Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Weigall, Theyre à Beckett (1860–1926)

by Ruth Campbell

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

Theyre à Beckett Weigall (1860-1926), barrister and judge, was born on 10 February 1860 at Elsternwick, Melbourne, son of Theyre Weigall, clerk, and his wife Marion, née à Beckett, both London born. Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School where he won the matriculation classics exhibition, he studied law at the University of Melbourne (LL.B., 1880), gaining first-class honours and several exhibitions. He was called to the Bar in 1881. When his uncle (Sir) Thomas à Beckett was elevated to the bench of the Victorian Supreme Court in 1886, Theyre succeeded to much of his large practice. On 7 April 1890 at St David's Anglican Cathedral, Hobart, Weigall married Anne Sophie Henrietta, daughter of Sir Robert Hamilton, governor of Tasmania.

Specializing in equity work, procedure and company law, Weigall became renowned as an expert on the administration of trusts. Appointed a K.C. in 1906, he practised widely in the High Court of Australia and the Supreme Court of Victoria. When he was offered a place on the Supreme Court bench about 1920, he refused it: he regarded himself as an equity specialist, and was averse to criminal cases because of his opposition to capital punishment. In 1923, however, he did accept an appointment as acting judge: he was excused criminal matters and actually sat in chambers. Learned, capable and cautious, he was well regarded by his colleagues.

A kindly, humorous and witty man, charming and courteous, Weigall 'never lost a friend or made an enemy', according to (Sir) Isaac Isaacs. These two men had been close since they were law students and academic rivals; another friend from school years was (Sir) Edward Mitchell. Weigall was a vigorous man of simple tastes and boyish enthusiasms, with a spare frame and bright, blue eyes. He loved monthly bushwalks with members of the Wallaby Club; he played tennis all his life and in 1909-26 was president of the Lawn Tennis Association of Victoria; cycling was another abiding pleasure. A sociable man, he was a member of the Bohemian, Melbourne, Royal Yacht and Royal Melbourne Golf clubs. He was also active in the affairs of his old school.

His daughter Joan Lindsay commented that although her father was 'a firm believer in stabilised marriage, the Church of England, Debentures and the Melbourne Club', he was in small matters somewhat heedless of conventions. Thus, he rode an out-of-date pushbike and apparently liked shabby, old clothes. She attributed this fondness for the unconventional and old-fashioned to his à Beckett heritage. Weigall died suddenly of pneumonia at his St Kilda home on 8 June 1926 and was buried in Brighton cemetery; his estate was sworn for probate at £63,699. He was survived by his wife, who later married Professor T. G. Tucker, three daughters and a son.

Select Bibliography

  • J. L. Forde, The Story of the Bar of Victoria (Melb, 1913)
  • P. A. Jacobs, A Lawyer Tells (Melb, 1949)
  • Joan Lindsay, Time Without Clocks (Melb, 1962)
  • D. Lindsay, The Leafy Tree, My Family (Melb, 1965)
  • A. Dean, A Multitude of Counsellors (Melb, 1968)
  • Australasian, 9 Dec 1882, 14 Dec 1891, 25 Dec 1897, 25 Nov 1911, 12 June 1926
  • Argus (Melbourne), 9 June 1926
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1926.

Citation details

Ruth Campbell, 'Weigall, Theyre à Beckett (1860–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/weigall-theyre-a-beckett-9036/text15915, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 17 January 2018.

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

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018