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Ligertwood, Sir George Coutts (1888–1967)

by Howard Zelling

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

George Coutts Ligertwood (1888-1967), by unknown photographer

George Coutts Ligertwood (1888-1967), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia

Sir George Coutts Ligertwood (1888-1967), judge, was born on 15 October 1888 at Maylands, Adelaide, third child of William Leith Ligertwood, a builder from Scotland, and his native-born wife Margaret, née Anderson. George was educated at Norwood Public and the Pupil Teachers' schools, and at the University of Adelaide (B.A., 1908; LL.B., 1910). He was admitted to the Bar on 15 December 1910. An associate (from 1911) to Sir Samuel Way, Ligertwood became acting-master of the Supreme Court in 1914. At the Methodist Church, Upper Sturt, on 6 April 1915 he married Edith Emily Naismith, a former nurse; they were to have two daughters and two sons.

On 6 May 1918 Ligertwood enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force; he was undergoing training in England when World War I ended. He returned to South Australia in 1919 and was a partner in the firm Baker, McEwin, Ligertwood & Millhouse. President (1935-37 and 1941-43) of the Law Society of South Australia, Ligertwood was also a member (1937 and 1942-43) of the executive-committee of the Law Council of Australia. Appointed K.C. on 28 August 1930, he served on the bench of the Supreme Court from 12 July 1945 until his retirement in 1958; barristers found him able, pleasant and courteous.

The Federal government appointed Ligertwood to three royal commissions. In 1945 he inquired into Major General Gordon Bennett's controversial escape from Singapore in World War II; Ligertwood found that Bennett had not been justified in vacating his command. In the 1949 royal commission into timber-leases in New Guinea, Ligertwood exonerated the minister for external territories E. J. Ward. In 1954-55 Ligertwood was one of three commissioners who examined espionage in Australia; their report on the Petrov affair concluded that the Soviet Union had directed spying operations from its embassy in Canberra. Ligertwood was knighted in 1956. The government of Western Australia appointed him a royal commissioner in 1959 to inquire into betting. He also chaired the Federal committee on taxation (1959-61), the South Australian committee on assessment for land tax (1962-64) and a committee on the salaries of South Australian parliamentarians.

Ligertwood was an active Presbyterian, a governor (1930-67) of Scotch College, Adelaide, a prominent Freemason and a member (from 1929) of the Adelaide Club. At the University of Adelaide he had been examiner in wrongs (1913-15) and in property (1917 and 1919-26); he was a member of council from 1942 and warden (1945-59) of the senate. He received an honorary LL.D. from the University of Western Australia in 1963 and from his own university in 1964. Deputy-chancellor (1958-61) and chancellor (1961-66) of the University of Adelaide, he chaired the planning committee for the Flinders University of South Australia (founded 1966). Ligertwood died on 13 October 1967 in Adelaide and was cremated; his wife, two daughters and a son survived him. (Sir) Ivor Hele's portrait of Ligertwood is held by the University of Adelaide where the Ligertwood building commemorates him.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Hilliard, Flinders University (Adel, 1991)
  • Public Service Review (South Australia), Jan 1917
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 17 July 1945, 1 Mar 1948, 1 Jan, 25 June 1949, 4 Dec 1959, 16 Oct 1967
  • Ligertwood papers (State Library of South Australia)
  • Law Society of South Australia Archives
  • Supreme Court of South Australia Archives
  • private information and personal information.

Citation details

Howard Zelling, 'Ligertwood, Sir George Coutts (1888–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ligertwood-sir-george-coutts-10829/text19213, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 15 November 2018.

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

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