I once spent a few hours in a pub with John Broadley. I should make it clear that I was in a pub with John Broadley on more than one occasion, but this relates to a specific occasion.
As I say, the pub visit was over quite a few hours of an afternoon. John spent the first hour telling stories. John then spent the second hour telling, largely, the same stories. And then the third. Those of you who did not know John might now be thinking that I am describing a crushing bore. The thing is, I am not. Because despite the stories being told on a loop, each telling of them was funny. And I mean properly funny. Freshly funny. The anecdote may have been the same but with some new punchlines dotted along the way, some new witheringly funny descriptions amongst the details.
Despite the wine causing repetition on that one occasion, John had an immense stock of funny stories and a considerable talent for telling them. Often they were about himself with no concern for the fact that he was the butt of the joke. And they were always told with the skill of a raconteur displaying a personal, natural style.
There is a large part of me that would both love to know how John would describe me, because it would be bloody funny, and also a way in which I don’t want to know because it would be frighteningly accurate. As reminded by Tom Gilbart, my friend in chambers, his description of a Judge’s court in Manchester as “Narnia – always winter, never Christmas” is a classic example.
As well as great company, John was a very kind man. When I had been around the Circuit for about 3 years I had a bout of serious illness. John wrote to me. Twice. Both letters containing warm wishes and the tonic of a story or two. At that point I barely knew him.
I remember there being a stranger in the robing room one day. They were clearly new to all of this. Very new. They were trying to put their wing collar on. Upside down. Many of us hid a snigger behind our hands. It was John who walked over and said “come on son, let me give you a hand”.
When I took Silk last year John wrote to me again. By now he was suffering from significant health difficulties. The handwriting betrayed the fact that there now existed some frailty. The warmth and humour was as robust as ever. The letter was characteristically hilarious. I can’t share it with you because it was also undoubtedly libelous.
JB was a fabulous jury advocate because jurors felt the warmth and appreciated his razor sharp analysis. He had the bedside manner and precision of a surgeon. He was the advocate of choice for many a firm of solicitors in their “big”cases but he was never one of those brash and arrogant barristers about his work. He was far too busy making us all laugh.
I will always remember John as a man who loved a gossip, loved to tell a story and loved life. His laugh, often at his own punchline, was infectious. But he was not a man for whom the label “joker” is right. He was so much more than that. He was kind. The robing rooms of the Northern Circuit are diminished by his absence.
My condolences to his family and friends, of which there are so many.