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Proud to be Jamaican

Independent Jamaica's first native chief justice — Sir Colin MacGregor

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Features Editor — Sunday thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 05, 2012    

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DEBBIE and Judith were tots when their granddad Sir Colin MacGregor retired as Chief Justice of Jamaica in 1962.

The two were born the previous year, which means their memories of grandpa while he was on the bench are based mostly on what has been passed down from their parents.

Still, they seem to know enough to have described him as "firm, strict, but fair".

Sir Colin spent five years as the head of the judiciary — from 1957 to 1962 — and had the enviable record of being not only the first chief justice of independent Jamaica, but was also the first of them to be native to Jamaica.

"Certainly, as the first of independent Jamaica, it is to be regarded as an honour for him," Debbie told the Jamaica Observer from her home in Trinidad & Tobago yesterday.

"I think it speaks volumes to the type of man that he was: His good character, honesty and integrity on the bench; (for) only those held in the highest esteem would be considered for the role of chief justice," she said.

Now 51, Debbie, whose full name is Deborah MacGregor Farinha, is one of two children born to Sir Colin's son Colin Gordon MacGregor — who married Maureen Jean-Charles from Trinidad.

Judith, also 51, lives in the United Kingdom where the Games of the XXX Olympiad are underway. Her full name is Judith Maw Grange and she is one of three children born to Colin Gordon's sister — Elizabeth MacGregor and Englishman Robert Maw.

Colin Gordon MacGregor and his sister are both deceased.

Describing her grandfather as an "immensely proud Jamaican", especially while he headed the judiciary, Judith said he was also a "good, kind, honest" man who commanded a lot of respect both in and outside the courtroom.

"When he was on the bench he was a very strict judge and would not tolerate bad behaviour from anyone; be it a barrister or the person being tried. [He would either find them in] contempt of court or [sentence them to] solitary confinement to cool off," she said.

"My mother told me a story that there was a particular individual who went back to the cell three times because he would not behave properly. It took the fourth attempt to realise the judge meant business," Judith told the Sunday Observer by e-mail.

She also told about the time her father and Sir Colin were at a local market and a vendor declared that he would give Judge MacGregor his entire fruit stall as, though he had sent his son to prison, it was the best thing that could have happened.

"Over the years I have never heard a bad word said against him," she stressed. "In fact, we were over in Jamaica on honeymoon in 2006 and I took my husband and son to the Mandeville court house. A very kind policeman let us in after we said who I was, and he said he never had the pleasure of knowing (Sir Colin), but he had heard many good things about him, and that he was still respected all these years later," the England-based woman said.

Sir Colin lived from April 10, 1901- September 6, 1982. He was a Knight Bachelor and a deacon in the Anglican Church. A scholarship named in his honour — the Colin MacGregor Memorial Prize — is offered by the University of the West Indies to outstanding law students.

His grandkids report that Sir Colin has presided over elections in Mauritius, and that he was well respected in the scouting world. They said, too, that the Judge — who sat in Spanish Town and in Mandeville — was offered the position of Chief Justice in the former British Honduras (Belize) on June 11, 1954, but that he declined.

The chief justices who have followed Sir Colin are Sir Rowland Phillips (1963 - 1968), Sir Herbert Duffus (1968 - 1973), Kenneth Smith (1973 - 1984), Edward Zacca (1985 - 1996), Lensley Wolfe (1996 - 2007), and Zaila McCalla who currently holds the office.

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