A great and unsung hero

I KNOW the News Guardian carried a news item and number of letters recently reporting upon the death of Paddy Cosgrove QC.

Bearing in mind he was a prolific correspondent to the letters page of your newspaper it may be that a more fulsome tribute should be paid to a man who was a true son of North Tyneside and I hope that this letter may provide such a tribute.

I am the clerk to Broad Chare Chambers, a large set of barristers chambers in Newcastle upon Tyne, and first met Paddy 33 years ago when I joined chambers.

Paddy had started his working life as a schoolteacher and had worked with children including many who suffered from social and learning problems.

His teaching skills and his approach to dealing with children are legendary.

After teaching for a number of years he decided to turn to law and qualified as a barrister.

He was a pupil and then became a tenant at our chambers, which were then in Westgate Road.

His quality was obvious from the start and he quickly became a hugely respected member of the legal profession.

He was fearless in court but dealt with everyone from Judges to lay clients with the utmost respect.

Paddy was a staunch member of the Labour Party and became a local councillor.

He fought the general election on several occasions and whittled, the then Tory majority down to a very small number.

He would have made a wonderful Member of Parliament (he was Old Labour, however, and could not countenance the glory boys of New Labour).

Fate, however, was to take a hand and for personal family reasons Paddy was unable to pursue his political ambitions.

Although he no longer felt able to pursue a political career he decided to apply to become Queen’s Counsel (take silk), the ultimate appointment for a barrister.

Being the modest man that he was he did not believe that ‘the powers that be’ would grant him silk on a first application, but those of us who were aware of his ability were not surprised when the Lord Chancellor recommended to the Queen that Paddy should be appointed as a QC.

His appointment changed his life.

As a QC he undertook work of the greatest significance both prosecuting, but mainly defending, cases of murder, drug smuggling and sexual offences.

A search by your readers on Google using the name Patrick Cosgrove QC will produce a myriad of entries showing his work.

His final speeches to juries were legendary and would see large numbers of people attend court to watch.

Paddy’s practice saw him undertake cases throughout the country, particularly in Yorkshire, Lancashire and London as well as in all parts of the north east.

Wherever he went his colleagues loved to work with him and be with him.

He would support and advise them and was always encouraging and enthusiastic, taking young members of the profession under his wing and enabling them to see their full potential.

Over the last few years Paddy suffered ill health, initially with heart problems and subsequently with kidney failure, but this did not stop him, until recent months, from continuing in his profession.

Armed with a portable kidney dialysis machine he still undertook work throughout the country.

When Paddy died tributes were paid to him in courts at Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds and Manchester.

His funeral was attended by hundreds including judges, barristers, solicitors and politicians, many of whom had travelled hundreds of miles simply to be present.

Even the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nottingham travelled here to pay tribute.

Paddy was a man generous with his time and I recently discovered that he was also hugely generous to charitable causes but always in a quiet way so that the beneficiaries would never be aware of the benefactor.

Let me conclude by saying that I had the honour of working for and with this man for many years, I wish it could be more.

I was also allowed, by his wonderful wife Joan and his family, to be with Paddy during his final hours.

This gave me the opportunity to hold his hand and say thank you after he passed on. That is more than any barrister’s clerk could ever ask for.

North Tyneside you should salute a great and unsung hero, one of the finest of his generation.

BRIAN BELL

Clerk to Broad Chare Chambers