Published: 15/02/2018
ISBN: 9781788039895
Format: Paperback

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The Last Colonial Judge
The Memoir of Cuthbert Whitton
by Jennie Evans

Cuthbert Whitton was the last of the Malayan Civil Service officers to sit as a High Court Judge in Singapore.

After a brief prologue introducing Cuthbert’s Irish family background, this memoir opens with Cuthbert’s arrival in Penang in 1929 as an Eastern cadet with the Malayan Civil Service. He describes colonial life and his duties, including taking ‘dying depositions’ although most dying actually recovered. Cuthbert describes the development of political consciousness, dealing with the resulting issues, and states his own views as he progressed to increasingly senior posts. In 1939, after a year reading in Chambers in London, he was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn. He returned to Singapore with the shadow of war looming, and subsequently would be swept up in the drama of the outbreak of war with Japan.

Cuthbert’s account of the Fall of Singapore is an extremely personal one; increasing apprehension over military aggression in South East Asia, the departure of his wife and infant son, the terror of bombing as the Japanese advanced, finally the rounding up of civilians on the Padang followed by the journey by foot to Katong Convent, then Changi Jail. Apart from commenting on the administration of justice as practised by the Japanese, Cuthbert chose not to dwell upon internment.

After the war, and having recuperated in Ireland, Cuthbert returned to Malaya. He recalls court cases, events such as the 1948 Emergency when the Communists launched their terrorist campaign, and he comments on the changing times. In 1951 he was appointed Puisne Judge, Federation of Malaya, and 1953 Puisne Judge, Supreme Court, Singapore.

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