One of the remaining joys of being a barrister is that you meet some remarkable people. Some are great intellects, some are great characters, some are advocates of such conspicuous brilliance they make you feel inadequate. There are some that you cannot imagine functioning in the real world, yet they blossom in the law.
A man who was very much at home in the real world was Roger Farley QC. He was, in every sense of the word, a colossus of the Northern Circuit. It was, therefore, with very great sadness that I heard he had unexpectedly passed away this week.
Now Roger was someone I knew from as early as my second six. The reason why I say he was very much at home in the real world was because Roger would treat everyone – second six pupil, junior clerk, High Court Judge, man in the betting shop – in exactly the same way, with a generosity of spirit and a twinkle in his eye.
A son of Blackburn, he was equally at home in the public bar of any pub in the world (and I wager he had visited a high proportion of them) as he was in the courtroom. Roger was a repository for every story about the Northern Circuit that there has ever been, and a fine narrator of each of them.
As an advocate there was just a hint of the Columbo about him. He was quite softly spoken but with more than just a hint of a Blackburn accent. There was a decent chance there may be a trace of his lunch on his jacket. Yet he allied an understated charm with a clear and precise mind. He may have been big on laughs but he was no joker.
I was once the prosecution junior in a case in which he defended. Every time I had a speaking role in the case the Judge found fault with what I was doing. Roger said to me “every time you open your mouth and the Judge starts I can’t help but think of Captain Manwaring saying ‘you stupid boy’. I am surprised the Judge hasn’t started calling you Pike.” And when I finally stood up to the Judge and got him to back down over something it was Roger who came up to me at the end of the day and said “I was holding my breath there for a minute, hoping you were right. And you were. Well done. He won’t come for you again.” And he was right.
He loved sport and the regular trip from the Circuit to Dublin to play Rugby. He loved the Rugby, of course, and the bars of Dublin loved their increase in takings when he was in town. And not just from the copious amounts that Roger could put away, he would buy anyone standing within three feet of him a drink without a second thought.
So it is very sad that the Circuit has lost a very kind, very funny and very able man. Those of us who knew him will not forget him. He may have known every Circuit story but he also stars in one or two of them.
Roger, it was a very great pleasure to have known you.