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.
He came with me to Roger Farley’s funeral.The celebrant omitted to press the button and Rogers coffin remained on the catafalque. As we filed out of the crematorium John said “Typical Farley, always the last to leave” A great crack from one who was always the first with his hand in his pocket and never missed his round. If he had a phrase to describe you it was well earned and kindly meant. I shall miss him.
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As we all shall. But I know that you and he shared many a great time.
If only all of us were such men as to deserve such heartfelt words.
Such a lovely memorium to JB, he was never far from a smile, a quip and a joke. He was, as you described, so much more. Thank you
Sorry to hear of John’s passing. Even to London Counsel he was truly a legend and always welcoming. Commiserations to his family and friends.
I am John’s brother Tony. I can’t see who wrote this but can I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was a wonderful read. Do you own the copyright or can I use it. I’m too old and stupid to do Twitter but thanks to all who have posted lovely memories of John
Hi Tony. My name is Jaime Hamilton. We have actually met quite a long time ago. Please feel to use this however you would like. My condolences to you and the rest of the family. JB will always be thought of so fondly by the Circuit.
I too had the priviledge of sharing a beer with John on many occasions including on one memorable trip to the West of Ireland. We spent a wet and windy afternoon holed up in a bar in Co. Galway and John had the regulars enthralled as he regaled them with stories long and tall. At the end of a lengthy session the barman shook him firmly by the hand and declared him to be ‘one fine story teller’.
John was a great barrister in the ‘old school tradition’. He had a winning way with both Judge and Jury and always treated his opponent with courtesy and respect. He was an even better man, decent, caring and honourable. He was generous in spirit and a good friend. I, and many many others will miss him deeply. The Northern Circuit has lost one if its great circuiteers. My condolences go out to his family. There will be an emptiness that can never be filled. Rest in peace silver fox…
I was a wet behind the ears office junior when I first met JB. He was unstintingly kind to me and over the years we became, to my great good fortune, friends. I recall he came second in an old fashioned armed blag. It was the punter’s second or third offence of that type and he was getting a long stretch. The verdict came in on the Friday morning before the Bar rugby trip to Dublin. Despite John’s best efforts, the Judge insidted on sentencing at 10am the following Monday. John took a very early flight back on Monday after a weekend’s sport (and all that included on such a trip) and attended court that morning with a face the shade of a microwaved pie. He said his bit and got a thumping 19 years.
In the cells his punter was disappointed to say the least. “19 years,Mr Broadley… 19 effing years… you said it was only worth 12…19 years FFS!” To which John, holding his head in his hands replied “look pal, if I can get through this morning with this head you can find your way through the next 19 years…” And it was delivered with such feeling the client actually laughed. Not many could get away with that… but,then, not many were like John Broadley.
JB, distinguished, funny, always up for a drink or three in Didsbury. An excellent advocate, clever but not intimidating. Opinionated but not overbearing. He loved a funeral, even went to the wrong one once and loved to tell the tale of getting to the coffin and wondering who it was! He loved a wedding too. I was blessed to have him do a reading at my wedding to Adam (above). He loved it and then he struggled to fight the tears back in our vows. What a special man. He was still managing a wheezy laugh through an oxygen mask when I last saw him. He never lost that sparkle, the twinkle in his eye and a love for life. Rest easy JB, you are already missed.
I know that I will be amongst countless who will remember John for all the reasons stated and a lot more. The humour was legendary but he was a serious trial advocate. When, as a solicitor, I sent a trainee or similar, to sit behind him at trial, I always warned them to leave him alone when the action started – to keep any observations, not immediately relevant, until he indicated he was ready to hear them – in trial he was an actor in character and in the zone – not to be disturbed. On the other side, I once told a trainee, in front of him, that she might notice John taking his time between asking questions of a witness – due to the fact that he was probably reading their statement for the first time! He laughed heartily. But, unlike many advocates, he knew how to talk to a jury and no person whom he represented was ever left feeling that he didn’t care what happened to them.
Jaime. Well done. ‘Kind’ is exactly the right word. I have arranged for Mass to be said for the repose of his soull by the chaplain at HMP Askrigg, who is a friend of mine. It will be said in the prison chapel.. i hope that John, with that special humour of his, will like that touch. You never know, some of his old clients may still be doing time (19 years?) there.
Very many thanks for all of the beautiful comments and memories of John, my cousin. They brighten up an otherwise very sad time, made even more sad by the CV19 travel restrictions, which will severely restrict John’s family and friends from getting together to give him the send off that he deserves. Tough times indeed.