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Australian judge visits and honours founding fathers.

Byline: Benjamin Wright newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

Australia should do more to celebrate its founding fathers, the country's top judge has said during an historic visit to a Welsh town.

Merthyr Tydfil was the birthplace of Sir Samuel Griffith, who became the country's first-ever Chief Justice and also helped draft its constitution.

Australia's present Chief Justice, Robert Shenton French, AC, visited the town's law courts yesterday before praising the key role that Merthyr played in Australia's history. At a special ceremony, also attended by England and Wales' most senior judge, Lord Thomas, Mr Justice French said: "I have known about Merthyr Tydfil for a very long time.

"This is a great opportunity to pay homage to the birthplace of the founding fathers of Australia.

"In Australia we do not do enough to celebrate them - and I think we need to change that."

Sir Samuel, who was thought to have been born on the spot where Merthyr Law Courts now stand, left Wales at the age of eight when his family emigrated to Australia.

The preacher's son soon showed signs of future greatness after getting a first-class honours degree in classics, mathematics and natural science from the University of Sydney at just 18.

After setting up his own law firm, Sir Samuel went on to become an MP - although he still continued to appear at the Bar, insisting he was a lawyer first and a politician second.

In 1903 he became Australia's firstever Chief Justice and held the post until 1919 before dying a year later.

However, his legacy still lives on almost 100 years later - much to the delight of Mr Justice French.

The 69-year-old senior judge handed over a large custom-made "montage" depicting Sir Samuel's life - which will go on display in the town.

He said: "It is a small gift to show Australia's gratitude to Merthyr.

"I am truly honoured to come here today."

The special ceremony was described by Judge Richard Twomlow as "an historic day for the town" because it saw not one, but two Chief Justices visit its law courts.

Judge Twomlow also told the court about the time Sir Samuel visited his birthplace in 1887 and said the Welshman was given a hero's welcome by a crowd of hundreds, which was well-documented by the Western Mail at the time.

And Lord Justice Thomas, who was born in Carmarthen and brought up in the Swansea Valley, said he was thrilled to welcome one of Sir Samuel's successors to Merthyr before giving him a book about another local hero - Dic Penderyn.

CAPTION(S):

<B Australia's most senior judge Chief Justice Robert Shenton French AC, centre, with Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Thomas, left, and Judge Richard Twomlow, right, during a visit to Merthyr Law Courts to pay tribute to one of his country's 'founding fathers' Sir Samuel Griffith Benjamin Wright

A plaque commemorating Sir Samuel Griffith

<B Picture shows the first three Justices of the High Court of Australia taking the Oath of Office in Banco Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria, October 6, 1903. From left: Sir Edmund Barton; Sir Samuel Griffith; Richard O'Connor

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 16, 2016
Words:523
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