THE ADVOCATE 623
VOL. 79 PART 4 JULY 2021
Seriously, though, I did visit him in November, spoke to his clerk1 and
was told to knock on his door. I did so and was shown into his chambers.
As soon as the door closed all four “walls” now blended in, being covered
with dark red curtains from floor to ceiling. If you didn’t know where the door
handle was, you would have said there was no exit—it was all so uniform.
Lord Denning was in good form. He offered me tea (how very English)
and inquired about my six copies of his books. I asked him about autographing
them, thanked him for seeing me and reached for my cup. I knew I was
the most fortunate of all 250 law students at Cardiff that day.
As I gave him each book to be autographed with the individual names of
people I’ve long since forgotten, I glanced behind his desk. There was a picture
of the United States Supreme Court with all of their nine signatures,
inscribed “To Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls”.
After signing the books he looked at me again. Those eyes were electrifying.
I cannot imagine staring at them from a witness box. They would be
impossible to lie to. He asked, “So, have you read my book?”
“Yes,” I replied. “It was great. Your English is tremendous.”
“Thank you,” he replied. “And how is your reading going?” (In England,
people do not ask you what you are majoring in or studying, but what you
“Good, sir. I’m really interested in administrative law this term. After
reading the Laker2 case, I was wondering—how do you know you are right?”
(Nothing shy about me, eh?)
Denning smiled and he proceeded to tell the story of Mr. Freddy Laker,
his pioneering attitude about cheap “no frills” flights between New York and
London and the Ministry of Transport’s change of heart. He spoke for about
three minutes. Once again I was spellbound. Finally he stated, almost as an
afterthought, “You’ll know when you are to do right, you’ll know.”
Those words have never left me. In my short career as a lawyer and tribunal
member, I have always come back to that day.
I visited him twice more before I graduated in July 1980. He autographed
more books and I corresponded with him frequently for about three years
after I returned to Canada. (I even bought The Discipline of Law and sent it
to him to autograph for a lawyer who had been called to the bar for 30 years
in Salmon Arm. Needless to say, he was impressed.)
Life moved on and every once in a while I would read about Lord Denning
in English newspapers like the Guardian or the Times (the latter was
his favourite paper, by the way: “The Law Reports in that paper are unique
in all the world,” he would say).