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News > Life After Hymers > Paul Worsley

Paul Worsley

OH Paul Worsley says many teachers made a great impression on him
Paul Worsley (at Hymers 1956 - 1965)
Paul Worsley (at Hymers 1956 - 1965)

I remember going into school on Saturday mornings and the stamp club competitions that Mr Harwood, Head of the Junior School, would organise. That was in 1956. I still collect stamps 60 years on! We had Wednesday afternoons off to play games, which was never my forte. I recall that I was regularly bottom of my class of 24. Only when I reached 14 did things click for this late developer! 

It is said that you always remember one teacher who made a great impression. I remember several. In the Junior School it was Mr Ransome. I can’t recall what my crime was but I received the cane from him. Those were the days. When I met him last year on my visit as a Grand Lodge Officer to the Old Hymerians Lodge I decided that perhaps he wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It was Doc Findlay who gave me a love of History, Mr Grayson of Literature and books and Norman Walker made even Latin seem fascinating. I now have my own Coat of Arms and my motto is ‘Vive ut Vivas’ – live life! But best I look back to Graham Watson whose patience got me through music O-level and instilled in me an enduring appreciation of music. Practising for Handel’s Messiah in the Hall for the Christmas Concert and singing in the chorus of HMS Pinafore in the Memorial Hall are abiding memories. Now I enjoy Messiah at St Paul’s in December and Opera at Glyndebourne in the Summer. 

But this is meant to be about life after Hymers. Harry Roach was the Head who encouraged me to scrape into Oxford. I decided to read Law even though I had no legal connections and had only once visited the Courts then housed in the Guildhall in Hull.The present Recorder of Leeds, Peter Collier, was in my class. He told me that he was going to read for the Bar. I thought if he could, then so could I. My father was a schoolmaster. His was a solicitor. My father could get me no briefs. His father could get him lots - and did! When I told my mother that I was going to read for the Bar she said ‘Why not become a Probation Officer dear? So much more useful’.  Over my years on the Bench I have come to admire the qualities of the Probation Service – patience, tolerance and understanding. As my wife says – I would not have made a good Probation Officer.

You are required to join an Inn of Court if you want to go to the Bar. In 1967 I joined Middle Temple. It cost £100 to do so. I’ve never regretted it. I was made a Bencher almost 20 years ago and in 2015 was elected its Autumn Reader – a great honour. 

Middle Temple encouraged me to apply for a Scholarship. Having the surname Worsley meant I had to stay late for my interview.  It was a short one. ‘Do you still row for your College Worsley?’ Yes Sir. ‘Any questions?’ No Sir. ‘We’ll let you know’. They did. A Harmsworth Entrance Scholarship and an Astbury Scholarship worth £300 for 3 years funded my early days and bought me a second hand pale blue Morris Minor in which I travelled, to the trepidation of other road users, around the North Eastern Circuit.

But I needed pupillage. Again the Inn came to my rescue.  Sir Joseph Cantley was going out to sit on the Circuit where I hoped to practice. He agreed to take me as his Marshal in the Summer of 1970. There were 3 conditions. I was to wear starched collars in court. I was to grow no facial hair. I was to let Lady Cantley win at croquet. I willingly complied. When we were at York a very seasoned advocate appeared before us. ‘That’s who you should have as your pupil master’ said the Judge. I said I would be delighted. But how could it be arranged? ‘Leave it to me’ said the Judge. He sent me out and called Gilbert Gray in. Twenty minutes later I had pupillage with one of the finest advocates on the Circuit. Gilly later told me what had happened. The Judge had said that if Gilly took me off the Judge’s hands then he would back him for Silk. Thus I like to think the reason that great advocate got Silk was down to me.

In those days you paid 100 guineas to your pupil master. I told Gilly that progressive pupil masters were waiving that fee. ‘I’m not a progressive’ was the gruff response. But it was a wonderful twelve months. There was only one scary moment. It was when the Head of Chambers called me into his room. He demanded to know if I had been sleeping with the typist. I replied that I had not. To which came the terse response ‘very well then, you go and sack her’.
The Judge for whom I marshalled was a distinguished lawyer from Manchester. He was very kind to me. He went on to become Treasurer of the Inn. But he was a stickler for protocol. One day he ticked off a long winded counsel. ‘Your Brief is not a musical score Mr Snooks: you don’t need to play every note’. Effectively silenced counsel failed thereafter to put a single question to the relevant witnesses. The Judge intervened. ‘Mr Snooks although I said you needn’t play every note, you might at least hum the tune’. I went on to become a Judge at the Old Bailey – the premier Crown Court in the land - and still remember my days learning the ropes in 1970.

Pupillage passed in a moment. Tenancy in Leeds Chambers followed. Then in the words of Gilbert & Sullivan in Trial by Jury – ‘Briefs came trooping gaily’ after I’d learnt to ‘Throw dust in the jurymen’s eyes, And to hoodwink a Judge who was not over wise’. But my early success did not require me, as it did Gilbert’s operetta hero, to marry my solicitor’s elderly ugly daughter ‘who may very well pass for forty-five in the dusk with the light behind her’. Instead I was inveigled into marriage to a young teacher of French from Lancashire. Within months we were wed. Nine months later she gave birth to a baby Middle Templar. Eighteen months after that came another baby Middle Templar: this time a girl. It gives me great pride that my son Nick and daughter Charlotte have seen fit to follow in my footsteps and practice at the Bar in Leeds, one in Crime and the other in Family. 

When I was still only 35 I was appointed an Assistant Recorder, a part time judge, entitled to try small cases like burglary and assault. It was good training for my appointment to the Old Bailey where the diet was Murder and Terrorism. After twenty years as a criminal Junior I took Silk. I became a door tenant in Chambers in the Temple. Sixteen years defending the innocent and prosecuting the guilty, and then to the  Bench. I also found time to become Chairman of the Serious Crime Seminars for Senior Judges, sit on the Parole Board and in the Grand Court in Cayman.

After ten years on the Bench and over forty years of marriage to the long suffering Mrs Worsley I have retired to live in the country in North Yorkshire. There I indulge our six grandchildren and pass my time collecting silver, stamps and Vanity Fair prints, improving my bridge and croquet and trying to breed peacocks. I even do some sitting in York Crown Court - when they are desperate.

When I was a youngster you had to take the 11+ to go on to a Senior School. I failed it. I shall always be grateful to my parents who made the financial sacrifice and had the imagination to send me to the Senior School at Hymers. I have since been a Governor at Leeds Grammar School and Scarborough College and now appreciate that an inspiring School can give you the confidence to make the best of whatever Life brings your way.

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