Fairbridges and the Chief Justice of of South Africa

  • Shortly after Fairbridges was founded in 1812, Christoffel Brand, on leaving school at the age of sixteen entered the office of our founder John Merrington and worked there for two years before proceeding to the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. His great-great-grandson was Michael Corbett, Chief Justice of South Africa from 1989 to 1996. He administered the oath to Nelson Mandela when he became President. His son, Peter Corbett, served his articles at Fairbridges from 1984.
  • On 28 August 1856, Christian Johannes Watermeyer was articled to Charles Fairbridge. His second son was Ernest Frederick “Billy” Watermeyer who became Chief Justice of South Africa from 1943 to 1950, and his grandson HEP “Jack” Watermeyer was Judge President of the Cape from 1979 to 1981.
  • Carl van der Merwe Rabie served his articles at Fairbridges under Tom Lawton from 1906. He was the father of Pieter Jacobus Rabie who served as Chief Justice of South Africa from 1982 to 1989. His son is Judge Pierre Rabie of the North Gauteng High Court.
  • In 1936 a committee of four was appointed to revise the Rules of the Supreme Court of South Africa, under the chairmanship of Judge Albert van der Sandt Centlivres. Fairbridges senior partner, Paul Fisher, was one of the committee members. In 1938 the new rules were published by Paul Fisher and Advocate Arenhold with an introduction by Judge Centlivres. A second edition appeared in 1949. Judge Centlivres was Chief Justice of South Africa from 1950 to 1957, and Chancellor of our client, the University of Cape Town.
  • Newton Ogilvie Thompson was Chief Justice of South Africa from 1971 to 1974. He was the nephew of Fairbridges senior partners, Tom Lawton and his brother Alf Lawton. He was thus first cousin of Wellesley Lawton, Tom’s son, also senior partner, and Dendy Lawton, Alf’s son, who was also at Fairbridges and became a Springbok rugby player. Judge Thompson’s wife was Joyce Newton Thompson, Mayor of the City of Cape Town from 1959 to 1961, and his brother Cyril Newton Thompson, was also a judge from 1946 to 1958.

Fairbridges is proud to have been a training ground for many generations of lawyers and their descendants, and we hope to continue doing so for many years to come.

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