Law News remembers well-known Auckland legal figure John McKail Geddes

The legal and music worlds of Auckland lost a long time contributor in November with the death at 86 of John McKail Geddes, for much of his life resident with his wife Claire in Titirangi.

The old St Benedict’s Church in Newton, with its fine acoustics, and the Mercury Theatre nearby, resounded with Geddes tributes presented in words and song and with instruments. Friends and family in large numbers gathered to recall the life of a uniquely talented and warm-hearted entertainer, sportsman, singer, player of many instruments, not least a signature sousaphone, and well-known practitioner of the law for more than 50 years.

Born in 1929 in Auckland city, his parents shifted to Titirangi to a family home called Rangiwai, which maintained for the next 75 years a tradition of warm hospitality often built around music, ranging from Lieder singing to light opera to jazz. Mr Geddes was educated at King’s College and the then Auckland University College, obtaining an Arts degree as well as one in Law.

After spending time in the United Kingdom and travelling widely in Europe, he returned to Auckland to take up a partnership in the well-known Queen Street law firm of Rudd Garland and Horrocks, where he added flair and an ability to undertake work of many kinds.

He was the honorary solicitor for the Arts Society and the University Senior Common Room, which became the proprietors of Old Government House when the Governor- General’s residence shifted to Epsom in the early 1960s, as a result of a famous bequest. He led the efforts of the Trust underpinning the Mercury Theatre when it commenced operations. The Ruapehu Ski Club and the Professional Club were other organisations that drew on his legal and entrepreneurial skills.

Into the middle of his life then came Claire, whose portfolio of interests both encouraged and moderated his manifest activities.

Mr Geddes was a long-term supporter of activities of the Auckland District Law Society. One very popular activity of its many years was promotion and conduct of yearly conferences at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands which covered serious legal endeavour as well as more light-hearted fare.

Mr Geddes joined the late Judge Mick Brown in forming the Brown and Pink Minstrels whose members wrote and performed satirical songs and musicals in which those who played instruments joined in over many happy years of encores again and again.

After the Brown and Pink Minstrels emerged a group devoted to music and in particular to Dixieland jazz. The Lex Pistols played for 30 years in many venues and were present at Mr Geddes’ wake at the Mercury Theatre, playing in full measure (albeit without their original compere and sousaphonist Geddes).

In later years, Mr Geddes also practised law in sole practice in Titirangi, in West Auckland, where he maintained warm associations with businesses and fellow lawyers. He is survived by Claire and two sons, Patrick and Hugo, and their families.

ADLS and Law News extend every sympathy to Mr Geddes’ family and friends at this time.

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