Nfld. & Labrador

Call to the bar: 5 WW I fighters become honourary lawyers

One woman and four men who abandoned their law careers to served in the First World War were recognized with honourary law certificates at Supreme Court in St. John's.

Law certificates bearing their names were displayed to the court

The centuries-old history of trials, hangings and turmoil at the site of Supreme Court on Duckworth Street could make it a likely haunt for ghosts ... if you believe in that sort of thing. 

On Friday, the spirits of five former law students who sacrificed their careers to serve in the First World War may have paid Courtroom number one a visit. They became honourary lawyers, ceremoniously called to the bar.

Law certificates bearing their names were displayed to the court alongside five of their modern day counterparts. 

Cecil Bayly Clift and his younger brother John joined the Newfoundland Regiment on September 7, 1914.

Law Society president Barry Fleming presented the posthumous certificates for Janet Morison Miller — the first woman to enter into articles in Newfoundland — and to four members of the Newfoundland Regiment: Cecil Bayly Clift, his brother John Clift, William Frederik Cyril Hutchings, and Harris Rendell Oke.

Harris Rendell Oke's posthumous law certificate was presented in Supreme Court.

"Some died during [the First World War]," said Fleming. "Not surprisingly some came back and their enthusiasm for the law, their enthusiasm for what life was about was diminished by virtue of the fact that they fought in the war."

Janet Morison Miller was the first woman in Newfoundland to enter into articles in 1910. She served as an assistant nurse overseas until the war ended.

Andrea Barnes was among the five present-day lawyers called to the bar. She said articling was tough enough, she can't imagine having to then go to war.

Barry Fleming said the five honourary lawyers fought for "the rule of law."

"They were part of something bigger than them, and I think it's right that we honour them today because they made a very big sacrifice," Barnes said.

Andrea Barnes, a newly-minted barrister, said she admires Janet Miller, the first woman to study law in Newfoundland.

Fleming said the newly-decorated barristers in the courtroom were a reminder of what was lost — and gained.

"One of the things that those five individuals fought for was the rule of law ... and the five candidates who were called to the bar today will have an opportunity to enjoy all that the practise of law can bestow upon them."