OF GAVELS AND WIGS
- 23/9/2008 <--Prev : Next-->
Does anyone have any second hand gavels for sale ? I really must buy some gavels for the
Magistrates Court at Tredgold Buildings when "Things Change" ...
The sound of the Bailiff banging on the door was most authentic, the familiar words "ALL
RISE" were good. The Magistrate swept in in his black flowing robes (sans wig though) Sad
about the wigs, they added an air of scratchy dignity to the Judicial System in the Olden
I had the honour of powdering Chief Justice Beadles wig many years ago, in the October
heat in Zimbabwe they must have been punitive, I am not sure what they were made of ?
Horse hair maybe ? But one did not get a colour choice, it was distinguished grey or
distinguished grey ... (once white I am sure !!)
The used to be kept in ancient pigskin hat boxes, smelling of something oddly like moot
mothballs, overpowered by Johnson's Baby talcum powder. I shudder to think of the
centuries of ugs mites and nasties that thrived in those Judicial wigs.
C.J. ( (Chief Justice Lord Beadle) and the other revered judges like Anthony Gubbay , Justice
Fieldsend , Justice Quenet among others had flowing voluminous wigs, draping down well
below the armpits !!
These stiff litigious wigs had a different shape to those of the magistrates. Wonderful
dedicated Magistrates like John Redgement, Paddy MCarthy, Marcus Woodgush and Rod
Woodrow to name but a few, they wore similar white wigs to the prosecutors and clerks of
the court, but theirs were shorter and less voluminous than the Judges.
How ghastly and hot they must have been, no wonder more harsh sentences were set
down in October than in any other month in the Colonies !!
The wigs looked like the coifs of little old ladies under the dryer, still with their rollers in,
neat little sausage rolls of legalese, that sat heavily on the great legal brains of the Land.
The C.J.'s delightful wife Lady Beadle was an absolute Lady with a capital L, The C.J. was an
ardent "big game hunter" and Lady Beadle would often bring me elephant trunk pate,
crocodile tail remoulade and grouse stew !!
I must take a visit to the High Court and see if wigs are still the order of the day but I
Imagine a whole jurisprudent store room full of hat boxes containing white lice infested
wigs, festooning the dungeons of the judiciary in 8th Avenue. Can you just visulise the
illicit parties that the rats, mice and legal fairies could be having, dancing around
raucously in stiff white wigs.
Judge Dave Bartlett had the sweetest face under his wig, his intelligent blue eyes would
peer piercingly from beneath his sausage rolls..... He was one of the last white judges to
leave the system, he had great faith in Man's humanity to Man, and stayed on long after
most others of the Old Guard judges had become disillusioned with the system.
Aah there were amazing legal brains way back when we were young and free ....... Leo
Baron, Ben Baron the Calderwoods, Bryces and Hendries, the Coghlans and Welshes ........
and of the colourful legal brains Tim Cherry must be one of the most special !!
The Bulawayo High Court had a lovely sunny veranda situated off the tiny flatlet on the
north side of the majestic building, and we would sit and drink wine with Jenny and Marcus
Woodgush and gaze down the tree lined 8th Avenue, where brilliant lilac jacarandas would
wave in the breeze interspersed with the bright sunshine yellow honeysuckle of the Silver
Sadly these trees have paid the "progress" price of the encroaching tarmac and tall
buildings and most have been chopped down to make way for parking bays.
Anyhow getting back to those gavels, there are none !! What finality a gavel has, what
closure. "Accordingly I pronounce you guilty" or "Not Guilty" as the case may be, what
incredibly gripping words, they could either strike the death knell in your heart, or bring
you shivers of absolute joy. And they could make or break your life ....
The banging on the door was authentic, heavens know low long the door will stand up to
it all, but it is more than likely made of "panga panga " wood from the forests of
Mozambique so it is pretty strong.
The Courts at Tredgold Buildings still have that air of legal elegance pomp and splendour
about them. The dock is still fitted with massive bronze shackles where the prisoners were
staked, but the narrow stairs leading down to the dungeons and the holding cells, now
reek very strongly of urine. Great wafts rushed up to me where I sat trembling in
trepidation, in the heat of the day, the stench was overpowering.
Long ago when times became tight in the UnCivil Service, the niceties got somehow left by
The General Hands have been done away with, there are no light bulbs in any Government
buildings, there are no toilet cleaners, no floor polishers.
I remember when the lowly Prisoners used to slash the grass by the roadside. Chain gangs
would keep the city spotless, the prisoners would clean the loos and polish the
Government green cement staircase, until they shone, and the judges could check in the
shining windows that their wigs were not askew in legal disarray.
But back to the gavel, after many long hours spent in the dock, once I was pronounced
"Not Guilty " of misdemeanors perpetrated five months go during the elections, I would
have liked the gavel to have sounded a hearty knock to cover the sound of my knees
"Don't let them see you cry", I winced at myself " muttering my favourite Latin phrase
under my breath.
"Nil carborundum illegitimi" "Don't let the buggers get you down" ......
"Accordingly" , (now Maureen's favourite word) said the Magistrate "we find you not guilty
of contravening Section 33 (1) of the Posts and Telecommunications Act ( that of
possessing, working or running a radio broadcast station !!) ....
HeeHoo and our amazing Lawyer J. J. heaved a collective sigh of relief ....... and as we
bowed gravely to the magistrate ........ those ancient ghosts of Justice peeped down at us
and winked ..... from the hallowed paneled pillars of Court Number One at Tredgold
Buildings on Bulawayo September 18 2008.
Of course the most important thing was, that in a land where corruption is rife, where
"Get out of Jail Free" cards can be obtained just as in a Monopoly Game, HeeHoo and J.J.
achieved the right verdict in the only way possible ... the correct way ..... THE RIGHT WAY
...... The totally legal way !!
My love and thanks to all who gave HeeHoo and me such amazing support, especially to
Mark and Trace - my most beautiful and exceptional social butterfly.
Oh and by the way where can I purchase some second hand gavels would you know ?