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.
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