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Dedication of the New Sir Cyril Walsh KBE Law Library

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News | 3 Jun 2024
On Sunday 21 April 2024, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of NSW, along with the Honourable Stephen Gageler AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia and His Grace Anthony Fisher OP, Archbishop of Sydney, presided over a ceremony which celebrated the life and achievements of Sir Cyril Walsh KBE, as well as opening and blessing the new Sir Cyril Walsh KBE Law Library at St John’s College.

The Honourable Stephen Gageler AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia (left) greets Mr Dennis Wilson while Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of NSW, speaks with His Grace Anthony Fisher OP, Archbishop of Sydney.

Also present amongst the 200 attendees were:
• Other Judges including Justice James Stevenson, who had the privilege of being the Associate to Sir Cyril, Justice Robertson Wright, Justice Francois Kunc, retired Judge Arthur Emmett AO KC, Judge Gerard Phillips and other distinguished members of the legal profession.
Professor Joanne Wright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Sydney.
Professor Simon Bronitt, Head of School and Dean of Sydney Law School.
Mr David Mortimer AO and Mr John McCarthy KCSG GCPO KC, as former Fellows of the University.
Mr John Coorey, Chairman of St John’s College Council.
Professor Bernadette Tobin AO, Former Chair of St John’s College Council.
Dr Tiffany Donnelly, Principal, The Women’s College.
Ms Fiona Hastings, Principal, Sancta Sophia College.
Mr Mahmoud Hammoud, Head Teacher of Administration at Parramatta High School, along with staff and eight students including 2024 School Captain, Arunikka Subaharan.
• Members of the Walsh Family including Sir Cyril’s sons Peter, Michael and Frank.
• Members of the St Thomas More Law Society.

The creation of the Sir Cyril Walsh KBE Law Library serves a threefold purpose: firstly, to celebrate the distinguished contribution of many St John’s alumni to the legal profession; secondly, to create another flexible study space for our students; and thirdly, to recognise the life and achievements of a truly great alumnus of this College and a great Australian.
The new library’s shelves were completely filled with a resplendent collection of legal records, kindly donated by former members of the judiciary, Judge John O’Meally and Justice John Sackar.
The Rector’s welcome introduced the College’s new Law Library:
Sir Walter Scott once observed that “a lawyer without history or literature is a mechanic, a mere working mason. If he possesses some knowledge of these, he may venture to call himself an architect.” I think Sir Cyril would appreciate the semiotics, the symbolism of this library. Located in the very foundations, the bowels of the College, it is a place of deep thoughts. 
Most modern libraries are now simply soulless computer labs. You might well say that many of the books in this law library will never be opened. Maybe – but the books remind us of a great intellectual tradition that speaks to us in a way that a computer screen cannot. A student in this library will have something special – a place of deep thinking. 
Universities should be about long deep thoughts. Contemplation without noise. Cicero said “if you have a garden and a library you have everything you need”. I am sure that this is the kind of place that a future Sir Cyril Walsh will study in…
That’s why directly above the law library is the Chapel altar. Thousands of kilograms of stone, especially marble. The only thing outweighing a lawyer’s duty to the court is their duty to the supernatural law. The weight of the supernatural law stands silently over and above the natural and positive law…
Finally, but just as the law is not merely for the gratification of lawyers, so this library is not merely for law students. Although the library will focus on all things legal and Sir Cyril, it will be for all students at this College. May the light of truth illuminate all!

First year College Law student Xavier Leaver introduced Chief Justice Gageler, alluding to their shared heritage:
It is my distinct honour this afternoon to introduce the esteemed Chief Justice Stephen Gageler, a towering figure in the annals of Australian jurisprudence.
If you are wondering what qualification I have to introduce such an esteemed figure, well, both the Chief Justice and I grew up in the same tiny pocket of the Hunter Valley in the area surrounding the small town of Sandy Hollow. Our shared roots in the picturesque Hunter Valley tow, is where Chief Justice Gageler’s journey to legal eminence began.

Chief Justice Gageler spoke about Sir Cyril’s life and his dedication to the law, while His Grace spoke about Sir Cyril’s faith and his work founding the St Thomas More Society, and Sir Cyril’s son Dr Michael Walsh regaled the audience with anecdotes from his childhood, as well as a friendly intercollegiate intellectual competition!

In one of the most solemn parts of the ceremony, Her Excellency the Governor of NSW delivered a reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Philippians, followed by prayers for the College and the library which were read by second year Law student Greta Perrignon. This was followed by the Blessing, which included the sprinkling of Holy Water in the new Sir Cyril Walsh KBE Law Library at St John’s College.

The final parts of the ceremony involved Mary-Jean O’Doherty singing the Ave Maria by Gomez, accompanied by college violinist Tim Dickenson and college cellist Suzannah Keene, while the Vote of Thanks was delivered by College Council Member Judge Gerard Phillips. The link to watch the proceedings can be found here:

Sir Cyril Walsh KBE was one of the greatest students ever to have walked the corridors of St John’s College. His intellectual prowess was legendary, earning him the nickname of “Cerebral Cyril”, as so fondly recalled by his son, Dr Michael Walsh.
Sir Cyril started at St John’s College in 1927. He won University Medals in English, Philosophy and Law, and first-class honours in English, Philosophy, Law and Latin. His cumulative undergraduate record is regarded as the finest, before or since, for any law student at this university. Mr John McCarthy KCSG GCPO KC refers to Sir Cyril as the greatest of any student to attend Sydney University.
Sir Cyril was appointed to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1954, at the young age of 44, and before he had taken silk. During this period, which his son recalled as a very enjoyable time in his father’s life, he presided over many cases, including the famous Wagon Mound (No 2), where his findings of fact were heavily relied upon in the Privy Council. Sir Cyril was appointed to the High Court of Australia on 3 October 1969. That year he was also made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and in January 1971 was appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Walsh remained on the bench of the High Court until his death from multiple myeloma on 29 November 1973. The High Court sat the next day on 30 November in a special sitting to commemorate Walsh. Sir Garfield Barwick, the Chief Justice, delivered the eulogy in which he said: “He had not reached his zenith. The Court has lost a Justice from whom increasingly distinguished service was confidently expected.” What an elegant and understated tribute.
The College would like to thank the team of architects and craftsmen who have carved the new bookshelves from Tasmanian oak, crafting them faithfully to the style of the College’s founding, as well as the heritage consultants and project managers who helped make this possible. The College further acknowledges the enthusiasm of the College Council, as well as Mr John McCarthy and the late esteemed Associate Justice John McLaughlin AM – who also served as an associate to Sir Cyril Walsh – and led the campaign to recognise Sir Cyril today. We especially thank Judge Gerard Phillips, and Sir Cyril’s sons – Peter, Francis, and Michael Walsh – as well as College Chairman, John Coorey, College Historian Professor Peter Cunich, and former Student Treasurer at the time, Lucas Perrignon for their significant efforts in making this all happen.




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