Southern Rhodesia - to be found sharing his somewhat Spartan bachelor quarters in London, in the 1960s. He was alive to the growing horrors of Verwoerd's South Africa at an early stage, courageously visiting the country after the Rivonia arrests in 1963, when chairman of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in its greatest and most broadly based days.
While a member of Dingle Foot's chambers he continued to work abroad in Fiji, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Sarawak, occasionally briefed by Amnesty or Justice. From 1966 to 1972 he ran the legal division of the Commonwealth Secretariat, where his genial, larger-than-life personality and transparent genuineness did much to counter disappointment at the coldness of the UK to many of her 40-odd fellow member states.
He was an ideal collaborator thereafter with the Nobel peace prizewinner Sean MacBride, then UN Commissioner for Namibia, in helping to draft in 1974 UN Decree No 1, aimed at halting the export of Namibian resources outside UN sanction, in which Rio Tinto Zinc was the most prominent British performer. Yet he was a quintessential Englishman of his generation, a product of Rugby, Clare College, Cambridge, and the wartime navy, fond of good stories, good company, food and wine. He was also utterly without racial bias, and blazingly honest to the point of quite unlawyerlike outspokenness: whether, in the 1960s, blasting the simplistic socialism of a black South African exile with the statement that if he wanted British support he had best avoid the working class as they were the biggest racists of the lot, or, in the 1990s, warning the head of Namibia's new university that, as often before, the fine words of the university's charter were meaningless until put to the test in the conflicts with both government and students that were sure to come. As a committed Liberal reformer, he could get away with saying the unsayable.
His wonderfully happy married life with Jane Symonds, the mainstay of the Rev Michael Scott's Africa Bureau in the 1960s, was largely spent in the less frenzied atmosphere of Nottingham where from 1976 he served as a Circuit Judge, and Jane as a magistrate, until his partial retirement in 1991. He took up Liberal affairs again and had many plans before him, as chairman of the British section of Liberal International, not least to help promote a regeneration of Liberalism in South Africa.
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