Edward G. Hemmerde KC; a note on the judge who stood against racism.

Further to my previous post of a remarkable report from the Guardian, from 1944, where a senior Liverpool judge takes a stand against racism. Here are a few lines of background about

Edward G. Hemmerde KC (1871-1948). It was also notable that the West Indian man, convicted of failing to attend Home Guard duties, George Roberts, is represented by Rose Heilbron, the Liverpool Law Faculty graduate and pioneering female barrister.

Edward G. Hemmerde KC (1871-1948) is probably unknown in Liverpool nowadays but deserves to be better known as a significant city political figure and character, and a judge who spoke out against racism in 1944. He was brought to my attention by my bookdealer father-in-law of Cardiff.

Nicholas Willmott writes

Yesterday I picked up a play written by him (‘Proud Maisie’ 1912). It is perfectly dreadful: Scottish historical drama portrayed through acres of blank verse – apparently the first night did not conclude until 11.45pm! However, I discover that Hemmerde’s career was rather more concerned with law and politics (and rowing) rather than literature.

I learn that he sat as a Liberal MP, latterly switching to Labour, and that his political career was largely abandoned after financial irregularities became the subject of court hearings. However, having been appointed Recorder of Liverpool in 1909, he maintained a prominent legal career up to his death.

Looking up old newspaper clippings it becomes clear that he enjoyed a frosty relationship with Liverpool Corporation, something he ascribed to his insistence that Sinn Fein defendants received a fair hearing, and his frequent complaints about heavy-handed policing.
I attach a remarkable 1944 clipping from the Guardian. The case also involves, early in her career, Rose Heilbron.

There is a substantial article in ‘The Journal of Liberal History’, Winter 2010, ‘The Strange Case of E.G. Hemmerde’ by David Dutton. From which article I learn that his defects probably rather outweighed his virtues. Fortunately, for Hemmerde, David Dutton skates over the man’s dubious literary accomplishments.

It is possibly significant that our copy of ‘Proud Maisie’ remains, after more than a century, largely unopened. However, there is no difficulty in assessing the quality of the verse: astonishingly bad. His name must always have prompted a smirk the other side of the Channel where, as I am sure you know, ’emmerdeur’ loosely translates as ‘pain in the fundament’.

I suspect there will not be a revival of interest in Hemmerde’s literary output any time soon. It was fortunate that the ‘Journal of Liberal History’ article was old enough to be available online. One can relish some of the impressive personal abuse quoted from correspondence.

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