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On August 27th 2019 at 2pm, Colin Turpin and I were due to hold our first interview in Oxford. This would have formed part of the audio component for Colin’s tribute in the Eminent Scholars Archive.

Sadly, it never took place. His son, Philip, emailed me on Saturday 20th July to say that his father had died in the John Radcliffe Hospital on the previous Thursday. Colin was 91 years old.

Philip and I agreed that although it is unfortunate that there will be no audio component to preserve Colin’s voice for posterity, the material prepared for the planned interviews should be presented in the archive so that his father can take his rightful place in the tributes recording the Law Faculty’s history.

Colin himself had been preparing for our conversation by making handwritten notes in response to a list of preliminary topics for discussion that I had sent him a few weeks earlier.

Early years 1928-1950

Colin Conyngham Turpin was born on Wednesday 6th June 1928 in the small Karoo town of Middelburg in the eastern Cape Province, Union of South Africa, mid-way between Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth, and Graaff-Reinet and Colesberg.

His father was Ferdinand Worthington Turpin and his mother Ivy Thelma, neé Stümke. The family, on his father’s side, had been deeply involved in the Anglican church in the Eastern Cape since the mid-19th century. The first Turpin in South Africa was Colin’s great grandfather, the Rev William Homan Turpin, who arrived in 1857 [1]. Shortly afterwards, in 1860, he founded St Philip’s Church in Grahamstown [2], where he became known to the local congregation as “Fikizolo”, also establishing the Fikizolo School close by. He died in 1920.

The Rev William Homan Turpin married Elizabeth Gray, the daughter of William Gray, an 1820 Settler who had come out in the Chapman. Their first son (born in an ox wagon) was William Conyngham Turpin, Colin’s grandfather, who settled eventually in Middelburg, where he founded the Karroo Apteek, a shop that Colin’s father Ferdinand took over, and which still exists today. [3]

Colin spent his first ten years in Middelburg, where he attended Miss E. M. Wallis’s private primary school (1934-36, Sub A to Standard II), and then Middelburg Primary School (1937-38, Stds III and IV). In 1939 he became a boarder at the Anglican St Andrew’s schools a hundred miles away in the university city of Grahamstown.

The Second World War broke while he attended St Andrew’s Preparatory School in Leicester Street (1939-41), and it continued while Colin was a boarder in Upper House of St Andrew’s College [4], a short distance away in Somerset Street. He matriculated (first class) at the end of 1944.

By now Colin was sixteen and a half years old, and although he returned to the college in 1945 on what had intended to be a “post-matric” year, he spent only the first term at St Andrew’s. As the second world war ended in Europe, he moved to Swaziland [5], where he took a temporary teaching appointment at another Anglican foundation, St Mark’s School in the capital city of Mbabane [6]. This lasted until the end of 1945.

Colin embarked on his university career in 1946, when he was seventeen and a half. Perhaps, after six years in Grahamstown, he decided he needed a change of scenery, because instead of choosing to study at the local tertiary institution [7], Colin entered the University of Cape Town. Initially, he stayed in College House, which was then situated in Breda Street in Oranjezicht [8], but from 1948 lived with his parents, who had by then moved from Middelburg to Cape Town. This was firstly in Rusacre Road Rondebosch, then Talana Road Claremont. He graduated BA at the end of 1948.

During his time at UCT, Colin was taught and inspired by Ben-Zion Beinart, who had taken the WP Schreiner Chair of Roman Law in 1950 [9]. He also met and became a life-long friend of Claire Palley [10], who later became the first woman professor of law in the UK (Queens University of Belfast). Both Beinart and Palley were to become staunch opponents of National Party’s policies.

The year Colin graduated was also the year the National Party, then led by D F Malan[11], gained an overall parliamentary majority in the May 1948 general election and came to power for the first time. This ushered in the era during which apartheid dominated South African politics, and to which he was strongly opposed.

Armed with his BA, Colin stayed on at UCT and spent 1949 and 1950 studying Law and graduated LL.B. With these results he was able to gain entry to Cambridge, but until the northern hemisphere academic year 1951/52 was due to begin, he joined the Cape Town law attorneys Walker, Lewis, Godley & Field and spent the first half of 1951 learning the workings of a law firm.

Cambridge: Christ’s College 1951-1953

In September 1951, at the age of 23, Colin Turpin began his long and successful association with Cambridge University, when he entered Christ’s College. Here he read law from 1951 to 1953, at the end of which he was admitted to the Degrees of BA and LL.B.

At this time, the Law Faculty, along with the Squire Law Library (then under Dr T E Lewis[12]), was housed in the centre of town in the Old Schools. The library occupied the Cockerell Building, which was tucked against Senate House Passage, hard by Clare, Trinity Hall and Gonville & Caius colleges.

The War had been over only six years, but the faculty/library were still rebuilding after the depredations of staff and intake of stock. During Colin’s time at Christ’s (1951-53) there were only four established chairs in law at Cambridge, then held respectively by professors E C S Wade [13] (Downing); Duff [14] (Regius); Bailey [15] (Rouse Ball); and Lauterpacht [16] (Whewell). There were two Readers: Hamson [17] (Comparative Law), and Jackson [18] (Administrative Law). In addition there were seventeen lecturers and assistant lectures, three of whom would later hold chairs in the faculty: Robbie Jennings [19], Kurt Lipstein [20] and Toby Milsom [21].

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to ask Colin if he could recount any remembrances of these personalities, but from the other side, only three of the scholars I have interviewed for ESA were in post at the time of Colin’s stay at Clare. Of these Michael Prichard [22] and Mickey Dias [23] knew him as a post-graduate.

Michael was a member of the Bar who spent the weeks in London at Stone Building practising as an attorney, but from 1951 travelled up to Cambridge at weekends to give classes in the Faculty on Roman Law as an assistant lecturer. Michael was one of the “weekenders” who supplemented the teaching complement in the Faculty, which was still affected by staff shortages as a result of the war. Colin was one of his class.

In Question 70 of Michael’s interview he said “I got to know Colin a little because he was one of those attending my somewhat embarrassingly unintellectual lectures on comparison of English and Roman law. It was first of all transfer of movables, and then it became links between English and Roman law - I think it had changed to English and Roman law by the time Colin came.

He was a most polite, friendly and pleasant person. He knew a good deal more Roman law than I did, coming as he did from a Roman-Dutch background, but he always allowed me to finish my lectures without too much embarrassment.

Mickey Dias was a lecturer at Magdalene College, who also remembered Colin fondly from this time. Mickey replied (Questions 208-09) when asked about Colin:“He was a pupil of mine. He came from South Africa and he used to come to me for supervisions in Roman Dutch Law, which is the legal system in South Africa, and also supervisions in Roman Law and Jurisprudence. Yes, I got to know him really rather well, socially as well.” When asked about Colin personally, Micky said “Oh [he was an] extremely [nice man]. Charming, courteous. Sort of an old-world politeness about him.”

In addition to his LL.B, and love of rowing [24], Colin acquired a further priceless asset during his tenure at Christ’s: he met and married Monique, his future companion for over 60 years. His own description of this happy memory (of 67 years vintage) is preserved in the notes Colin prepared for our conversation:

“[We] met on 18 July 1952 at Priory Farm, West Walton, near Wisbech, Cambs, when working in an international students’ group on the fruit harvest.

We were engaged on 3rd January 1953 and married on 7 November 1953 in St Joseph’s Church, Plaistow Lane, Bromley, Kent.Our honeymoon was spent in St Helier, Jersey. We sailed for South Africa from Southampton in the Stirling Castle [25].”

University of Natal 1954-1960

Back in South Africa, Colin and Monique stayed with Colin’s parents in Rondebosch over the holiday period. Colin had obtained a lectureship in the Law Department at the University of Natal [26] in Durban, and at the start of the 1954 academic year, they moved up north.

To begin their new life, they stayed initially in a university cottage in Princess Alice Avenue, Berea, a stone’s throw from the University on the wooded rise centred on King George V Avenue. They later moved to Brown’s Grove in Sherwood, before finally settling down in Cowey Road, Essenwood, close to the Greyville Racecourse and Royal Durban Golf course.

Colin’s time at Durban saw the beginning of his scholarly publications’ record. Two papers appeared in the 1956 volume 73 of the South African Law Journal, both which must have been written at least a year before (1955, given the slow publication procedures of the day). He clearly wanted to teach and undertake legal research.

Both papers were on the subject of contract. The first was a short note on “acceptance of offer”, while the second was a substantial article on “contract and imposed terms” - i.e. the standardization of contractual terms [27].

By the early 50s, the National Party had begun to implement its apartheid legislation, and during his time in Durban Colin had some contact with the South African Liberal Party, to which he made monthly contributions of 10/-. We have evidence of this from a letter he wrote to the party’s Pietermaritzberg office in February 1959 [28]. The party had been founded in May1953 (the year before Colin and Monique returned from UK) as a non-racial counter to the National Party. One of its founders had been the activist and novelist Alan Paton [29]. Ten shillings was then a considerable sum, and showed Colin’s commitment to the party’s cause.

During this time Colin became a close friend of one of the co-founders of the party, a Durban lawyer, Pat Poovalingam [30].

The National Party’s opposition to the Liberal Party’s activities led ultimately to its demise, being dissolved in 1968 [31], while its sister opposition party, the Progressive Party, soldiered on with its single MP, Helen Suzman [32].

By 1959, Colin had been promoted to Associate Professor [33], and after seven years service was due a sabbatical leave. Consequently, he and Monique and their family sallied forth in September 1959 on the VNS liner the MS Oranjefontein [34] to undertake research in Europe. He had obtained an Oppenheimer Trust scholarship to fund his year away from Durban, and headed to Leiden, where they stayed on the coast at Noordwijk aan Zee.

They had been there only a short time when, on 21st March 1960, the South African police killed sixty-nine protestors at a PAC [35] march in Sharpeville, near Vereeniging in the Transvaal. As Colin put it in his notes: “...the Sharpeville massacre.... convinc[ed] us not to continue to live in South Africa...” He and Monique by then had four young sons. Mark (b.1954), Paul (b. 1956), Philip (b. 1957), and Francis (b. 1959).

Having taken this momentous decision, Colin was fortunate to be offered an assistant lectureship in Cambridge, starting 1st January 1961. As a consequence, in September 1960 he returned to Durban University for three months to work off his notice, and to sell their property in Cowey Road.

Cambridge: Clare College 1961-1995

Colin became a Fellow of Clare College in 1961, and began his illustrious association with the college that extended long after he retired in 1995. He became a fellow of Clare at the same time as Dr Mike G. Bown (Lecturer in Earth Sciences), and Dr K F Riley (Lecturer in Physics), and joined the law fraternity at Clare that then comprised Kurt Lipstein, and Keith Wedderburn [36]. He was later joined by Bob Hepple [37], Elizabeth Freeman [38], and David Howarth [39].

Colin’s academic progression followed a path of steady promotion: Assistant Lecturer (1961-66), Lecturer (1966-92), and Reader in Public Law (1992-95), and as Neil Andrews wrote in his college obituary: “Colin played a key role in cementing Clare’s reputation for excellence in Law.For him, the teaching of law was of no less value than the scholarship he brought to his research.Countless students benefitted from his lectures and College tutorials, along with his wise counsel and encouragement.Throughout, he brought to his teaching of the law his profound and enduring sense of social justice.”

When Colin returned to Cambridge, the Faculty and Squire Law Library were still crammed into the Old Schools complex, but lay conveniently close by his new college. Since his previous sojourn eight years earlier at Christ’s, the Faculty had increased slightly to five professors, with the elevation of Hamson to a personal chair, and Robbie Jennings replacing Hersch Lauterpacht as Whewell Professor. The latter had been knighted and elevated to the bench of the ICJ [40]. There were now three Readers (with the addition of Glanville Williams and HW Wade), while the complement of lecturers/assistant lecturers had increased to nineteen (not including himself).

Over the thirty-four years that Colin graced Clare and the Faculty, the staff compliment grew steadily, so that by the time he retired in 1995 there were fourteen professors, six readers, and thirty-one lecturers/assistant lecturers.

Several members of staff from this period have been interviewed for the ESA, and six have memories of Colin while he was at Clare. Of these, the most substantial contribution was by the late Professor Sir Bob Hepple. He had a special reason for remembering Colin with gratitude, as it was through the intervention of Colin and Ken Polack [41] that Hepple was enrolled at Clare in 1964. He recounted this in Question 44 of his interview.

Bob Hepple had fled South Africa at the end of 1963 and “arrived in England on a cold December day seeking asylum and I said to the immigration officer that I intended to study at university, and he asked me, “Where are your letter of acceptance?” and of course I didn’t have any.So he immediately served me with a deportation order to go back to Tanzania, where I had already been granted asylum.”

After various political interventions Bob Hepple was allowed to stay, but realised that he needed to acquire further qualifications to follow a career in the UK. It was here that Colin played a crucial role.“I realised I needed to get a degree in English law and I was thinking of going to London University but a South African friend put me in touch with Ken Polack, who was a former South African Fellow of Kings and lecturer in Roman/Dutch law in the university and he invited me, him and his wife, Rosemary Polack, who was a Cambridge solicitor. I can remember meeting in their small flat in King’s Parade. There I met for the first time Colin Turpin another South African, who was a Fellow of Clare and I also met again my old friend, Charles Feinstein[42], who I had known and who was a Fellow in Clare as well in Economics.And between them they encouraged me to come to Cambridge to study, and they put in a good word for me with the then Master, Sir Eric Ashby [43] and the senior tutor, Dr Northam [44]. I was admitted to read what was then called the LLB, now called the LLM.”

Colin had much in common with Bob Hepple politically. They both were champions of social justice and in particular objected strongly to the policies and implementation of the SA National Party’s racial programme of apartheid. Later, Sir Bob wrote of his experiences in South Africa in the early sixties when he became embroiled in the legal efforts to defend Nelson Mandela on charges of treason. The result was his book Young Man with a Red Tie[45]. Bob presented a copy of the book to Clare College in 2013, and Colin took part in a public debate with Bob on it later that year. His admiration for Bob Hepple’s stand, and his views on the situation fifty years earlier, are vividly summed up in a report of the debate that was published in the online Clare Association Annual 2012-13 [46], page 18.

Bob Hepple has very kindly given to the College a copy of his compelling memoir, Young Man With a Red Tie: A Memoir of Mandela and the Failed Revolution 1960-1963. This was published by Jacana Media in South Africa in July 2013, and was the subject of a public conversation in the College with Emeritus Fellow Colin Turpin (1961) in November. Colin said: ‘It is a most honest and vivid account of what [Bob] endured and of the remarkable way in which [he] triumphed over [his] horrifying experience as a victim of a tyranny…[T]he book will last as an unmatched record of a vicious system of misgovernment and as showing how even a systematically ruthless police state can be successfully resisted by simple human courage.’

At the time of the debate, Bob was 79 years old and Colin 85. Two old soldiers reminiscing on past political battles.

Colin’s sense of “wise counsel and encouragement” that Neil Andrews referred to was remembered by another of the ESA interviewees, Justice Paul Finn [47] who was the Arthur Goodhart Visiting Professor in Legal Science for 2010/2011. Finn had earlier (1971-75) been a post-graduate at Gonville & Caius College, where he did his PhD. In Question 7 of the ESA conversation he commented that “What I wrote cherry picked across a whole lot of different subjects, many of which I knew very little about. What I could not get over was the generosity of so many of the academic staff who would allow me to come and talk to them about their specialisation, but only from the very narrow focus.So, I got an enormous amount of assistance from all sorts of people, from the late Stanley de Smith[48], to Colin Turpin, to John Collier[49]. It just goes on and on,and people gave generously.For that I was very grateful.” Finn won the Yorke Prize for his work, and his treatise formed the basis of his 1978 book Fiduciary Obligations (Law Book Co).

Scholarly works

As previously mentioned, Colin’s publications while in South Africa had focussed primarily on matters of contractual law, and although he retained an interest in this theme in a UK context with his 1972 Penguin Law in Society paperback and the 1989 revamp with Patricia Brown [50] as a substantial text with the same name, his arrival at Clare prompted new research interests.

An early stimulus was the arrival of Bob Hepple in Cambridge in 1964. Not only were the two stoutly opposed to the National Party policies in South Africa, but the Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Southern Rhodesia in 1965 was an event of great concern to them. They foresaw this as a precursor to a regime similar to that in South Africa becoming established in a neighbouring southern African country with the forming of an independent Rhodesia. This resulted in their 1966 collaborative paper (with O’Higgins) in which they discussed the possible criminal liability of Mr Smith for treason [51].

Two years later Colin’s background in Roman-Dutch law led him to publish a very thoughtful survey using French and German sources of the acceptance of what he called a “vulgarised Roman law” in the territories occupied by barbarian tribes in what had been the Western Roman Empire in the twelfth and following centuries [52]. Its reception produced what he summarised as the replacement of “a law rooted in popular tradition.....and an ad hoc resolution of conflict” by a law “embodied in written sources and elaborated in terms of rules and concepts which made for a consistency of application..”[53]

Colin’s lasting legacy to legal scholarship is sure to be, however, his opus magnum: ‘British Government and the Constitution: Text and Materials’.Its first edition appeared in 1985, and it was to become a leading text on the British constitution. By the time Colin died, it had run to seven editions [54], with a further edition in planning by Professor Alison Young [55].

Colin was fascinated by the complexity of the British constitution, and in the Preface to the first edition set out his aims and insights. It was “Written for students of law, but also students of politics and government.” He pointed out that a law student can “obtain an incomplete and fragmentary view of the constitution unless he is encouraged to travel beyond the boundaries of the law’s domain”.

As the Faculty obituary [56] remarked, Colin was very conscious that much that was relevant lay beyond the purely legal domain, which is why “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.” This broad vision was emphasised in the Preface in his description of our constitution as the handiwork of lawyers, judges, politicians, polemicists, noble lords, rebels in & out of Parliament, party members, “and the legions of special interests”. He wanted to show that it has a “variegated texture” formed of rules (legal, quasi-legal, customary & conventional), values, habits of mind, shared understandings. A problem, and a strength of the constitution is that it is “continually re-shaped in the daily practice of politics & administration, as well as deliberate law-making of legislators & judges.”

Writing a decade after UK’s accession, Colin realised that membership of the European Union (then the EEC) had implications for the constitution, and gave Chapter 5 to an account of this.

One of his profound conclusions in Chapter 6 (The Powers of Government), written now nearly 35 years ago, was that (p.290-91) “majority rule under a system of parliamentary democracy is not a sufficient guarantee of legitimacy”, and that loss of legitimacy would threaten the survival of governments and the democratic constitutional system itself. I had hoped to ask Colin what his present prognosis was, given our current political turmoil, but sadly will never know his final observations on a complex legal, social and political creation for which he had so much regard and attachment.

The seventh edition of British Government and the Constitution, jointly authored (as was the 6th) with Adam Tomkins [57], was published when Colin was 84 years old, and was written when he was in his early 80s. Clearly, he retained his passionate observance of, and urge to comment upon, British constitutional matters into his later years. Also, again the Preface emphasised that the dominant raison d’etre for the book remained, 27 years later, to show that while lawyers play a crucial role in the constitution’s formulation, they must always be aware to guard against their “teaching and writing about it myopic isolation.” As the authors also point out (p. xvi), of the two opposing tides within it - continuity and change - a balance still prevails, despite the major changes wrought since Colin first put pen to paper on the scholarly topic for which he will be most-remembered.

College service

Colin was an assiduous Fellow at Clare, whose love of the college was recognised in the Clare College obituary.

He was a highly valued member of the College, forming enduring relationships with Fellows of the College across all disciplines.He took charge of the Lady Clare Fund, allocating funds to alumni in need, with great care and consideration.Colin loved spending time in Clare’s gardens and showing visitors around the Fellows’ Library. The Turpin Law Reading Room in Ashby Court carries his name.”

Clare College was fortunate in having had two dedicated law fellows supporting their students in Colin Turpin and Kurt Lipstein. As Neil Andrews’s obituary recalls “In 2006, the Turpin-Lipstein Fellowship in Law was created in his honour, to continue Colin’s legacy of providing first-class tuition to Clare’s law undergraduates. Initially established on a temporary basis, the Fellowship became permanently endowed in 2018.

The college website[58] describes the Fellowship’s contribution to law teaching at Clare. “The Turpin-Lipstein Fellowship has, since its establishment, contributed significantly to Clare's consistent record of excellence in the Law Tripos. The Turpin-Lipstein Fellowship is a four-year teaching fellowship at Clare primarily dedicated to the support of undergraduates studying for the Law Tripos.....The teaching of Law at Cambridge relies upon provisions at both the University and College levels. Since Faculty teaching alone is insufficient to maintain small group supervisions which have historically been provided to all Law students, the Turpin-Lipstein Fellowship - like similar posts in other colleges - is crucial in ensuring that present and future Clare Law undergraduates benefit from the same exceptional legal education as those who have gone before them.”

The Turpin-Lipstein Fellow has clearly become a crucial component in law teaching at Clare, where the incumbent “usually serves as Director of Studies in Law at Clare, supervising many of the undergraduate lawyers for specific papers... The Turpin-Lipstein Fellow also plays a central role in selecting external supervisors to cover any subjects Clare fellows do not teach.”

That it has been a great success is shown by statistics cited on the website: “In 2016, 50% of our students have graduated with First Class Honours, and all of our students have graduated with an Upper Second or better. A number of Clare students have won University prizes in Law and have come top in the Tripos. In 2016, there were eight Firsts from Clare lawyers in the Law Tripos and LLM exams.”

It is a fitting and permanent tribute to Colin’s (and Kurt’s) assiduous contributions to law teaching at Clare.

Further, a pastoral role played by Colin at Clare was his association with a “behind the scenes” social activity that was so characteristic of his concern for those in need of assistance. Named after Elizabeth de Clare [59], The Lady Clare Fund [60] is a registered Charity within the College that provides help on a strictly confidential basis to alumni of the College, or their dependants, who find themselves in financial difficulties. Colin took charge of this fund for several years as Honorary Treasurer, and administered it with “great care and consideration.”[61] (Philip Turpin believes that his father remained on the committee that administered the Lady Clare Fund until he left Cambridge to live in Oxford in 2018).

Similarly, “Colin took great pleasure in running the Eric Lane Visiting Fellowship [62]. 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’.” [63]

Faculty activities

Neil Andrews describes Colin’s faculty contributions thus [64]:

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).

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.”

The Cambridge Law Journal was started in 1921 as a student publication by the Cambridge University Law Society, and was later taken over by the Faculty. Colin served as the Editor from 1989 to 1995. He relinquished the post the year that he retired, which coincided with the Faculty’s translocation from its cramped scattered quarters about the Old Schools complex to the new, spacious Sidgwick site.

Michael Prichard, who took over the editorship in 1996, recalled in his ESA interviews (Question 110) that“I enjoyed the Cambridge Law Journal -it was quite a lot of re-organisation up here [on the Sidgwick site], because Colin had done it all from his rooms in Clare. I brought it over here, because the Faculty was coming over, and this was the obvious place for it. That coincided, more or less, with the collapse of theEastern Press, which meant that one had to keep rather more stuff here and do far more work producing and preparing it. We couldn’t just send him an article.You had to get it into a file and send the disk as well.”

Colin had taken took over the role of Editor from Len Sealy, and was the last editor of the Cambridge Law Journal to have dealt with paper manuscripts. It was also before Cambridge University Press took over the printing of the publication and computers played their current dominant role in the submission and editing of scripts. He handled all the editing and paperwork from his college rooms.

This was a further unsung role in which he served the law fraternity, of which he was a steadfast member.

Neil Andrews sums up Colin’s university faculty and college legacy in his Faculty obituary “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’s sons Mark and Philip have both made valuable comments to my attempts at summarising their father’s illustrious life. I have incorporated these in the text above where they referred to minor points. However, both made some more extensive personal observations on Colin’s political views to which I feel I cannot do justice by paraphrasing. I have included them here verbatim.

Mark Turpin

1. Colin also retained links with other exiled South Africans, including Professor Kader Asmal, who was from Stanger in Natal, left South Africa in 1959 to study at LSE and eventually built a distinguished legal academic career at Trinity College, Dublin. Asmal established the Irish Anti Apartheid Movement with his English wife Louise, and also helped to establish the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. Asmal was on the National Executive of the ANC, and on returning to South Africa was appointed as a Minister in Nelson Mandela’s government in 1994.

2. Colin’s passion for social justice led him to become a long-time member of the Labour Party, apart from a short time when he resigned from the party in protest against the Party’s support for the war in Iraq. He was also a life-long supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, taking part in the Aldermaston marches in the early 1960s alongside other exiled South Africans such as Ruth First. In 2018, aged 90, he wrote to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, encourging him to support the recently-adopted UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Philip Turpin

1. Colin also developed a close relationship with Professor John Nieuwenhuysen, an economist at the University of Natal.John left South Africa and emigrated to Australia soon after Monique and Colin but they remained in contact, John visiting when he was in the UK.Colin was in contact with John when he (Colin) was in Bordeaux in June this year.

2. In 1977 Colin and Monique went to Cape Town for three months, Colin having accepted a Visiting Lectureship at UCT, invited by Barry Dean (who I believe was the Dean of the Law Faculty).It was an opportunity for Colin to see his father, who was recently widowed and living in Hermanus.My brother Paul and I were in South Africa at that time.Colin and Monique found the political environment very upsetting.The informal settlements of Modderdam and Werkgenot on the edge of Cape Town were being bulldozed, making thousands of people homeless. Steve Biko was killed in September, just before Monique and Colin returned to the UK. 

A personal In memorium

I met Colin after arriving at the Squire Law Library (in 1997), and had the good fortune to enjoy several interesting and enjoyable conversations with him. I found him charming and self-effacing, and someone with whom I had great empathy, given my own roots in southern Africa. It is a matter of utmost regret that he died before we had had a chance to conduct our ESA conversations and record his voice and views for posterity. I know it would have been an enlightening and profound experience in both legal and social contexts. The notes Colin left hinted that he would have been a delightful interviewee.

Nevertheless, I am grateful that I had the privilege of attending his dignified and moving burial at the Barton Burial Ground, Cambridgeshire, on Friday 2 August, where I had the pleasure of meeting some of his inspiring family.

The order of service provided by the family is attached to this tribute.


[1] He was descended from the Rev Thomas Turpin of New Street Dublin (1602), and was related to Baronet Conyngham. See 1897, Colin Turing Campbell, . British South Africa: A History of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope from its Conquest 1795 to the Settlement of Albany by the British Emigration of 1819. With Notices of Some of the British Settlers of 1820. p. 207 .

[3] I am grateful to Colin’s son Mark for this interesting detail.

[5] Now officially Kingdom of Eswatini

[7] Which at that time was Rhodes University College, a constituent college of the University of South Africa. It became independent, Rhodes University, in 1951.

[8] Currently it is on Main Road in Rosebank

[9] He held the Schreiner chair until 1974, when he became the Barber Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Birmingham. He died in 1979.

[10] Claire Dorothea Taylor Palley, OBE (1931- ) Professor of law Queen's University Belfast (1970-73).

[11] Daniel François Malan, (1874-1959). National Party Prime Minister of South Africa (1948-54).

[12] T. Ellis (TEL) Lewis (1900-1978), Librarian, Squire Law Library and Lecturer in Law (1931-68).

[13] Emlyn Capel Stewart Wade, (1895-1978). Downing Professor of the Laws of England (1945-62).

[14] Patrick William Duff, (1901-91). Regius Professor of Civil Law (1945-68).

[15] Stanley John Bailey, (1901-80). Rouse Ball Professor of English Law (1950-68).

[16] Sir Hersch Lauterpacht, (1897-1960). ICJ Judge (1954-60), Whewell Professor of International Law (1938-55).

[17] Charles John Hamson, (1905-87). Professor of Comparative Law (1953-73).

[18] Richard Meredith Jackson, (1903-86), Downing Professor of the Laws of England (1966-70).

[19] Sir Robert Yewdall Jennings, (1913-2004). Judge & President ICJ (1982-95), Whewell Professor of International Law (1955-81).

[20] Kurt Lipstein, (1909-2006). Professor of Comparative Law (1973-76).

[21] Stroud Francis Charles (Toby) Milsom, (1923-2016). Professor of Law (1976-90).

[22] Michael J Prichard, (b. 1927). Lecturer in Law, Life Fellow & President, Gonville & Caius, President (1976-80), Editor, Cambridge Law Journal (1996-2002).

[23] Reginald Walter Michael (Mickey) Dias, (1921-2009). Lecturer in Law (1951-86).

[24] Citing Neil Andrews in the Law Faculty obituary notice, 24th July 2019.

[25] Union Castle mailship. Launched 1935, scrapped 1966.

[26] Now a component of the University of KwaZulu-Natal

[27] Turpin C C “Acceptance of Offer: Instantaneous Communication” (1956)  73(1) SALJ  77-80 and Turpin C C “Contract and imposed terms” 1956 73(2) SALJ 144-158

[28] 1959 Correspondence with South African Liberal Party, p.218, Natal Coastal Region: Natal Coastal Region Committee: Correspondence 1955-1960.

[29] Alan Stewart Paton (1903-1988). His most acclaimed novel was Cry, The Beloved Country

Colin became a close friend of Paton’s son Jonathan, also a Liberal Party member.

[30] He died in 2009, having been an Indian member of the House of Delegates in the 1980s.

[31] As a result of the Prevention of Political Interference Act 1968.

[32] Helen Suzman, DBE (1917-2009).

[33] In 1956. See: Bill Guest, 2017.Stella Aurorae: the History of A SouthAfrican University. Volume 2 the University of Natal (1949–1976). p.43 - Colin fell into the category of “ ‘outstanding academic merit’ who might otherwise be lost to other institutions”. Publications of the Natal Society Foundation. 492pp.

[34] See

Built 1940 Rotterdam, scrapped 1967 Bilbao. Operated by Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaartmaaschappij (VNS) on the Holland-Mozambique route.

[35] Pan African Congress

[36] Kenneth William Wedderburn (1927-2012). Baron Wedderburn of Charlton,

Labour politician, Emeritus Cassell Professor of Commercial Law, LSE.

[37] Professor Sir Bob Hepple (1934-2015), Fellow (1968-76) and Master (1993-2003) Clare College. Professor of English Law UCL (1982-93), Professor of Law Cambridge (1995-2001).

[38] Mrs Elizabeth Freeman, emeritus fellow Clare College (1976-).

[39] David Ross Howarth (b. 1958), Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge (2005–10). Professor of Law & Public Policy, Dept of Land Economy (1987-).

[40] Poignantly, he had died prematurely, the year before Colin returned - 1960.

[41] Ken Polack (1933-95), Fellow of King’s College, Tutor/Lecturer (1961-69), Bursar (1969-81).

[42] Charles Hilliard Feinstein (1932-2004) b. Johannesburg, Arrived Cambridge 1954. Fellow of Clare College 1963-78. Chichele Professor of Economic History, Oxford, 1989-99.

[43] Eric Ashby, Baron Ashby of Brandon, FRS (1904-1992), Harrison Professor of Botany University of Manchester (1947-50) Master of Clare College, (1959–75). VC Cambridge (1967-69).

[44] John Richard Northam, (1922-2004) scholar of Ibsen’s works. Fellow of Clare College (1950-1972), Professor Modern and Comparative Drama, Bristol.(1972-

[45] Young Man with a Red Tie: a Memoir of Mandela and the Failed Revolution 1960-1963, 2013, Jacana Media, 2013, 224pp.

[47] Justice Paul Desmond Finn (b. 1946). Judge Federal Court of Australia (1995-2012).

[48] Stanley Alexander De Smith (1922-1974). Downing Professor of the Laws of England (1970-74).

[49] John Collier, Fellow of Trinity Hall.

[50] Government Procurement and Contracts, Longman, 328pp

[51] 1966. Hepple BA, O’Higgins P & Turpin CC “ Rhodesian crisis - criminal liabilities” 1966 CLR 5-16. Hepple by then had moved to Nottingham University.

[52] “The reception of Roman Law” (1968) 3 IJ 162-174.

[53] op cit p. 174.

[54] 1st 1985 Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2nd 1990 Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 3rd 1995 Butterworth, 4th 1999 Butterworth, 5th 2002 Butterworth, 6th 2007 CUP - with Adam Tomkins, 7th 2012 CUP - with Adam Tomkins.

[55] Alison Young, Sir David Williams Professor of Public Law (2018-). Robinson College.

[56] Written by Neil Andrews, Professor of Civil Justice & Private Law.

[57] Adam Tomkins (b. 1969). John Millar Professor of Public Law University of Glasgow.

[59] 11th Lady of Clare (1295-1360) was the heiress to the lordships of Clare, Suffolk, and Usk. She refounded the college in 1338 (called then Clare Hall).

[60] Founded in 1934 by members of the Clare Association. ‘Dependants’ include families of deceased alumni. Need may arise through old age, ill health, widowhood, or natural disabilities.

[61] From Clare College obituary.

[63], From Clare College obituary..

[64] In the Faculty obituary.