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

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

The first draft of this memoir was penned by the author's father during 1957/58 after his retirement. Following his death it was suggested that it should be considered for publication as it was a fascinating history of colonial times and judicial procedures in Malaya and Singapore. Many years later, here it is – edited and rewritten. A brief prologue introduces Cuthbert’s Irish family background.

The memoir opens with Cuthbert’s arrival in Penang in 1929 as an Eastern cadet with the Malayan Civil Service. He describes in a light hearted manner colonial life and his duties including taking ‘dying depositions’ although most dying 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, subsequently returning to Malaya.

There are many accounts of the Fall of Singapore and the deprivations of prisoner-of-war camps, but Cuthbert’s descriptions are extremely personal; 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. However, apart from commenting on the administration of justice as practised by the Japanese he chose not to dwell upon internment.

After the war, 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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