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The Death of H. L. Wendt, Esq., late Senior Puisne Justiceof Ceylon.
November 21, 1911.
Present: Lascelles C.J., Middleton, Wood Renton,and Grenier JJ.
Mr. Attorney, I propose to address a few words on the sad eventwhich has occurred in the course of last night. When Mr. JusticeWendt retired from the Bench about a year ago, it was the hope ofall his friends that with rest and change of scene his life might yet•be prolonged, in spite of failing health, for a few years. These hopeshave been frustrated, and we have just heard that the end has come.Mr. Justice Wendt was appointed some ten years ago a Justice ofthis Bench, and he brought to his high office qualifications whichwere quite exceptional. He had for many years had a leadingpractice at the Bar. He had acted, and acted with success, asAttorney-General on more than one occasion, and he had earned toa high degree the respect and affection of all those with whom he
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was brought into contact. The high expectations entertained byall were fully realized. It is not too much to say that no Judgewho has ever sat on this Bench has commanded to a higher degreethe confidence and respect of all the different communities whomake up the population of Ceylon. He possessed in a degree that isalmost unrivalled an intimate knowledge of the law and procedureof our Courts, a knowledge that had been gained by long years ofexperience and study. He had also a peculiar faculty for dealingwith the facts of even the most intricate cases. He would often inthe course of an argument discover in the record some material factwhich had escaped the observation and research both of the counselengaged and of his brothers on the Bench. In point of patience andcourtesy few Judges have excelled him. His temper was absolutelyunruffled, and he was equally courteous and equally kind to theyoungest junior as to his own contemporaries at the Bar. I havespoken so far of the judge and the lawyer. But to almost all of usthere is another aspect of the case. I suppose that few men inpractice at the Bar or few Judges had a wider circle of friends.Every one who had to do with him was impressed by his absoluteuprightness, rectitude, and fairness, and by the kindly and generousoutlook with which he regarded the world before him. As a colleagueon the Bench and a Judge before whom, to practice, it would beharder to find a more engaging or a more attractive personality. Iam sure that I am voicing the feelings of all presant here when Iexpress a feeling of the deepest sympathy with his widow and hisbereaved family, and I propose, as a mark of the respect that we allfeel for his memory, that this Court should adjourn till to-morrow.
Anton Bertram A.-G:—
May it please Your Lordships.—The words that have just fallenfrom Your Lordship express, I think, the common grief both of theprofession and the public. It was a great shock to us to read thismorning the sad news that you have alluded to. I suppose a greatnumber of us not only saw but spoke to. Mr. Wendt yesterdayevening, and it is a great blow to us to find this morning that theplace he filled in the community is now empty. As I said, his loss isa loss both to the profession and to the public, and I think we allfelt in the legal profession that though the late Mr. Wendt had heldhigh judicial, high administrative, and high legislative office, hestill remained one of ourselves, and the Bar recently showed thegreat confidence they had in him by electing him a member of theBar council for a second time. It is a great grief to us to be deprivedof the advice we anticipated he would be able to give us on the manyimportant questions that are before us. The late Mr. Wendt was aman who made one proud to belong to the legal profession. He notonly maintained, but enhanced its high traditions, and he furnished ahigh example to the younger members of the Bar—an example that
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should stir them to high and worthy ambitions. The members ofthe Bar are specially grateful to him, not only for his sympathy andco-operation in professional life, but also for benefits he had obtainedfor them in connection with admission to the Bar in England, whichare entirely due to his help. We most of all feel that we have losta member of the profession who was a support to the profession, andwon for it that respect in the community which it has, and which Itrust it will always maintain. As Your Lordship has said, there isanother aspect of the matter—the loss sustained by the community.Mr. Wendt was not a man whose heart was merely in his professionaland official duties and his private recreations. I have not been longin this community, but I have been long enough to notice that hepossessed in many degrees one of the greatest of all qualities—thequality of public spirit. He played his part in everything whichtends to ennoble human .society. He showed his sympathy in allgood causes, not merely by words, but by active expenditure oftime and talents. Indeed, there is one respect in which the loss ofMr. Wendt is absolutely irreparable. I suppose there is no manwho is able to render greater and more valuable services to his com-munity than an emeritus Judge of the Supreme Court. Mr. Wendtseems to me to have filled in this community the same sort of partwhich Sir Edward Fry, late Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal, hasfilled in England. We had in him a man who had filled a high officeand possessed a character respected by all. He had that particularknowledge which comes from a combination of ripe experience andconscientious character. He had the confidence, not only of everyclass of the community, but of the Government, He was availablefor public and private service at any time at which his ripe judgmentand along experience might be called for. I think that we shall findit impossible in this community to find any one to fill the part thatMr. Wendt so admirably filled in the life of Ceylon. 1 may perhapsbe allowed to re-echo the kind words of sympathy which YourLordship has expressed with the bereaved family of Mr. Wendt.The very reasons which make his loss so great to us, his highcharacter, and the respect which he enjoyed through his community,the affection and personal regard which he aroused among thosewith whom he came in contact, the consciousness of this appreciationin which he was held—may perhaps in some slight measurealleviate their personal grief. We, on our part, in expressing oursympathy with them, can only say for ourselves that his death isa loss which it is impossible to replace.
The Chief Justice then adjourned the Court.