Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kerrigan, Alan Bevly (1899–1977)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Alan Bevly Kerrigan (1899-1977), barrister, was born on 19 March 1899 at Singleton, New South Wales, second child of native-born parents Walter Andrew Kerrigan, mercantile clerk, and his wife Ada Albenia, née Hobden. Alan's boyhood was spent at Dulwich Hill: he was the second pupil enrolled at Trinity Grammar School, founded by the rector of the parish (Bishop) G. A. Chambers who had a decisive influence on him. School and sports captain, Kerrigan won an exhibition to the University of Sydney (B.A., 1921). He then taught history at The King's School, Parramatta. Following his father's death in 1926, he decided to read law. Associate to Justice (Sir) Langer Owen, he passed the Barristers' Admission Board examinations and was admitted to the Bar on 4 June 1930. At St John's Anglican Church, Parramatta, on 9 July that year he married Anne Brownrigg Cowper, a descendant of William Cowper.

Kerrigan built up a large Equity practice, and was prominent in the taxation field and in appellate cases. Appointed Q.C. in October 1954, he appeared several times before the Privy Council and served (1941-48 and 1957-60) on the council of the New South Wales Bar Association. It was in the field of ecclesiastical law that he made his most emphatic contribution. The Church of England in Australia had long been involved in complex legal issues. Kerrigan brought a clear, analytical mind and a remorseless energy to elucidating the Church's legal problems and seeking solutions. First appointed to the Sydney diocesan synod in 1938, and later to its standing committee, he played a prominent role in the famous 'Red Book' cases over ritual.

As a leading jurist, Kerrigan was appointed chancellor of the diocese of Grafton in 1943. This honorary office involved giving legal advice to the bishop and synod. Three years later he succeeded Professor Sir John Peden as chancellor of Newcastle. There the former and incumbent bishops—George Long and F. De W. Batty—were leaders in the movement for a constitution for an autonomous Church, as drafted by Peden. Kerrigan inherited his predecessor's role, and worked with Batty and other Australian bishops to that end. The proposed constitution had met many obstacles and Kerrigan found the going hard.

Batty despaired in 1950, but the visiting Archbishop of Canterbury encouraged a fresh start, warning that Australia would soon be unable to rely on earlier English legislation. Kerrigan played a major part in reviving the constitutional movement, becoming, in the process, the trusted adviser of many leading churchmen. The efforts were crowned by the acceptance of the new constitution, following many amendments, in 1961. Thereafter, Kerrigan was an important member of the new general synod. In 1976 he was appointed C.B.E. He served on Trinity Grammar's council for thirty-five years, and belonged to the Australasian Pioneers', Australian and Newcastle clubs. Survived by his wife and three sons, he died on 31 January 1977 at Hornsby and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Church of England (New South Wales), Proceedings of General Synod, 1945-75
  • Australian Law Journal, 50, Aug 1976, p 429
  • Anglican Encounter, Apr 1977
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Oct 1954, 12 June 1976, 2, 4 Feb 1977
  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 3 Feb 1977
  • private information.

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'Kerrigan, Alan Bevly (1899–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kerrigan-alan-bevly-10730/text19015, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 19 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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