John Gardner at Home

Memories from Christopher De Souza

Dear John,

Sitting in your tutorial during the BCL, we delved into the difference between an excuse and a justification. I have no excuse for not writing to you for so long, but I (think) I have justification to do so now for you have been - and continue to be - an angel in my life.

For what do angels do? They need no excuse to appear. Nor do they need any justification for their presence. They appear because they want to help - because they are simply meant to be shining lights in the lives of others.

How (on earth) is this relevant? Well, John, without you, my life would have turned out quite different. I had no natural disposition for jurisprudence, yet your jurisprudence tutorials in King's were riveting. You literally gave me no choice but to apply to read the BCL and even picked the college I should apply to! What moral luck I had :) But, the larger point I hope to make is - you are a very special person, mentor, educator and friend.

As my good fortune would have it, you were offered the Chair of Jurisprudence in 2000, the very year I started the BCL, and again I relished the idea of being in your class - this time, Phil Founds in Common Law. Sometimes, we had both "John Gardner" and "Tony Honoré" in class - we were much lesser mortals than the two of you and spent much of the class trying to keep track of the Gardner-Honoré conversations! But, how riveting those classes at the Bod were.

Just a month ago I was in Hong Kong on a legal case where I met up with Abraham Chan - and we talked about those BCL classes and how fortunate we had been to be tutored by you.

Anyway, why do I say you are an angel? You gave me wings when I didn't dare to fly. You may not remember this, but after the BCL's first term, you motivated me to excel in all the subjects and to shoot for as good a grade in each of them, while also sharing that I should fall in love with the law. It took a large effort but you were by my side motivating me. That spurt gave me the start I needed in the legal career I have enjoyed since.

Ahh another recollection - you asked me to risk original thought, theories and ideas instead of leaning on the 'cavalry' of tried and tested academic theories. You have no idea how much that encouragement of yours has helped me in arguments in court and speeches in Parliament.

But most importantly, on a personal note, you have been a friend. Do you remember visiting the little home when you visited Singapore? You would have met Sharon, my wife. We now have 4 children - and I will them why angels need no justification; I will tell them about you.

Tonight, I will kneel by my bedside, and pray for you my friend. Be brave and full of life - as you have always been.

In peace and friendship,