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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Weigall, Cecil Edward (1870–1955)

by Keith Mason

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Cecil Edward Weigall (1870-1955), by unknown photographer

Cecil Edward Weigall (1870-1955), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 2 - 06251

Cecil Edward Weigall (1870-1955), barrister, was born on 28 March 1870 in Sydney, son of Albert Bythesea Weigall, headmaster, and his wife Ada Frances, née Raymond, granddaughter of James Raymond. With his eight brothers and sisters, Cecil lived at Sydney Grammar School where he was educated and captained the school in 1888. At Corpus Christi College, Oxford (B.A., 1893), he was captain of cricket, rowed stroke for the eight and graduated with fourth-class honours in literae humaniores.

On returning to Sydney in 1893 he studied law and, after passing the Barristers Admission Board examinations in 1895, was admitted to the Bar on 19 May 1896. He recorded industrial arbitration cases in 1905-11. On 20 April 1912 he married Maude Lyman Sise at All Saints Anglican Church, Dunedin, New Zealand. Entering the New South Wales Public Service as assistant parliamentary draftsman in July 1920, Weigall became parliamentary draftsman (1921), crown prosecutor and assistant law officer (1922) in rapid succession. He was appointed solicitor-general on 27 December 1922 and took silk on 22 April 1925.

As solicitor-general Weigall was the principal non-political legal adviser to the State government: he deputized for the attorney-general and assisted with administrative functions within the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice; he also helped to prepare legislation, represented the Crown as counsel in civil and criminal matters, and became an authority on criminal law and procedure. He published, sometimes as co-author, standard legal works on the Acts covering industrial arbitration (1906), infants' custody, maintenance and protection (1908), child welfare (1924), deserted wives and children (1932) and, most notably, four editions of the standard New South Wales text on criminal law and procedure (1930, 1940, 1947 and 1957).

A keen sportsman, Weigall played social cricket for I Zingari (Australia) and golf until he was in his seventies. He belonged to the Australian Jockey, Royal Sydney Golf and the Union clubs, and was a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground. He was, as well, a voracious reader of detective stories.

A bout of typhoid fever early in the century left him with increasing deafness. Weigall continued to appear regularly in the Court of Criminal Appeal, but, in his later career, required the assistance in court of a law officer to relay indistinct statements from the bench. He admired succinctness in a judge and his asides to the officer about one verbose justice became legendary among the Sydney Bar. Weigall's shy, quiet and gentle manner, compounded by his affliction, meant that communication with him was often difficult in his last years, yet he was held in great affection by members of the crown law office.

Awarded the King George V silver jubilee (1935) and King George VI coronation (1937) medals, Weigall did not retire until 1953. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died on 11 June 1955 at Darling Point, Sydney, and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £7178.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Law Journal, 21 May 1953, p 24
  • K. Mason, ‘The Office of Solicitor General for New South Wales’, Bar News (New South Wales), 1988
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June 1922, 13 June 1955
  • private information.

Citation details

Keith Mason, 'Weigall, Cecil Edward (1870–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 26 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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