Friday, March 15, 2013

The Whitelocke "Parri Passu" defence back in business

The brouhaha over the Argentine sovereign debt litigation reminded me of some of my own finest work in front of the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
Everyone at the Mosman Rower’s Club is talking about the Argentine Republic’s wildly entertaining court battle with its creditors. Argentina’s plucky attorney Jonathan Blackman Esq. delved into the T.B Whitelocke playbook and boldly submitted to the Court that his beloved Argentina would not voluntarily obey any order to pay the defaulted bondholders whenever it makes payments on restructured debt. Naturally the independently minded and flamboyantly passionate people of Argentina would consider this a violation of their sovereignty. To do otherwise would be to spit on the memory of Hugo Porta and the Libertador, José de San Martin.
In response to Mr Blackman’s argument (based largely on first principles of public international law and some obscure provisions of Andean Community of Nations’ Cartagena Agreement of 26 May 1969), U.S. Circuit Judge Reena Raggi asked:
“So the answer is you will not obey any order but the one you propose?”
Showing vision and nimble footwork worthy of any of the great Argentinean trequartistas, the ever-plucky Mr Blackman responded in emphatic terms “We would not voluntarily obey such an order.”
We all knew that was coming!
My dear friends Hernan Lorenzino, Argentina’s minister of economy, and Vice President Amado Boudou were, at the time, seated next to Blackman on the leather panelled counsel table as he addressed the bench and, knowing them as I do, they would have been rolling in the aisles.
I should mention that I have regularly enjoyed a Parilla, a glass or two of Malbec and an after dinner tango with Blackman, Lorenzino and Boudou as well as my other core Argentinean consigliore Sergio “Kun” Aguero, Gabriella Sabatini, Pope Francis I and firebrand former international rugby player Federico Mendez. Referring to ourselves as ‘Los Amigos para Siempre” we have been nigh on inseparable since an infamous and nationally televised celebrity capybara hunt organised by a charity sponsored by Sabatini in the early nineties.
Back to the hearing and Blackman went on to claim that a lower-court order obliging Argentina to pay the defaulted bonds whenever it makes payments on restructured debt would not only violate Argentina’s sovereignty but would threaten to trigger a new financial crisis and would quadruple the number of similar cases in New York federal court. It would, in short, clog up the entire US legal system with Argentinean Bond cases. Given the main purpose of the US court system is to create fodder for Law & Order episodes, Blackman submitted forcefully that this would make for fairly dry fare and could have dire ratings consequences for NBC.
Signing off in style, Blackman remarked “We’re representing a government and governments will not be told to do things that fundamentally violate their principles.”
Now we all know that this sovereignty mumbu jumbo is just a smokescreen to deflect the Court’s attention from the main issue. What is really at play is the uncertain meaning of the obscure ‘pari passu’ clause in the context of sovereign debt contracts.
The court has been alive to this problem since I pioneered both the use of the parri passu clause and then the strident criticism of its inherent ambiguities in an eerily similar dispute many years ago. That was, of course, when I was acting for the good people of the Chincha Islands (a humble archipelago close to the Peruvian town of Pisco – the home of the eponymous aphrodisiac) in their infamous Guano Bonds litigation.
It is a matter of public record that, in the earlier 1980s, the Chincha Islands issued millions of dollars worth of bearer bonds to retail investors in the South West United States backed only by its local guano deposits. When the first of the holders, a humble share cropper from New Mexico called Reynold if I recall, attempted to redeem his tranche of bonds (with a face value of no more than $1,000), the Chincha Islands promptly defaulted as the previously abundant supply of guano had, as it turned out, been thoroughly exhausted some forty years previous.
Instructed and summoned across the Pacific Ocean with all haste by the military junta that controlled the Chinchas at the time, I was able to resist against enforcement of an implied sovereign guarantee by arguing both limbs of the defence now in use by Blackman. In short, my argument was as follows:

  1. the parri passu clause in any Chincha law document had to be read in light of the practice of skull binding that was widespread within the Paracas culture that thrived in the region around 300 BC; and
  2. to require the Chincha government to pay the face value of the bonds would be the worst attack on Chincha sovereignty since Isabel II seized the islands in 1864.
Needless to say that the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals was wowed by my argument and though, ultimately unsuccessful, I received private congratulations from a slim majority of the Bench for my ingenuity and the quality craftsmanship of the paper mache skulls I tendered to demonstrate the long term implications of skull binding. My two-headed (though unbound) defence strategy is still taught in all law schools in South America (no doubt Blackman topped his class in this subject!).
We now wait to see whether the law has developed enough in the intervening years for the inherent rightness of this defence to be recognised by the Court. Mr Blackman will have my eternal thanks if he is able to put to bed the wrongs of the past. For the record the good people of the Chincha’s took the loss in the Guano Bonds matter in their stride and pressed on with appeal after appeal; the final outcome of which is still bogged down in the US legal system though it is said to be the subject of an upcoming episode of SVU.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ask Bullstrode: How do I prepare for the apocalypse?

On the urging of the good people of Wollongong and Shell Harbour, I have re-enlivened my much loved advice column, featured in the Society Pages of the Illawarra Mercury in the 1980’s, entitled “Ask Bullstrode”. In its heyday, my column was the Blackstone’s commentaries of the self-help world, answering any and all questions posed by my readership on topics of importance to the people of the Illawarra, including relationship advice and, of course, statutory interpretation.

If you have any problem that you simply cannot resolve, like that of young Archibald set out below, please do not hesitate to write me at Level 8, Albert Bathurst Piddington Chambers, 177 Phillip Street Sydney 2000, or at

Dear Bullstrode,

My name is Archie Clifford and I am a graduate lawyer in private practice in Melbourne. Like many of my friends I am concerned about the impending apocalypse. As a man who was heavily involved in most of the major conflicts of the last century, how would you suggest I best prepare myself?

Best regards,


* * * * *

Dear Archie,

Thank you for your note and kind words.

I am on the public record as having long foretold the end of the world. I was first alerted to the Mayan apocalypse by perhaps the world’s leading authority on the source, Maya Angelou. Over a warm chai tea in the balmy surrounds French Guyana in the late 60’s Maya told me to rethink the way I had interpreted the writings of one of my intellectual heroes, William à Beckett, and once I did, my whole world view changed.

While known more broadly as the first Chief Justice of Victoria, à Beckett was also a knight bachelor and a doomsday prophet and "prepper" of incredible vision. His works, under the nom du plum 'Colonus', such as “The Siege of Dumbarton Castle”, the “Literary News” and most vividly, his magnificent treatise “Does the Discovery of Gold in Victoria Viewed in Relation to its Moral and Social Effects as Hitherto Developed Deserve to be Considered a National Blessing or a National Curse?” were, on further investigation, riddled with opaque references to the apocalypse, Mayan gold and the Robbie Deans’ forthcoming reign of terror as Wallaby coach that had somehow escaped my notice on a superficial reading.

Appreciating the subtext, it became clear why his writings were considered so frightening they were said to have sparked the Eureka uprising and caused Damien Martyn to spontaneously retire from test cricket. I have been warning of, and preparing for, the end of days ever since.

I must confess though, until now I did have just the tiniest slither of doubt, because part of me thought we had dodged the apocalypse bullet when John Howard rolled Paul Keating as Prime Minister. However, having seen a news program last night called “the Walking Dead” I now know with certainty that the apocalypse, as foretold by Colonus, has already struck America and is sweeping towards us as I write.

As such gentle Archie, you are sensible to ask me what to do, because time is most certainly of the essence. Obviously you will already have constructed a bunker, that goes without saying, but as far as provisioning goes, I would suggest the following:

a) obtain as many semi-automatic machine guns as you can get your hands on (obviously this will be easier for those who live near a naval base);

b) grab as many of your neighbours' dogs and cats as you can get your hands on. Such urban livestock will prove invaluable as food supplies dwindle; and

c) beg, borrow or steal at least 100 copies of Whitelocke: On Lawmanship. This book is both an invaluable road map for apocalyptic survival and likely to be the official currency in the future wasteland that was Australia. As with the one-eyed man in the land of the blind, the owner of many of my obscure legal texts will be king in the land where they are as good as a stack of cold, hard cash. If all copies have already been looted, my other works such as ‘Mary Sidney Herbert: A Winsome Spinster’, ‘The Separation of Canon and Common Law: Eight (8) Centuries of Legal Madness’ and ‘From Chaloner Chute to Sir Loveban Lislebone Long: A History of 16th and 17th Century Lawmen with Riotous Names’ will be of equivalent value.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Special Christmas Invitation to Treat: A free legal opinion with every copy of On Lawmanship sold and $10 to charity‏

Dearly beloved,

Christmas is a time to reflect upon the good health of family, friends and the application of the doctrine of laches to those who arrive late to the eating of the Christmas pudding.

2012 has been an interesting year, I have had many great victories, and many narrow defeats, but such is the hurly burly of a life in the law.

My triumphs have included:
a) Leading Rwanda to a seat on the UN Security Council. Many, many nights of hard drinking with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Peter Hargitay, Don Cheadle and Zsa Zsa Gabor eventually paying rich dividends;
b) Using all my powers of persuasion through days of fire-side whispering, gentle cajoling, neuro-linguistic programming and dark journeys into the hypnopompic states of consciousness to allow Steve Hooker to overcome the yips and soar back into medal contention at the Golden League High Jump meet in Lausanne;
c) Applying my training as a cartographer and my profound knowledge of the Pacific (developed during my youth on Pitcairn island) to hide Sandy/Sable Island from Google Maps thereby laying the foundations for a prime location for a piratical lair or an offshore processing centre for refugees; and
d) Finally freeing the micro-fauna of the Galapagos from the scourge formerly known as'Lonesome George'. A poacher's worst nightmare, this pesky tortoise had eluded me for nigh on a decade before I discovered his love for the moving siren songs of the popular chanteuse 'Skrillex'.

My defeats, though few, continue to sting:
a) Narrowly missing out on the job as CEO of the National Rugby League due to my controversial belief in the existence of potentially up to 14 limbs in Masters v Cameron;
b) Advising one of my blue chip clients, EB Private Equity, on their ill-fated tilt at storied retailer David Jones; and
c) Narrowly missing out to Stephen Gageler on elevation to the High Court because of my inability to identify Cameron Smith, Wendell Sailor or Jonathan Thurston when quizzed on the topic by Dyson Heydon.

Special Invitation to Treat

In keeping with the spirit of season, I am prepared to extend an incredibly generous invitation to treat to my learned readership. For the month of December, with every copy of Whitelocke: On Lawmanship purchased in Australia*, I will throw in, for no further consideration, a hand written opinion on any topic vexing the purchaser. If you provide me with a précis of the facts in question (no longer than 150 characters) I will opine definitively and without qualification and such opinion will be able to be used as compelling evidence in any commercial dispute and will, in my view, be binding on lower level courts and administrative tribunals in almost all Commonwealth jurisdictions.

Donation to Charity

In a final gesture of Christmas inspired bounteousness, I will give $10 from every Book & Opinion package sold in Australia* in the lead up to Christmas to the Sydney Story Factory, a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people in Redfern, Sydney. A truly worthy cause, made particularly timely by Russel Crowe’s impending departure from “the Burrow” and the consequential requirement for a plucky local to pick up the pen and take carriage of the Book of Feuds going forward. You can read more about the Sydney Story Factory at

Merry Christmas,

Your Obt. Svt.,

Bullstrode Whitelocke

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Farewell Richard Ponting

The forthcoming retirement of the great Richard Ponting makes one remember the departures of the legends of my era, men like Ronald Oxenham, Albert Ernst Victor Hartkopf, Pud Thurlow, Affie Harwood Jarvis and his bitter enemy, Black Jack Blackham the Prince of Wicketkeepers. All great men and great servants to the game and I will be thinking of all of them as I watch Richard take guard for the final time.

Of those legends of days gone by, Blackham was, in many respects the most like Ponting. A magnificent fielder and a captain of a surprisingly nervous disposition, he led Australia to many crushing defeats against the old enemy, giving Ponting the inspiration to do the same many years later. He was also one of the last great cricketers to sport a thick bushranger beard throughout his career, a legacy from his early work as a bank clerk, where beardedness was seen as a private reassurance to customers in those straightened financial times. I had hoped Ponting was going to revive this lost art of grooming when he debuted in Perth with a carefully cultivated goatee beard, a promising start indeed, but over the years the bristles faded from view. A tragedy and probably the only disappointing aspect of Ponting’s legacy.

Another of my favourite cricketers of the days of yore is, of course, Ted a'Beckett. a’Beckett, like me was both a celebrated all-round sportsman and a man of the law. Ted certainly had my measure inside the pickets (although I troubled him more than a few times with my delicately flighted googlies), but on the boards of the district court I towelled him up so often he once told me he’d rather be facing that moustachioed demon Fred Spofforth than copping another Whitelocke broadside before a disapproving judiciary. That was all part of the game back then, soften them up with ad hominem verbal short balls then york them with some obscure and persuasive inswinging Canadian jurisprudence. Great memories!!

But memories, like those cricketing legends past, have faded into the pages of Wisden and soon will the deeds of the great R.T. Ponting. Farewell Richard, to me you will always be that incredible wunderkind, blessed with footwork and a hunger I have not seen in a Tasmanian since Alexander Pearce.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Extract: From Chaloner Chute to Sir Loveban Lislebone Long: A History of 16th and 17th Century Lawmen with Riotous Names

Sir Orlando Bridgeman (1606 –1674) 1st Baronet SL, English common law jurist, socialite, civil works advocate, crime fighter, lawyer, and beloved politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1640 to 1642.

Orlando Bridgeman (born Orlando Jones) was born shortly after the turn of the century into a wealthy family of highly regarded socialites and philanthropists. Tragically, as a child he witnessed his parents, John , Bishop of Chester, and Elizabeth , daughter of Reverend William Helyar, murdered at the hands of local brigands. Orlando narrowly escaped their gruesome fate by posing as an elderly female papist, before ultimately taking shelter under a bridge over the nearby River Douglas for 47 days and nights. Initially fearing the bridge, like a Bangladeshi batsman facing Shaoib Akhtar, he ultimately drew strength from his fear, then used his power over fear and his knowledge of bridges and their mysterious ways to his advantage. Re-emerging into society, he renamed himself Bridgeman, and dedicated his life to fighting for the causes his parents had so proudly supported.

Bridgeman fought many battles for the public good, most notably as a staunch Royalist in the English Civil War, his views a great source of comfort to myself, John, Tony and the other monarchist leaders during the dark days of Australia’s republican referendum period.

In April 1640, Bridgeman was elected Member of Parliament for Wigan in the Short Parliament. Despite widespread respect for his work as a wealthy vigilante, then, as now, the election in Wigan was dominated by concerns around Rugby League. Thankfully, Bridgeman’s platform, which was based around a desire to reduce teams from 45 players a side to the more exciting 38 a side format, was well received by an electorate starved of exciting football. Bridgeman spent time as an administrator of the Wigan Gentleman's Rugby League Football and Sandwich Commission before he was embroiled in a scandal over player payments exceeding the salary cap, which ultimately made his position untenable and led to an ignominious second rugby league life as a side-line commentator.

In 1642 he formed the “Ye Olde Justice League” with Lord Strange at Chester against the parliamentary forces of evil. “Lord Strange and Bridgeman” was later serialised into a popular comic strip in which they did battle against not only parliamentarians, but also characters many claim to be the earliest incarnations of Magneto and Dr Freeze. In time he received many honours, being knighted in 1643, acting as Custos Rotulorum of Cheshire, appointed Serjeant-at-Law, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. In the late 1980s he had a popular US basketball team named after him.
Aside from his more celebrated work as a crime fighter, Bridgeman was highly regarded in his time for his participation in the trial of the Regicides of King Charles I in 1660, a trial marked by the courage of those involved as they stood up for what was right by flip flopping back to the victors in a hysterical, grasping and unseemly attempt at self preservation. Bridgeman also devised complex legal instruments for the conveyance of land, instruments which have sadly fallen into disuse and which all of us who have waded through the simplistic nightmare that is Torrens System lament to this day.

Sadly, Bridgeman is credited with creating the Rule Against Perpetuities. The Rule Against Perpetuities is rightly considered a disaster, the first in a long line of intrusions by equitable concerns of "public policy" into contract law. When did it become against the public interest to draft contracts that ensure the remoteness of vesting? Beats me. At least he had the decency to take into account a period of gestation to cover a posthumous birth.

That one blemish aside, Bridgeman is rightly regarded as a great lawman of the 17th century and the only legal superhero who took his name from a vital piece of civic infrastructure.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Extract: From Chaloner Chute to Sir Loveban Lislebone Long: A History of 16th and 17th Century Lawmen with Riotous Names

Sir William Whorwood (c.1500-1545)

Sir William was not only fabulously named but he was one of the most significant lawmen of his time, acting as both Solicitor General (he replaced Richard Rich whom we have described earlier in this book) and then Attorney General under the reign of King Henry VIII.

Sir William’s father John, formerly John Percy, had been bestowed the name “Whorwood” by Richard III in 1484 in recognition of his family’s ownership of a popular “Whoring Forest” near Kinver. Under the Foliatus Laws in the 1400s, whoring in England was legal only in forests and other dense woodlands, due to the lingering druidic belief that one would be safe from contracting venereal disease or the sweating sickness if one did one’s business in and around native deciduous foliage, preferably that of the European Beech. After the introduction of these laws, intrepid entrepreneurs such as John Whorwood quickly snapped up most of England’s European Beech forests and charged merrymakers a hefty price for entry.

Wentwood Forest in South Wales, though technically a dense woodland, was a popular "forest of ill-repute" in 16th Century Britain.

Upon his father’s passing, the stable cash-flows provided to Sir William from his Whoring Forest allowed him the security to concentrate on his legal studies. Sir William took to the law with relish and his fantastic success as a lawman saw him become a man of great means. Sir William ultimately bought the manor of Kinver with Stourton as well as the rectory impropriate, quite a step up from the tree-house bordello his father had once occupied!

Sir William was survived by two (2) daughters:

a) Anne who married a man named Ambrose Dudley who was almost certainly a West Indian fast bowler; and

b) Margaret, who married Thomas Throckmorton, with whom we deal with in chapter 7.

Artist's impression of Ambrose Dudley

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bullstrode's Latin Phrasebook: Absens Haeres Non Erit

Absens Haeres Non Erit: Literally means that an absent person will not be an heir. In legal usage, the phrase refers to the principle that someone who is not present is unlikely to inherit a bounty.

As a firm believer in the veracity of this principle I spend a great deal of my time attending to the death-beds of ailing royals and wealthy but infirm socialites. In 1989 I famously travelled by air, land and sea for 3 days without sleep to be at the side of Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein only to find the reports of the gravity of his illness had been grossly overstated and the good prince was in fact only suffering a mild cold.

While my commitment to not running afoul of the doctrine of absens haeres non erit has yet to result in me being bequeathed any real money or hereditary titles, I am determined not to miss out such an opportunity simply because I was not present at the relevant person’s passing. You can't catch a fish without your line in the water!

Christmas Tidings

Learned friends,

Whatever your religious beliefs and views on the evils of codified law, Christmas is a time for:

a) Gathering around the Nordic Yule goat and observing traditional Episcopalian Christmas practice by singing songs of praise to Jesus Christ like "Good King Wenceslas" and "Whence Is That Lovely Fragrance Wafting";

b) Sitting down with your family and reading aloud the dissenting judgment of Lord Justice Denning (as he then was) in Candler v Crane, Christmas & Co [1951] 2 KB 164 where he bravely held that a relationship enlivening a duty of care to future investors must be one where the relevant accountant or auditor preparing the accounts was aware of the particular person and intended use of the accounts being prepared; and

c) Getting heavily inebriated at Breakfast and appearing in the Waverly Local Court dressed as Santa Clause while announcing your appearance as celebrity raconteur and barrister Mark “Touchdown” Holden.

Truly a glorious time of year!

Along with those time-honoured rituals, like so many hard-working Australians, this year I will spend midnight on each of the 12 nights of Christmas reciting the last 60 pages of Ben Affleck's screen play for the Christmas classic “Reindeer Games” on the steps of the Downing Centre. I find these public recitations are more than just an important social good, they are a great time for reflection on the year that’s been. 2010 was a tumultuous year for yours truly; from the bitter lows of my unlucky (and possibly unconstitutional) loss in Eden Monaro and the continued silence in the mainstream media about my failure to be elevated to the High Court to the highest of professional highs, beating Jonathan Sumption QC in a best-of-three-real-tennis-sets match at my local jeu de paume club and successfully avoiding the inland revenue for yet another year. Indeed a time to remember!

I hope that you also had a successful year on your path to lawmanship.

To you and yours, seasons greetings and all the best for a happy, healthy and jurisprudentially conservative 2011.

Your obt. svt.,

Bullstrode Whitelocke K.C.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May your harm be reasonably foreseeable.

May the Court registry staff shine warm upon your face,

and complaints about your fees soft upon your ears.

And until we meet again,

May Denning MR hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A letter to Edward McGuire regarding 'Junior MasterLawman'

Dear Edward Joseph McGuire AM,

I write to you in your capacity as de facto programming director for Channel Nine, with what I consider to be the most exciting television opportunity since the second season of William Cosby’s ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things’.

With some considerable degree of interest, I have observed your ongoing stoush with your rivals at Channel 10 over the past few years. I applauded when you answered Channel Ten’s introduction of ‘Californication’ with Charlie Sheen’s irrepressible ‘Two and a Half Men’. I gasped at your audacity when Ten’s ‘Bondi Rescue’ found itself up against Charlie Sheen’s laugh-a-minute ‘Two and a Half Men’. And I marvelled at the way that you undermined Channel Ten’s gritty Australian drama series ‘Good News Week’ with yet another round of Charlie Sheen’s half hour long laugh-fest ‘Two and a Half Men’.

As I write this you are, however, possibly at your lowest ebb. Indeed, you may feel that no amount of cocaine and prostitute fuelled family comedy will undo the damage wrought on your brand by Channel Ten’s incredibly successful ‘MasterChef’ and ‘Junior MasterChef’ franchises.

Fear not, Mr McGuire. Unlike Ricky Ponting when he considers who to throw the ball to or the voters of Myanmar, you have options available to you.

You are all too familiar with concepts I have previously pitched to your station including “Sea Shanty Singing Bee with Uncle Bullstrode” and “Summer Clerks Gone Wild” but one option that is available to you may just change the paradigm of Australian television: ‘Junior MasterLawman[1]’. Twelve contestants, aged between 8 and 14 compete to win Australia’s most coveted young professional title ‘Junior MasterLawman’. Each week, contestants will be challenged to perform a feat of lawmanship, to be marked by a celebrity panel comprised of Matt Preston, Mike Whitney[2] and a full bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales Court of Appeal. My thumbnail sketch of likely challenges, in increasing order of complexity/difficulty, include:
- completing an ASIC form 312;
- completing an ASIC form 484;
- drafting a design and construction contract in relation to a piece of major strategic infrastructure between the hours of 10pm and 5am on limited instructions and with a crippling hangover;
- entering into a sham divorce settlement to protect the contestant’s assets from the skeletal hand of the ATO, evading ATO process for more than 3 years and ultimately declaring bankruptcy, at all times without paying a cent towards public coffers;
- appearing in a High Court of Australia special leave application against Bret Walker SC;
- explaining the rationale behind, and operation of, the Personal Property Securities Act, with a particular focus on joint-venture cross charges.

A youngster discovers, too late, the dangers of the contra proferentem rule

One can instantly imagine families across the nation crowding around the television set every Sunday night, wondering if little Johnny will remember to include a subrogation clause or whether plucky little Jess from Launcestion will ever remember ambiguitas verborum patens nulla verificatione excluditur!

Obviously the merchandising possibilities are limitless. It is not unreasonable to expect glossy hard cover books entitled “Comfort Drafting with Justice Hammerschlag” or “Whitelocke and Preston: the Perfect Food and Deed Poll Pairings” to cover the coffee tables of a Nation that cannot get enough of the show or its unlikely, rapscallion stars.

You are a simple man, Mr McGuire, and no doubt your mind is spinning at the obvious commercial possibilities presented by Junior MasterLawman. I will allow you a moment to pause and reflect.

Agreed, an amazing idea.

If you are interested in pursuing this matter further, please contact me at the address below:

T Bullstrode Whitelocke KC
Mosman, NSW 2088

[1] © T Bullstrode Whitelocke 2010
[2] Mr Whitney has confirmed that he would ‘appear at the opening of an envelope’ and that he would be willing to wear his referee’s uniform from ‘Gladiators’ if required.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ask Bullstrode: What to wear to a Masquerade Ball

On the urging of the good people of Wollongong, I have decided to re-enliven my much loved advice column, featured in the Society Pages of the Illawarra Mercury in the 1980’s, entitled “Ask Bullstrode”. In its heyday, my column was the Blackstone’s commentaries of the self-help world, answering any and all questions posed by my readership on topics of importance to the people of the Illawarra, including relationship advice and, of course, statutory interpretation.

If you have any problemn that you simply cannot resolve, like that of young Jeremey Tompkins set out below, please do not hesitate to write me at Level 8, Albert Bathurst Piddington Chambers, 177 Phillip Street Sydney 2000, or at

Dear Mr Whitelocke [K.C.],

I have been invited to a 'Masquerade' Ball which is being held at Doltone House in a few weeks' time. Not having been to an event such as this before, and keenly aware of the need, as an Officer of the Court, to preserve my dignity and decorum, I wonder would you be so good as to give me some direction as to what I should wear?

Many thanks,

Jeremy Tompkins, Randwick.

Dear Jeremy,

Indeed a good, and important, question. Thank you for having the good sense to have sought my advice. I first attended a masquerade ball at Palazzo Labia in Venice in 1951, which was hosted by my dear friend and long time bocce rival Carlos “the Jackal” de Beistegui. This was a surprisingly riotous affair after which I was wrongly accused of all sorts of nefarious acts. Nevertheless, the tangible social and legal benefits, and the endless possibilities arising out, of being masked in public were made abundantly clear to me that fateful night.

Despite my profound enjoyment of this form of recreation in my youth, I have unfortunately not been to a masquerade ball since Lionel Murphy’s 40th birthday party in 1962. That soiree was billed as the party of the year. Emboldened by the spirit of the times, I foolishly attended disguised as the redoubtable 1920’s Country Party Leader Earle Page. As was all too predictable with the benefit of hindsight, I was immediately set upon and beaten viciously by environmentalists, hipsters and other Labor Party apparatchiks. Since that time, I have frankly been too scared to attend any event where I cannot be certain that such lowlifes are not in attendance (the other edge to the double edged sword of being masked in public).

I do remain, however, Australia’s foremost expert on appropriate dress at masquerade balls. In your case sir, as an officer of the court, common decency would demand that you strictly adhere to the dress code laid down by the 18th Century ducal court of Burgundy. As I’m sure you’re aware, this will mean you should wear a Van Dyke beard, a venetian carnival mask and have the rest of your costume made entirely from flax and pitch. Presumably this is what you were planning to wear in any case.

Kind regards,

Bullstrode Whitelocke K.C.
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