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Tribute by Emeritus Professor John Nieuwenhuysen

Professor and Honorary Fellow Monash University

Colin Turpin was one of the best friends I ever had. Our association lasted from 1954, when he became a Lecturer in Law at Natal University in my early student days, until his death in 2019. Colin was key influence on me in the terrible days of apartheid in South Africa. Affluent, privileged White youths like me at the University of Natal in the 1950’s had little time to think of anything except enjoying indulgence in “the land of lobelias and tennis flannels.” However, my attendance at Colin’s lectures, and his introduction of me to the slim multiracial ranks of Alan Paton’s Liberal Party, helped me to see the grave injustices and inequity of White domination in South Africa. This enlightenment led me to leave South Africa in 1961 and to migrate to Australia in 1963.

In my Autobiography, Ngoanyana, A South African Story, I referred to Colin’s role at Natal University in the 1950’s: “Also in the ranks of the Liberal Party, was a young law lecturer, Colin Turpin, whose views were highly influential on me. Colin, who subsequently became a highly distinguished academic at Clare College in Cambridge, was able to articulate with great eloquence and clarity the injustice and inhumanity of apartheid.” For the six decades from 1961, while I worked in Australia and sometimes in Britain, Colin and his delightful wife Monique and I maintained a steady friendship, with frequent letters and cards and more visits to their home in Cambridge than I can count. On these occasions, there were often present some great South African personalities, such as Jon Paton [Alan’s son,] and Ann Mervis [the daughter of Joel, the famous radical newspaper editor from Johannesburg].

I loved these visits to the Turpin home - they were the highlights of joyfulness to me. We often went to see the wonderful Colleges of the University and some of the magnificent ancient mansions and gardens, such as Anglesea Abbey. In latter days, we regularly walked to Grantchester for a pub lunch. On the last of these, I put my arm around Colin’s shoulder and he returned the gesture. That is the way I like to remember him-a dear, deeply respected friend, whose warmth, laughter, learning and intellectual stimulation I miss beyond measure.

The simplest way to describe Colin, is that he was a scholar and a gentleman. His manners were impeccable and his conversation and company erudite and highly pleasurable. He loved life and laughter was ever to the fore. Colin was an immensely civilised person, a man of great judgement, humanity and sensitivity, who assiduously travelled around Europe and enjoyed Bordeaux especially where two of his sons lived.

Colin Turpin’s departure from South Africa in 1961 was a tragedy for his birth land. But his long period of teaching in Cambridge, and his remarkable contribution to British Constitutional literature, spread his benign, uplifting influence and scholarship to a wide arc of brilliant students, leading academics and policy makers.


Colin Turpin (1928-2019): Obituary by Professor Neil Andrews

Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

Colin Conyngham Turpin was born in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, in June 1928. In 1950 he took a LLB at the University of Cape Town, and then a Cambridge LLB (now the LLM) in 1953. He studied and rowed at Christ’s College. Thereafter he became an Advocate in South Africa and taught at the University of Natal. He was elected a Fellow of Clare College in 1961, joining within the fellowship (as they became) Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, QC, FBA (1927-2012) and Kurt Lipstein QC. In 1964 Bill Wedderburn took the Cassel Chair of Commercial Law at the London School of Economics. In 1969 Bob Hepple became a Fellow of Clare College. Colin’s later pre-retirement colleagues as College law fellows were Elizabeth Freeman and David Howarth.

Colin Turpin was a leading authority on Constitutional Law. His best known work is British Government and the Constitution: Text and Materials (7th edn, Cambridge University Press, 2012, with Adam Tomkins; the six previous editions, beginning 1985, were sole authored). In Government Contracts (London, 1972) and Government Procurement and Contracts (London, 1989) he investigated a complex and virtually inaccessible subject, hitherto known only to a few Whitehall cognescenti. Sir Bob Hepple, QC, FBA, who overlapped with him first as Fellow (1969-1976) and then as Master of Clare College (1993-2003) aptly described Turpin’s scholarship as 'meticulous'. His publications are original, luminous, precise, very closely researched, and display a wide vision. Indeed Colin was known to spend more time in the University Library conducting his research than in the Squire Law Library, such was the abundance of extra-legal sources which he wished to comb.

From the early 1960s until the mid-1990s, Colin Turpin lectured on Roman Law (giving the property component in the Advanced Roman Law course), Constitutional (and Administrative) Law, and French Law (Government Contracts). His two main supervision subjects were (UK) Constitutional Law and (English) Contract. Such was his enthusiasm for teaching that he only stopped supervising in Constitutional Law when he reached 80 (seventeen years short of the College supervision record set by Kurt Lipstein (1909-2006), who supervised Roman Law until shortly before his death).

A group of legal alumni have endowed the Turpin-Lipstein Law Fellowship in Law jointly in his honour and in memory of Kurt Lipstein. Law reading rooms are dedicated separately to Colin Turpin and Kurt Lipstein within Clare College.

Colin took great pleasure in running the Eric Lane Visiting Fellowship. This fund enables visitors from all parts of the world to reside in College for eight weeks with full living expenses paid in order to engage in research relating to `the advancement of peace or social harmony’.

Before retiring from his Readership in 1995, Colin had served the Faculty in many capacities, including as Secretary of the Degree Committee and Editor of the Cambridge Law Journal. He is remembered with affection by generations of students as a generous, mild, punctilious, and penetrating teacher. He set the gold-standard as a flawless and devoted Director of Studies and Tutor. Amongst colleagues he is remembered with awe and deep respect, for he was consummately professional in every sphere of his wide-ranging Cambridge activity. A great servant of the University, the Faculty, and College, he was a modern, innovative, liberal academic with wide intellectual interests.

Colin was married to Monique for over 60 years. She died not long before Colin. They have four children and eight grandchildren.

Colin's family would like to extend an invitation to attend a celebration of his life on Friday 2 August at noon.

Professor Neil Andrews, 2019


Order of celebration at Colin’s Funeral

Turpin tribute