Roger Farley QC

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. 

5 thoughts on “Roger Farley QC

  1. Tom Gilbart

    Well written Jaime. He was a lovely man.
    I was a beneficiary of his generous purchasing of drinks on my first trip to Dublin with the Circuit. He and Molly were the life and soul of the party that night and went out of their way to talk to as many people as possible.
    It is worth saying that as well as the Circuit, his other great passion was Blackburn RUFC. He was a regular there for decades and they will hold a minute’s silence in his memory tomorrow.

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  2. John Swanson

    I am not (was not) a Northern Circuiteer and know little of their stories although I heard a few in the Lake District when Roger came with some north easterners for the drinking a few years ago. Rather I knew Roger from days when we were both 13 year old schoolboys in the same classes for some 5 years and in the same rugby teams. Armed with toothpaste we ventured where no Master would dare to go in search of a pint of beer and the freedom to smoke. I smoked whatever cigarettes I could afford but Roger smoked Balkan Sobranie in a pipe (signs of things to come) In later years when prefects in our different houses, it was even more arduous as not only masters but non prefects had to be avoided. But most importantly, as a solicitor wanting to change to the bar at a time when that was not often done, I contacted Roger with whom I had not been in touch for many years but who I knew had recently changed to the bar. He could not have been more helpful and I owed him a huge debt of gratitude. we kept in touch spasmodically over the following years. I had heard some time ago that he was no longer the superb athlete I knew at school but it came as a shock and a great sadness to learn today (18.11.15) that Roger had died. My heart goes to Molly who I know and also to their sons of whom I have heard but not had the pleasure of meeting.

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  3. Brian Williams

    Well written Jamie. I agree with every word. It was always a pleasure to be in Roger’s company. He was a truly unique man and I was saddened to hear of his death.
    Brian Williams.

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