2018 Dethridge Memorial Address

Author:Stuart Hetherington
Position:President, Comité Maritime International (2012?18) and Former President, MLAANZ (1992?94)
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The 45th Annual MLAANZ Conference
Blue Mountains
11 October 2018
Frank Stuart Dethridge Memorial Address
Stuart Hetherington*
1 Frank Dethridge
When, in 1977, the Maritime Law Association of Australia (MLAA) first called this presentation an Address,
those who made that decision may not have been a ware of the story of one of my heroes F E Smith, Lord
Birkenhead (Barrister, Lord Chancellor, Member of Parliament, friend of Churchill). It was common at the end
of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for politicians, pre television, to give speeches at very large To wn
Hall meetings. The story is told that on one occasion a self-important, pompous, local dignitary gave a long winded
introduction to F E Smith and concluded Now Mr Smith please give us your address. The great man went to the
lectern and simply said 32 Grosvenor Gardens, London, SW 1.
If you would like to know mo re about him there are some great biographies and you can s ee him depicted in the
movie Chariots of Fire played by Nigel Davenport, with the King trying to find a way to assist Eric Liddell to run
his race. And he gave one of the judgments in Gau nts case (on All risks in marine insurance).1
As will become apparent, I did not meet Frank Stewart Dethridge. I am honoured to be asked to give this Address.
This Association is b lessed with havi ng had such distinguished speakers to have given this Address since 1977,
when the first one was given by Sir Ninian Stephen, then a Justice of the High Court and subsequently Governor-
General of Australia. There are two publications covering the years 1977 to 1988 and 1989 to 1998 which contain
the Addresses given by two Chief Justices of the Australian High Court, 2 a Minister of the Crown,3 Judges,4 a
leading international academic,5 a former C hief Justice of NSW,6 practitioners,7 and Past Presidents,8 and others
since those publications.9 It is indeed an honour to be amongst them all.
2 Sir Ninian Stephen
Sir Ninian Stephen, who had bee n a fellow Victorian practitioner made some wonderful co mments about Frank
Dethridge, which have been quoted by both Ron Salter and Tom Broadmore in their Addresses, but for those who
have not heard them let me repeat the last sentence: He had developed to an exquisite degree that high art of the
instructing solicitor, how to teach counsel what he does not know but needs to learn for the case in hand, while
conveying the impression all the while that it is he, the instructing solicitor, who is collecting pearls of wisdom as
they fall from counsels lips.
* President, Comité Maritime International (201218) and Former President, MLAANZ (199294).
1 British & Foreign Marine Insur ance Co Ltd v Gaunt [1921] 2 AC 41.
2 Sir Harry Gibbs (1988) and Sir Anthony Mason (1998).
3 Sir James Killen (1980).
4 Sir Ronald Davison (1979), Sir GSM Green (1978), Howard Zelling (1981), David Yeldham (1983), Sir Robin Cooke (1984), Lord Mustill
(1986), David Malcolm (1991), IL McKay (1995), Richard Cooper (1996), Sir Owen Woodhouse (1990), Peter Heerey (1993), Simon
Sheller (1994).
5 Francis Reynolds (1985).
6 Sir Laurence Street (1989).
7 Michael Thomas (1992) and Gavan Griffith (1997).
8 Ron Salter (2012), Tom Broadmore (2009) and Sarah Derrington (2016).
9 Justices Keith (2000); Tamberlin (2001); Sir David Steel (2002); Nelson (2003); Waung (2004); Allsop (2006); Kirby (2007); Ryan
(2008), Rares (2013) and Chong (2015).
The Past, Present and Future
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3 Introduction
I have titled thi s Address The Past, Present and Future, mindful of the words attributed to Edmund Burke and
Theodore Roosevelt.
Edmund Burke: A nation that never looks back at its past can never understand its future or People will not
look forward to posterity who never look backwards to their ancestors.
Theodore Roosevelt: The more you know about the past the better you are prepared for the future.
More recently I came across some perti nent lines from Clive J amess latest work, a 122 page poem, The Rivers
in the sky, in which he says:
For ours is a land of legends
That seldom recognise each others names
It isn’t history that we lack
It is the habit
Of thinking in it.
4 The Past
Two hundred and fifty years ago on 25 August 1768 Lieutenant James Cook sailed HMS Bark Endeavour out of
Plymouth Harbour. It was a 30 metre collier and he had 94 persons on board. As of a couple of weeks ago there
is a link with MLAANZ! You may have seen the recent TV news at which Peter Dexter, Chairman of t he
Australian Natio nal Maritime Museum was present in Ne wport, USA where the y think they have located her
wreck. Peter was ide ntified by my senior partner at Ebsworth and Ebsworth, John Bowen, as an up and coming
ANL executive and I invited him to present a paper at the 1985 Conference in Melbourne. He subsequently ran
Wilhelmsens and Wallenius Wilhelmsen for many years both locally and regionally. (John Bowen also picked
Murray Gleeson as an up and coming junior barrister when he briefed him in the Meyer Heine litigation.) I cannot
wait to get my hands on a well reviewed recent book b y Peter Moore, Endea vour: The Ship and the Attitude that
Changed the World.
One hundred and seventy five years ago, only 75 years after Cook started his voyage, on 19 July 1843 the SS
Great Britain was launched. It was the worlds largest ship and the first to combine a steel hull with a screw
propeller. (She was later converted back to use both sail and steam, as can be seen in the painting by John A
Wilson of 1852, which is held by the SS Great Brita in Trust). She was 98 metres long.
She made her maiden Australian voyage in 1852, carrying 630 migrants, and subsequently completed 32 voyages
bringing 15,000 people to a new life in Australia. She was the creation of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Some of her passengers includ ed the English cricket team which toured Australia in 1861 (including t he brother
of WG Grace) and the author, Anthony Trollope (another of my heroes) in 1871. The SS Great Britain made her
last voyage to Australia in 1876, one hundred years before I joined Ebsworth and Ebsworth and was introduced
to the maritime legal world in 1976.
That seems to me to be an appro priate way to start an Address, which will travel through the early years of the
MLAA and the Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand (MLAANZ) from its origins in 1974,
to be given by someone who migrated to Australia that same year on the Chandris Line ship RHMS Britanis.
4.1 Comité Maritime International (CMI)
The first Maritime Law Association (MLA) to be founded was the Belgium MLA in 1896 and the CMI was
formally founded the following year in Antwerp. Other MLAs started to be formed from that time.10 There are
now 52 MLAs who are members of CMI.11
10 France in 1897, the USA and Germany in 1898, Denmark, Norway and Italy in 1899, Japan in 1901 and the UK in 1908.
11 In his Presidents Report to the AGM in 1981 Peter noted that the first MLAANZ representation at a CMI Conference had taken place that
year, at Montreal, which Paul Willee, Ian Mackay, Doug Jones and Alan McKenzie attended. I believe Peter Willis and Ken Carruthers
attended the 1985 Lisbon Conference.

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