ORAL HISTORIES INTERVIEW
Mr Kevin Ward
By John Emerson on 23 May 2009
(Joan Ward and Alice Colgrave present)
John Emerson: This is an interview with Kevin Ward by John Emerson, and this is taking place on Saturday 16 May 2009. I’m at Onkaparinga Lodge, Huntfield Heights, South Australia.
Kevin Ward: Good Lord, you got it all right.
John Emerson: Kevin, when were you born?
Kevin Ward: I was born 18th of January 1924.
John Emerson: Where were you born?
Kevin Ward: At Berri on the River Murray. Born there because that’s where my father had his first legal practice. We were there until about 1927, I think. Then we came down to town, and we’ve lived in Adelaide ever since.
John Emerson: Where did you go to school in Adelaide?
Kevin Ward: I went to school at the Sisters of St Joseph at [unclear] and then to Rostrevor from Grade 5 on.
John Emerson: What did your father and mother do? Your father was in the law, I think.
Kevin Ward: He was one of the greatest lawyers that ever was. He had the first James case in the Privy Council and he went over there and argued it and won it.
John Emerson: What year was that?
Kevin Ward: I think it was 1936, around about there. My mother didn’t work. She was a school teacher but she didn’t work once they were married.
John Emerson: So he had which firm?
Kevin Ward: He had his own firm, Ward Morrison Lichfield and Ward. Well, first of all it was Edmunds Jessup and Ward, and then by a set of coincidences they all seemed to die annually from about 1939. Charlie Jessup died first, then Charlie Edmunds, then Paddy Olstrom. They all carked it and the old man thought, well he might be the next one, next year, but he wasn’t. So there you are.
John Emerson: How did you get involved in law?
Kevin Ward: It was all we ever had. You see in those days, this was Depression days, your choice of jobs was not wide at all. Now, for instance I didn’t like medicine, I don’t like that business of bodies and things like that. What else could you do? Banking. Well there was never much future in being a bank clerk, and law seemed to appeal to me so I did it. I hated school very much, but I loved university.
John Emerson: Right. What year did you start university?
Kevin Ward: I started in 1941.
John Emerson: Did you go into the war?
Kevin Ward: Yes, I was in the war. I was in the Air Force. I enlisted when I was 18 - that was 18 January 1942. I was called up in August, I think it was, around about then anyhow. I remained in the Air Force until January 1946. I was a navigator.
John Emerson: Did that interrupt your studies at university?
Kevin Ward: Yes. There was hardly anyone doing law at university in those days. Tony Abbot was, poor old Tony - he had a leg that was very badly infected and they wouldn’t take him for anything at all. But apart from that, most people went straight into the Forces when they got to 18.
John Emerson: When the war ended, what month and what year did you come back?
Kevin Ward: I got discharged in January 1946 and we started law again in March 1946 and continued on. I had done six subjects before that, and we just continued on and completed our courses. There were a lot of ex-servicemen in it, Laurie Kirkman, Jim Mellor, all good mates of mine. We all just went ahead and finished our courses.
John Emerson: Who were your lecturers?
Kevin Ward: We had old Professor Campbell, he was number one, and he was the professor. Then there was Ernie Phillips, he was at Finlaysons. Who else was there? Frank Piper. My father was a lecturer but of course he couldn’t lecture when my brother and I were both students. He didn’t lecture that year at all.
John Emerson: Did you have John Bray?
Kevin Ward: I think we did. He never impressed me much, John Bray. He was a hard bloke to get to know to say the least. I’ve got nothing against him at all, but just I didn’t get to know him that well.
John Emerson: What year were you admitted to practice?
Kevin Ward: We were married in 1948, early, and I was admitted at the end of that year.
Joan Ward: Yes.
John Emerson: What effect did that have?
Kevin Ward: I started in my old man’s practice and remained ever since, never changed at all.
John Emerson: How did you choose to become a solicitor, or did you do both?
Kevin Ward: Well yes, that was funny. I’d all sorts of ideas when I started off, but I soon lost a lot of those. I was going to be a great criminal lawyer. I got hold of a few criminals and hated the sight of them, they lied like troopers - so I got into insurance, which apart from anything else is a very lucrative side of law to get into. I remained in that right up till the time I retired in 1994. I remained doing insurance up until that time. That was a very paying job.
John Emerson: Was it any particular kind of insurance?
Kevin Ward: SGIC was formed in that time and I was its first solicitor and did a lot of work for them. But I said to them at the time we’d have to split it up. One person couldn’t do that amount of work at all.
We did and it’s split all over the place now. My son John actually does a lot of it.
Alice Colgrave: Yes, I didn’t really do any of that, I did more WorkCover and medical negligence.
John Emerson: Were going into court?
Kevin Ward: I hated the courts.
John Emerson: Why was that?
Kevin Ward: Unfriendly mob they were - and then I finished up a judge for about the last 20 years on the Legal Practitioners Tribunal. You’re sitting there and they call so and so, in comes poor so and so. He walks in - no one says g’day to him, no one says good morning - you stand there, take The Bible in your right hand, swear him in, what’s your name. He doesn’t know anything at all. I think it’s a horrible place myself and I didn’t like it at all.
So I remained doing solicitor’s work, I found that much more to my liking, put it that way.
John Emerson: So you were briefing people to go to court?
Kevin Ward: Oh, yes. We had plenty of good counsel in our own place. My father died very young, but then there was Bob Ward and Gerry Ward and Tim Anderson and Terry Worthington and people like that.
Alice Colgrave: You didn’t need to brief.
Kevin Ward: Well, we briefed them. Yes, that’s right, we didn’t have to brief out. I didn’t like briefing out because frankly I thought we could always do better ourselves.
John Emerson: At the end of the 1950s there was talk of dividing the profession - what did you think about that at the time?
Kevin Ward: I thought it ought to be divided. It had started to divide itself, as a matter of fact. Chris Legoe and blokes like that had started their own chambers. Then it got bigger and bigger and bigger and now of course we do have a divided profession.
John Emerson: Did you get involved in the Law Society?
Kevin Ward: I did for a while, but I was never very interested in it. We had old Smiley Hunter and Cedric Thompson. I unfortunately was down the bottom end of the table and they were up the top and I never heard a word they said, not a word. And I thought, what am I here for, wasting time and money? So I gave it away after a couple of years.
Alex my son - he’s gone on and on with it. He was President.
Alice Colgrave: You did some work for the Law Society.
Kevin Ward: Yes.
John Emerson: Do you remember many of the dominant practitioners of the day?
Kevin Ward: Well Frankie Moran comes to mind. Unfortunately you don’t know him, but when I was at school in the Leaving, old Frankie came back to school at Rostrevor. He had been working for what used to be Genders Wilson and Bray - it was Dr Bray, Eustace Genders - he was Alec Genders father - and Wilson - he finished up a Member of Parliament, I think he’s a senator.
Now, Frank, he got back to school and he revolutionised the school a bit. Frank was a bit of a larrikin always and he smoked, he had to go to the lavatory every so often and have a smoke, all this sort of business.
I got to know him and then he went to Uni a year before me. He went in 1941, I went 1942. Then I went into the Air Force before him and I lost sight of him completely until years later. I was broke, and when you’re broke you always went and sat in the Padre’s rooms, and Frank was there too.
I’d come back from the Middle East and he was there, and the Padre came in in a great state - the cricket team, Lindsay Hassett and co had all gone off to play Somerset or someone like that, right down in the West of England, and left all their gear behind. They hadn’t taken a bat, the ball or anything.
Anyway, here was a warrant to go down there, and Frank said well I haven’t got any money, so he took it and off he went. And they said, will you do the scoring? He did the scoring. He was a neat guy and he knew cricket backwards, so he became the scorer and he was the scorer of that team until about April1944 or 1945.
He remained the scorer and that cricket team did a tour right over India, Bangladesh. I don’t know if Bangladesh was even in existence then. I’ve heard people telling the story of how he got the job because he was a friend of Evans. It wasn’t so at all, it was just pure fluke of him being in the Padre’s office at the time he wanted someone to take the gear down, and that’s how he got the job.
Then of course he became a very wild sort of defence lawyer all his life and he became a judge, and died finally, old Frankie.
John Emerson: Yes. Who else?
Kevin Ward: There was John Bray as you said, very good. Leo Travers. There were lots of very good lawyers around. Harry Alderman, my old man was a very, very good lawyer there, and did their jobs well. There were many fights in court, the behaviour in court was disgraceful.
John Emerson: So you used to go to court in ...
Kevin Ward: As an instructing solicitor, yes. I did a few jobs in robes and that sort of thing, but I didn’t like it all.
John Emerson: Who did you appear before?
Kevin Ward: Mr Justice Abbott, Mayo, the Chief Justice Napier. That’s about all. There weren’t very many - there were only four then in those days.
John Emerson: At the end of the Fifties they went through a very quick succession of those.
Kevin Ward: Oh yes, but they didn’t up till then. Up till then they were very slow. The Chief Justice was there for about 20 to 25 years and no movement. Mayo wasn’t there that long.
John Emerson: What do you remember about the Stuart case in 1959 when the little girl was found dead at Ceduna? What was the feeling around Adelaide that you remember?
Kevin Ward: That he did it - there was no doubt about it - and he changed his mind having admitted it. Toby Gordon, a great friend of mine, was the Magistrate at that time over there in that part. Toby was no idiot and he wouldn’t have let an admission of guilt go through unless he was sure it was meant.
I haven’t got any doubt in my mind that Stuart did it, although many people have got the opposite view. It was a strange thing, a terrible thing actually for things to happen the way they did. But I lost touch with it after that. If you’re mixed up in law, you can’t be wondering about what might have happened or what might not. As soon as the thing finishes you let it go and don’t think about it any more.
John Emerson: Around the same time do you remember Sir Mellis appointed his own son Queens Counsel?
Kevin Ward: Do I ever, do I ever. He came out and he appointed him a QC and he appointed Eric McLaughlin a QC at the same time, and they were terrible appointments. He had his QC' ship taken away from him and rightly so, he should never have got it.
John Emerson: Did you ever know Roma Mitchell?
Kevin Ward: Yes, I knew her very well. We weren’t the most friendly of people, but we knew each other quite well. I was on a couple of committees with her, the Ryder Cheshire Foundation and that sort of thing.
Alice Colgrave: She was your year at Uni wasn’t she?
Kevin Ward: No, she was a long way ahead of me. She got through about 1936, and I didn’t start till 1940 odd. She was a nice enough person but our personalities just didn’t mix very well. But quite a nice sort of person.
John Emerson: Did you notice much of her impact on females in the legal profession?
Kevin Ward: I think females were coming on anyhow. I was completely wrong in my views on that. I thought that the law wasn’t a job for females, it was too hard and too rotten, but I was obviously wrong. We employed lots of females in my office. Tony Besanko’s wife worked for me for years and years. I remember once, when I was introducing her to someone, I said, this is Andrea Besanko, we’ve been working together for three years. Nine years, Mr Ward. Oh, nine years. So I was put in my place there wasn’t I, quite correctly.
But the female input was coming more and more all the time, and they were good lawyers, many of them, very, very good lawyers.
John Emerson: Did you take women on in articles?
Kevin Ward: Yes.
John Emerson: Who did you take on?
Kevin Ward: Oh, I remember Andrea Besanko. We had - who was that fair girl?
Alice Colgrave: I’m just trying to think of her name.
Kevin Ward: Yes, she was a good lawyer too, I’ve forgotten her name. You see I’ve been retired now nearly 20 years and you do forget things.
Joan Ward: Sometimes it seemed we knew all of them. You always seemed to know who they all were.
Kevin Ward: I did know them. Julia Dunstone was one. We had many girls, I can’t think of all their names. They were all pretty good lawyers too, the whole lot of them. You could always rely on them to do what they had to do.
You didn’t have to supervise. We didn’t like the idea of supervision at all. To work in our firm people had to be able to do it on their own and they’d come to you if they needed assistance - that was always available, but it was far better if they did things on their own.
John Emerson: Do you think there was a division between the Catholic and the non Catholic?
Kevin Ward: There was originally, yes. I’m a Catholic, I’ll state that before we - I wasn’t a practising one. I feel very strongly about this too. Until “Tace” Hannan was appointed - he used to be the Crown Solicitor, until he was appointed an Acting Judge - we’d never had a Catholic judge in South Australia, that’s how bad it was.
Now, of course, it’s riddled with Catholics, and to me it doesn’t matter two hoots. We never, ever asked a person what his religion was. We didn’t think it relevant to the practice of law. As long as they did their legal work properly it didn’t matter what religion they were. There was a big division, but it’s not there now.
John Emerson: How did that operate, because even “Tace” Hannan was never actually appointed a permanent judge?
Kevin Ward: I think he was.
John Emerson: No, he was only ever an acting judge.
Kevin Ward: I thought he was appointed a full-time judge.
John Emerson: The first Catholic, I think, was Jim Brazel.
Kevin Ward: He could have been, or Leo Travers. One of those, it would have been. They were both good blokes and it didn’t matter two hoots that they were not Proddys, they did their jobs properly and that was all it took. They were good lawyers too, both of them.
John Emerson: Do you remember when John Bray was appointed Chief Justice - what did the profession think about that at the time?
Kevin Ward: It was a very good appointment. I was not a friend of his at all but I don’t think anyone was really. His was considered a good appointment. He was always considered a very, very good lawyer. I didn’t appear before him. Appeared against him a couple of times early on. That was a good appointment, no doubt about that at all. And King’s, afterwards, was very good. I heard Toby Gordon, who’s not a Catholic, say that he thought that King was the best Chief Justice we’ve ever had. Well I don’t know, but that’s what I heard him say, I was there when he said it.
John Emerson: Do you remember some of the big cases that you were in, or big insurance claims that you were involved in over the course of your career?
Kevin Ward: Yes. It didn’t matter really how big they were. If they were a big claim, it meant that the liability side of it remained exactly the same as it ever was, but the damages side had to be examined in much more detail.
If you got a claim for $1,000 that’s a pretty easy one to dispose of. If you got one for $1 million, that’s not easy at all - that one is hard and you’ve got to really work at that to add them all up.
We had lawyers there, I won’t mention names but I wouldn’t be up for defamation because I could prove its truth, who’d make a claim for say $20,000 - how do you make that up? Oh, it’s a global figure. I said, you can’t have global figures in claims for damages. You’ve got to be able to justify what you’re claiming: so much for general damages, so much for loss of wages, so much for this. But they would just think of a figure, oh $20,000. It bore no relation to reality at all half the time.
John Emerson: Some of these claims can go on for years, what was the longest one that you did?
Kevin Ward: We didn’t have them going on for years at the time. I cannot understand why they do go on. You take the Voyager claim - when the Voyager hit the Melbourne - we saw the Melbourne coming into Sydney Harbour as a matter of fact, with a big hole in the front of it.
The claims for that were coming on 25 years after. Now, that’s the fault of the solicitor acting for the people. He should have had the thing on and over and disposed of. There’s no excuse for that at all.
They don’t get any better by letting them go on. Now, some you have to. You have to let children’s claims go up till they are 18; you can’t really settle them until they are. There’s no excuse for these long delays that are going on, in my opinion.
John Emerson: How did the firm evolve over the 60 odd years?
Kevin Ward: It just got bigger and bigger.
John Emerson: So when you started there were how many people in the...
Kevin Ward: When I first went into it, there was my father, Tom Molleson, Ken Lichfield, Bob Ward, myself, Gerry Ward - there were six partners. We grew to over 20 finally, but we had over 50 solicitors at one stage there.
John Emerson: Where were you based?
Kevin Ward: We were at Epworth Building first of all, but that was no good. That was built in 1927 and all of the rooms had doors opening onto the passage. We finished up with about 50 or 60 rooms and it was a lot to supervise if all the doors were shut when they should have been shut and all this sort of thing.
John Emerson: The name of the firm went through quite a number of changes, did it?
Kevin Ward: It was Edmonds Jessup & Ward, then Jessup Ward Olstrom & Molleson. Then Ward Molleson Lichfield & Ward, and then Ward & Partners. I don’t like changing them but it did in fact change along those lines.
John Emerson: Over this time, you got married around 1948?
Kevin Ward: 1948.
John Emerson: I think you had, was it twelve children?
Kevin Ward: Twelve children, yes.
John Emerson: How did you manage that along with the work?
Kevin Ward: She brought all the kids up.
Joan Ward: Both of you bring your kids up.
Kevin Ward: I used to work about 70 hours a week.
Joan Ward: Then back to the office.
Kevin Ward: Finally when the kids were doing higher exams they used to come in and do their homework in there with me. It was quieter and easier for them.
Alice Colgrave: You’d come home and eat with us and then go back to work.
Kevin Ward: Yes, I would go back then and any of the kids there would come back with me who wanted to, which was good.
John Emerson: How many of your children became lawyers?
Kevin Ward: Three. Alice is one, John is one and Alex is one.
Alex is going to be - I think he’s set to become boss of the Law Council of Australia, either next year or the year after.
John Emerson: Whereabouts are you, Alice?
Kevin Ward: Oh, she’s got the softest job this side of the Black Stump. It’s a lot of hard work, I know it’s a lot hard work though.
Alice Colgrave: I have to talk it up. I provide the Law Society with risk management training.
Kevin Ward: They rang her up and said would she like a job doing the risk management for the Law Society and the medical profession, and she does them both, which is great. She’s got all of her speeches and things prepared. They’ve got to be worked on, of course, all the time.
It’s good. You like it, yes?
Alice: It’s very good, very good.
John Emerson: While I think of it, did you ever know Cedric Isaacson?
Kevin Ward: Yes, I know Cedric Isaacsen. I played lacrosse with him. He’s a funny bloke, Cedric, to say the least. Isaacsen Bright & Zelling the firm used to be. Both Bright and Zelling became judges. Cedric never did, he went on working. Is he still alive?
John Emerson: No, he died two weeks ago. He was 98. He retired four or five years ago.
Kevin Ward: His Dad was the manager of the Bank of Adelaide, when it existed.
Joan Ward: I think men like to be lawyers. I think they enjoy that.
John Emerson: What made you work 70 hours a week, rather than say 40?
Kevin Ward: There’s work to be done and money to be earned. The two went hand in hand. I never believed in just working 40 hours and dropping off then. We used to go back night after night and get stuck into things there.
John Emerson: The work you did in the evenings, is that different from what you might have done in the daytime?
Kevin Ward: No, it’s a continuation of it. You’d have all sorts of jobs.
When we finished up, we had a place up in Surfer’s Paradise and I used the services of a company that brought stuff up to you and took stuff away. They used to send me about half a dozen files that thick, and I’d give them an opinion on it, and send it off to the correct partner, and the file would go on from there. I would give them the original opinion and away it would go.
Joan Ward: Kevin liked to work, didn’t you?
Kevin Ward: I didn’t mind work. I’d just as soon not work as work, but I think if work is there to be done, you’ve got to do it. If it’s not there well don’t bother about it, sit down and enjoy yourself, have a beer – a Scotch now.
Joan Ward: We also had to have some money. We had a lot of children to feed and raise.
Kevin Ward: That’s right. Make that bit of money.
John Emerson: Did you stick in insurance more or less the whole way through?
Kevin Ward: No. The thing I like best of all was estate work. I found that very good to do, but it wasn’t as paying and it was slower. The insurance work after a while, you could whip through it like one thing. But estate work you couldn’t, you had to be slow and sure and everything had to be right - every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed. That’s the way that worked.
The insurance stuff you could do so easily, and it followed a pattern.
John Emerson: Did you do anything for returned servicemen?
Kevin Ward: We did a lot of work for nothing. Not so much for returned servicemen, no - although I was one myself - but it just didn’t come my way. Pensioners we did for nothing, and for clergy, and that sort of thing. People who couldn’t afford to pay, didn’t pay. In insurance work, you usually got paid anyhow.
Alice Colgrave: You did all the schools’ work didn’t you?
Kevin Ward: Yes, I did a lot of schools’ work.
Alice Colgrave: I remember you saying, for a few years there you did risk management for the Law Society for nothing?
Kevin Ward: Yes, five years I did it. Now they’ve got a whole staff, and all paid huge fortunes and I did the stuff for nothing for five years.
John Emerson: Can you think of anything else that you’d like to put on the record?
Kevin Ward: Not really. I had a good time in law, and three of the kids did it so it couldn’t have been too bad because they followed on, and they all seem to like it.
John Emerson: I think your brother was a ...
Kevin Ward: Gerry?
John Emerson: Yes. You certainly were one of the main legal families in Adelaide, I would say.
Kevin Ward: We were, yes. Could be still. Poor old Gerry though, his health broke down. I was given five years to die when I was 60 – well, I’m now 85. Gerry was given less than that, and he’s still alive, he’s 82 now, so there you are. He’s done pretty well, really.
John Emerson: How old was your father when he died?
Kevin Ward: He was fifty-three.
All the Ward males - and Alice tells me some of the females as well - suffer from heart trouble, not cancer. It’s funny how we’ve determined that some families suffer from cancer, and other families suffer from heart trouble - ours is heart.
Going back through things we find that there are oodles of people, males especially, who have died around about the 50 mark. Our son, Kevin, dropped dead at 48, just a terrible thing - up in his cousin’s place in Alice Springs. They came out and found him lying on the floor dead. A horrible thing to find. Poor old Kev.
Alice Colgrave: You’ve made lots of friends in the law, Dad.
Kevin Ward: Yes, I did have lots of friends in law. We fought hard and mucked around and all that sort of thing, but I did have lots of friends in it.
I never made any enemies. Why people can’t stand this one and can’t stand that, we never had that. Although we fought a lot, we’d go and have a beer afterwards.
John Emerson: You’ve got a reputation for always maintaining friendly relations.
Kevin Ward: I’ve always tried to.
John Emerson: This is from one of your former staff, and now the Chief Judge: “He never, ever, held grudges.”
Kevin Ward: Terry? Dear old Tubby. He was a great mate, Terry Worthington, and his wife. I used to nurse her when she was that big. She’s not big now is she? Only a tiny thing. She was of Indian parentage and she was a tiny wee thing like that when she was born. We saw a lot of her. She’s a nice girl too, dear old Jill.
Alice Colgrave: I remember growing up that we had all these children at home anyway – but all Terry’s vintage of people who worked for you, they were always at our house. They came to every wedding, every party. The firm was a big extension of our family, that’s how it felt.
John Emerson: Yes, that’s interesting.
Alice Colgrave: Mum, particularly, those men are as fond of Mum as they are of Dad because they were just part of our family.
Kevin Ward: Mum knew them all.
Alice Colgrave: A lot of them.
John Emerson: I wonder if that’s one of the things that’s changed, is that there was less of a boundary between a firm and the family life.
What do you think changed?
Kevin Ward: I think people got very greedy. They saw us making a bit of money - and it was all hard work - and some thought that it could be done without the hard work and it can’t. You’ve got to work hard before it comes along.
John Emerson: Yes. All right, is there anything else we can add?
Kevin Ward: No, I think that’s enough. If you think of any more, feel free to get in touch at any time. We’re here all the time. I just sit over there and I look out the window. For someone who’s been pretty active all his life, it’s not very good. But there you are, it can’t be helped.
Alice: Oh, well, you’re here to tell the tale, Dad.
Kevin Ward: Yes, I’m here to tell the tale.
Kevin Ward died three months after this interview.