Oxford University Gazette

Encaenia 1998: Speeches by the Public Orator

The Rt. Hon. THE LORD MACKAY OF CLASHFERN, KT, PC, FRSE

formerly Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain

Honorandorum agmen ducit vir qui iudicum iurisque peritorum agmen semper fere duxit. sed hic mihi caute procedendum est, nam sunt qui tritissimam istam de felibus obesis cantilenam semper in ore habentes omnibus causidicis, omnibus oratoribus crimini vertant si quid avaritia peccaverunt legulei pauci; quod quam inique fieri soleat hic quem produco evidentissime declarat, qui cum formularum ambages tollere studuerit, tum iudiciorum rationes magis perspicuas, minus reis testibusque formidulosas reddiderit. neque hoc virum acutissimum fefellit, cives nostros idcirco saepe deterreri ne iudicia adirent, quod res sine nimia impensa confici non posset. quae cum hic pugnaret ut minueretur, haud mirum si quibusdam stomachum movit. ad artem mathematicam olim sese conferebat, in qua militavit non sine gloria; sed mox iuris prudentiae maluit incumbere, ad cives suos rediit, cursum illum secutus est qui cum ad summos in Caledonia honores duxit tum ad locum totius Britanniae amplissimum, quem adeptus ita se gessit ut non numquam controversiam, aliquando altercationem, numquam non admirationem laudemque commoverit; qui et in causis iudicandis et in rationibus explicandis summam animi et magnitudinem et simplicitatem exhibuerit. in iudiciorum institutis plura novavit quam hoc saeculo quisquam. novum disciplinae genus introduxit quo iuris scientia doceatur; divorti rationem expedivit qua coniuges sine acerbitate separari diiungique possint; egregiam illam legem tulit quae ita infantibus consulit ut parentum iura non neglegantur, quae lex praesertim nunc ab universis summa laude ac gratulatione cumulatur.

Praesento Cancellario Cancellarium, legum latorem sapientissimum, interpretem aequissimum, defensorem potentissimum, Iacobum, Baronem Mackay de Clashfern, antiquissimi et nobilissimi Ordinis Cardui Equitem, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Iure Civili.

Admission by the Chancellor

Iudex eminentissime, in iudicibus optimis eligendis prudentissime, qui tuis egregiis laboribus iudicia apertiora, iustitiam parabiliorem reddidisti, ego auctoritate mea et totius Universitatis admitto te ad gradum Doctoris in Iure Civili honoris causa.

Paraphrase

The procession of our honorands is led by Lord Mackay, who among lawyers and judges has always been in the lead. I must be careful here: there are those who are obsessed with the old cliché about fat cats, and who hold the whole legal profession responsible for the greed of a few untypical practitioners. Lord Mackay is himself a perfect example of the falsity of such judgements. It was one of his great aims to make legal procedure simpler, more intelligible, and less alarming to the layman. He did not fail to observe that many people are deterred from using the courts by the fear of disproportionate expense; it was only to be expected that his efforts to reduce it would meet strong opposition. He started out as a mathematician and gave signs of great promise, but before long he took up the study of the law, returned to Scotland, and embarked on a career which took him first to high positions in the Scottish legal system and finally to the topmost pinnacle of the law in Great Britain. As Lord Chancellor he was no stranger to controversy, sometimes intense, but he never lost the respect of the profession for his courage and his sincerity, both in judging cases and in explaining his reasoning. He has been responsible for more innovations in procedure than any Lord Chancellor this century. He was active in establishing proper training for barristers; his changes to the law of divorce aimed to avoid the bitterness that too often accompanies the breakdown of a marriage; and he was responsible for the very important Children Act, which protects children without infringing the rights of parents. That Act in particular is now generally regarded as a masterpiece.

I present a fellow Chancellor, who is wise in devising laws, judicious in their interpretation, and powerful in their defence: James, Baron Mackay of Clashfern, KT, for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law.

Admission by the Chancellor

Eminent judicial chief in your own right and courageously discriminating nominator of other distinguished judges, you have striven to make the courts more open and justice more accessible. Acting on my own authority and that of the whole University, I admit you to the honorary degree of Doctor of Law.

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