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News > Passing of friends > Judge Hilary Squires (1949S) | 1932 - 2019

Judge Hilary Squires (1949S) | 1932 - 2019

Thank you to Alan Ramsay for notifying us of the passing of Judge Hilary Squires.

Judge Hilary Squires (1949S) | 1932 - 2019

Thank you to Alan Ramsay for notifying us of the passing of Judge Hilary Squires.

Squires was the judge responsible for sentencing Schabir Shaik in 2005 to 15 years imprisonment for fraud and corruption.

Squires passed away in his Westville home on 22 July 2019, he was 86 years old.

Hilary's son, Steven, delivered his eulogy, found below: 

To speak about the life of somebody who lived for almost eighty-seven years is a daunting task. Hilary was known by many people and influenced the lives of many more.

There are few people left who shared his childhood, more who worked with him in law, police, the military and on the bench. Each would have known a different side of this talented and multifaceted man. Few would have known the whole. This morning, as briefly as I can, I will give you a synopsis of his life and a view of his personality. Forgive me if I paint with broad strokes, the canvass is wide and the subject deep. This is not a CV, it’s a story but it won’t take as long as his judgements.

Hillary Gwyn Squires was born on the second of August 1932 in the village of Tsolo in the Transkei. He was the first child of a medical doctor and a trainee nurse who had come to South Africa at the behest of an Oxford Missionary Society. He was apparently given the name Hilary when his parents decided that their firstborn would be Hilary and their second born Carol. Being gender neutral names at the time it then didn’t matter if the children were male or female. Such was medical humour at the time. He hated his name.

His father, Bernard Squires, won a merit scholarship to study at Oxford, where he was going to read divinity, but when it was pointed out to him that the Missionary Society needed doctors rather than priests he read medicine instead. His mother Winifred Maud Lewis, having run away from home to escape a puritanical father, first found employment as a carer in a psychiatric hospital and later trained as a nurse. It was at the teaching hospital that she met Bernard.

I never knew my grandfather, but my grandmother was a tough, cantankerously caring woman, never happier than when helping others and arguing with them at the same time.

Hilary inherited his father’s intellect and his mother’s delight in a good argument and so the seeds were sown for a successful legal career.

In about 1934 the family moved to Middelburg in the Transvaal, and there Hilary learned to speak; Sesotho at first, learned from his nanny, then English from his parents. By the time he was four he was an interpreter in the surgery for his father and was running free with the village boys who were his playmates.

A few years and several sisters later the family moved to the Bechuanaland Protectorate, living in Francistown, Lobatse and finally Mafikeng. In the 1940s Botswana was a very isolated wild part of the British Empire and Hilary used to tell me stories of trips made with his father into the depths of the Kalahari, meeting nomadic Bushmen, seeing huge packs of wild dogs, visiting the outposts of Maun and Ghazni , and meeting the remnants of the dorsal and trekkers.

For a while, he was home schooled by his mother, but he soon outgrew her abilities so was sent to the Rhodes Estate Preparatory School, just south of Bulawayo. Here, outside of school hours, the boys were free to roam the estate, essentially wild bush, and egg collecting and collating was a favourite pastime.

This invariably led to scrapes. While at home one holiday a boy’s expedition was launched to the cliffs just outside Lobatse, the site of a Cape Vulture colony. Hilary was designated to climb the cliff face, no ropes, no helmet, nothing but a bag for the egg. Whilst ascending the cliff an unseen sitting vulture burst off its nest as his face appeared over the ledge almost knocking him off the cliff, ending the climb and almost ending Hilary’s career. The one collected vulture egg remained a prized item in the collection for many years.

Other boys of his acquaintance were not so lucky, one just survived being bitten on the forehead by a black mamba and others were killed by an exploding Boer war shell whilst melting it for the lead. Early childhood was a risky undertaking in 1940s Botswana but it produced tough independent children.

With his time at junior school running out Hilary’s parents went to Cape Town to enrol him at a senior school. My Grandmother had heard of Rondebosch Boys High so he was duly enrolled there. However on the way back to Rondebosch Station they passed the gates of Bishops and on a whim my grandmother said to my grandfather “let’s try here”. Whilst walking down the avenue she was struck by the fact that the boys raised their boaters as they walked by, stood up from the benches as they passed and presented an air of polite sophistication. An insightful-women, she instantly changed her mind about Rondebosch.

A meeting with the headmaster, Herbert Kidd, was not successful in that they were told the school was fully subscribed and Hilary could not be placed there. But on the way out my grandfather saw a picture of Kidd, taken at Oxford, and mentioned that they had been in the same college albeit a few years apart. This caused Herbert Kidd to recheck the register and find that there indeed was a spare place and that Hilary could fill it.

Being posted from Bechuanaland to Cape Town on the train was a great adventure and one that Hilary loved to recount. He had a friend in Bulawayo, just up the line, who would hold a space for him in a compartment that they shared. Embarkation at Lobatse and Francistown was in the depths of the night and a huge breakfast including fruit, kippers, porridge, bacon and eggs would be served in the dining car later that morning. This was one of the highlights of the trip to school and given my grandmother’s cooking skills one he greatly appreciated. The trip home was even more fun, the train would depart Cape Town in the evening and breakfast would be served while trundling through the Karoo. The sexes were strictly segregated at the start of the journey but by Kimberley, things started to fray and by the time Francistown was reached the teachers had generally retired to their compartments and the train was amok with riotous teenagers. Tom Davidson remembers” On the train back to Rhodesia for our bi-annual holidays, I can still picture the tall good looking prefect, cutting a somewhat lonely figure as he got off the train, at Palapi Road or in close proximity to the dusty area”.
Hilary was fascinated by trains and indeed if his life can be portrayed as a train journey through time - the first station he stopped at was Bishops.

At Bishops Hilary throve mightily. He was a gifted athlete and rugby player, a natural leader and a reasonable student. He played in the unbeaten rugby side of 1949, won the under 19 victor laudanum for athletics and was head boy in 1950. These were formative years. In those days the head boy was in charge of school discipline and day to day management of the pupils. Again, Tom Davidson remembers “He was held in absolute awe by all the younger boys. He was also a very good wing and was a member of the Bishops rugby team that was unbeaten that season”.

Hilary is remembered for keeping it tight, but also for his kindness to juniors and his intolerance of bullying. Fairness was paramount under his watch. He was learning the meaning of service. He also made lifelong friends.

Hilary was turned down for his Rhodes scholarship application on the grounds that his Matric marks were not good enough. He missed the Oxford train but took the next one just up the hill.

He remarked to me recently that this was the best thing that could have happened to him because he then enrolled at UCT and met my mother, Coralie. He was elected head of Smuts Hall and completed his Ba LLB degree, but over and over he would tell anyone who would listen, he made his fortune when he met Coralie.

After university, he took the train to Bulawayo. In 1956 they married and Hilary took up the position of articled clerk to Sir Hugh Beadle, who just so happened to be a Bishops old boy and Coralie’s uncle and the Chief Justice. He completed his articles under Uncle Hugh, then spread his wings and joined the British Civil Service as a junior prosecutor. The train was gathering speed.

Prosecuting gave him a wide understanding of the law, everything from poaching to witchcraft passed his desk, little escaped those piercing blue eyes.

Witchcraft always fascinated Hilary. His nanny in Middelburg was tasked with keeping him out of the hands of witchdoctors as he was small and blond, ideal for body parts. Having survived this and having seen his father fulfil a witchdoctor’s diagnosis of snakes in the body by removing a very long and inflamed appendix from a patient, he was acutely aware how different cultures clashed in the margins of superstition.

While a prosecutor he met and befriended a very senior official in the colonial justice department who was on the brink of retirement. This man told him how, as a junior prosecutor in Basutoland, with no promotional prospects, he had prosecuted a case of witchcraft against members of the Basotho royal family where a child had been murdered and rendered down into fat. The fat was supposed to bring good fortune to its new owner. Part of the forensic evidence was a small jar of such fat and on the conclusion of the successful prosecution and not knowing what to do with it the prosecutor put the jar his briefcase. Several days later his first promotion arrived and his rise through the service was stellar. He offered the jar to Hilary, who told me he declined it.

Looking at the towering careers of some of his mentees I wonder if he didn’t pass it on.

Bulawayo was a wonderful home for the young couple, they made lifelong friends, the Campbells, the Flemmings, the Gows, the Halsteds and the Tregidgos to name but a few. They produced two children and purchased a dog.

With another change of train and against the advice of his father, Hilary left the civil service and joined the Rhodesian Bar. There he quickly made his mark as an agile and incisive mind, undoubtedly kept sharp by his formidably intelligent wife. Before too long he had outgrown Bulawayo and our family moved to Salisbury. There we lived with my grandmother, and my earliest memories are of my parents leaving for work on their bicycles, they had no car, and returning in the dusk each evening riding together up Moffat St cycle track before turning into Beit Avenue.

Sometime later a car was added to the family asset list, a Peugeot 404 station wagon, and the family’s climb to the middle classes began. Before too long Hilary and Coralie built their first house together, way out in the suburbs and there they lived for seventeen idyllic years.

By the time he was thirty-eight Hilary had become a successful advocate, leader of the Rhodesian Bar, and after a meeting with Ian Smith to complain about issues troubling the law society he was persuaded by him to make a difference and run for parliament.

With Coralie as his campaign manager, he set about canvassing votes in his blue-collar constituency of Salisbury South. Constituents were visited on foot in their homes, letters were written by hand and before long he had the overwhelming support of the railway workers, pensioners and artisans who lived there. He won every election he contested. While serving as an MP he continued to work as an advocate, preferring civil to criminal work, and as the bush war heated up he was drafted into the police reserve.

While it is almost inconceivable now to think of any member of any parliament in the world guarding farm houses, providing armed escorts to convoys and manning roadblocks, this is what they did. During his tours of duty, three weeks at a time, he made many, many friends, mostly farmers and policemen but also fellow professionals, walking the beat. He kept and treasured these friends to the end.

Around 1974 Hilary changed trains again and accepted the post of Minister of Justice, Law and Order against my mother’s wishes, and closed his legal practice. This carried a heavy financial penalty of which my mother was acutely aware. I remember following a brisk argument between the two of them in which Coralie pointed out that as a Cabinet Minister he would be earning less than a junior Air Rhodesia pilot, but she resolved the issue by returning to full time work herself.

This portfolio brought him into direct contact with the sharp end of the justice system, the police force, and his respect for the foot soldiers of law and order grew by the week. He would often recount stories of selfless sacrifice and bravery performed by the troopers, constables and detectives of the BSAP. They were his heroes.

At home he still managed to be the perfect father, interested in all we did, intervening when conflict arose between Lindsey and me, never taking sides. Evenings at home would be spent working in his study, reading briefs, writing and sometimes dictating. Coralie would sprawl out on the floor with plans, diagrams and slide rule, preparing for the next day’s work and Lindsey and I would read. We had no TV in our house.

Despite the increasing ferocity of the war we never had any form of security. No armed guards, no blue lights, no high walls, no armoured glass. Visitors were free to drive up the drive and walk in the front door which was usually standing open, Coralie loved the fresh air. The visitors were many and varied. I found people as diverse as Andrew Young later American secretary of state, Ellis West a Buddhist Guru, Ghanaian judges, French legionnaires, I D Smith, PK Van der Byl and Graham Wilson sitting in our lounge on our verandah or at the dinner table.

Christmas day was always intense. Before dawn, Hilary would set off on a helicopter tour of the operational area, armed only with biscuits, sweets, nuts and other goodies for the boys on duty. As children we were conscripted into the kitchen for weeks prior, to mix, bake and package what seemed to be tons of sustenance, all loaded into the boot of the Peugeot 404 and taken to New Sarum air force base for distribution by the minister himself. Like a military farther Christmas his goodwill was limited only by the carrying capacity of the Alluette helicopter.

By 1976 Hilary was moved to the Ministry of Defence, his justice portfolio taken over by our next-door neighbour Chris Andersen, and the Defence Ministry vacated by PK van der Byl who had been moved to foreign affairs due to his predilection for walking operational patrols with the troops.

This was a time of enormous stress for Hilary but he never faulted. He went grey almost overnight. He held others to his own high standards, disciplining army generals, demanding exactitude from civil servants and all the while remaining father to his children and husband to his wife.

By 1980 the war was over. Hilary played little role in the Lancaster House agreement that brought its end and never got over his bitterness at the gross dishonesty of the British Government officials. He was a man who kept his word and expected others to do the same.

Hilary changed trains again, resigned from the government and was almost immediately offered a position as a high court judge. This office suited him, with his deep knowledge of the law, experience from policing, to prosecute, to parliament, and of course of court.

He was a busy judge, taking pride in getting judgements out on time and using recess periods to read and study.  The Peugeot 404 was traded for a Peugeot 504 and a Ford Capri sports car was added to the fleet. This nod to male menopause didn’t last long before it was exchanged for a motorbike. Only if it was raining did he go to work by car, otherwise, it was with a Honda 360 cc bike with his robes and wig in a box on the back

His courtroom always began on time, and woe to any prosecutor who was not up to speed by 9 am. I remember cases as varied as witchcraft, the murder trial of two French Mercenaries (not the ones that came to dinner) and the treason trial of Dumiso Dabengwa. It was probably this last trial that persuaded Hilary that all was not right in the free democracy of Zimbabwe. Having found Dabengwa not guilty of treason, a hanging offence, the accused was re- arrested on the steps of the court and taken back to jail for another several years. This was not Hilary’s kind of justice. He could see the monster in Mugabe emerging. Shortly thereafter the massacre of the Matabele began.

On the home front, things were in decline. The Zimbabwe economy went backwards. Remuneration of high-ranking civil servants was frozen, inflation galloped along at 25%, the civil engineering profession was in recession, there were two kids at university, the writing was on the wall.

With heavy heart and cap in hand Hilary once again changed trains. He and Coralie decided to immigrate. This was no easy up sticks and move, it was meticulously planned and Hilary left first to take up an offer from his old school friend Graham Cox as an articled clerk in the Durban firm of Cox Yeats and associates. Having never practised law in South Africa this was a bridge that had to be crossed.
Graham and Jill played an enormous role in this part of Hilary’s life. They provided employment, a home, social contacts, legal contacts and even a son in law. Graham and Jill, thank you for everything you did.

For six months Hilary lived with them, the recipient of untold kindness and hospitality until Coralie arrived with two dogs, a van full of furniture and the Peugeot 504.

On Coralie’s arrival, Hilary rented a small house in Westville where they lived for a number of years, slowly amassing enough money to start building a new house. Hilary continued to work at Cox Yeats, now driving to work in a company Mercedes and undoubtedly the highest-paid articled clerk in the land. He was 54.

Coralie also returned to work full time and between them, over several years they accumulated enough money to buy a plot and build a small house.

After completing his articles and enduring one of the shortest oral exams in the countries history, Hilary took a new train and returned to the bar. After a short while, he was requested to serve as an acting judge. From this followed a permanent appointment to the bench.

Here he was exposed for the first time to maritime law and civil litigation on a scale he was amazed by. His first love was tax law and he had little sympathy for those who sort to evade it and a grudging respect for those who managed to avoid it. In the same breath, he had zero tolerance for those who stole or squandered the taxpayer’s money. He found most criminal work pedestrian and it troubled him that the accused in one case was so often the deceased in the next.  Child custody hearings in the motion court were most emotionally taxing to him.

On the subject of lazy or obstructive civil servants, he was a great proponent of a personal cost order to help clear backlogs and focus the mind. He had an abiding distrust of professional politicians, a legacy of British duplicity, and was critical those who put self-interest ahead of service.

He was cautious of the press, particularly those who were free and easy with the facts, and he had no time for lazy reporting or truncated soundbites. Hilary was conservative in his dress and manner, liberal in his views on drugs, abortion and sexual orientation, but believed strongly that freedoms should be tempered with responsibility and consequences.

Politically he subscribed to Churchill’s view of democracy.

At home, he loved a good party and would rock and roll with the best of them. His taste in music ran from Beethoven to the Beetles although the long hair and unkempt looks of the late sixties didn’t attract him much. He was fond of a glass of wine in the evenings and a gin and tonic at the weekend, but always in moderation.

He made very close friends with his fellow judges; they played pranks on each other, socialized and travelled together, and of course, discussed the law. But for the lack of a sacrificial instrument, Judge Piet Combrink would have placed a cell phone under Judge Squires’ desk and rung it during judgement in the Shaik trial, the first televised trial in the country. The other judges convulsed with laughter round the TV egged him on.

One of his greatest regrets was that he had never been offered a bribe, not even a little one. He had also never been threatened, blackmailed nor had heavy breathing down the phone. The fact that one had to first answer the phone in order to receive this kind of treatment seemed to escape him as he usually ignored a ringing phone believing it would always be for Coralie.

Hilary was an exceptionally loyal person. If you were his friend then it stayed that way. He believed in service before self, integrity before ambition and above all the truth. This is how he lived his life. This is how he inspired loyalty in others.

Hilary’s judicial career is well documented. What is less well documented is his kindness and service to others. He contributed generously to charities as diverse as Nicro, child feeding schemes and research into Durban’s Crowned Eagles. He funded airfares, school fees, houses and building materials to those who he thought needed it. He lived very modestly and with Coralie was happy to be of help to others. He spent his retirement building an enormous train set, reading history and biographies and travelling. He was a faithful travelling companion to Coralie, exploring the corners of the globe with her, almost always dressed in short pants, long socks and brown polished shoes. He went salmon fishing in Alaska only donning long pants and a parka while ice fishing on the frozen Mackenzie River.

Throughout this, he remained an exceptional father and husband always available to his family for help advice and support, always there for us and generous to a fault. As his children, we could not have asked for more. His grandchildren were grossly indulged.

Hilary planned his life thoroughly, little was left to chance. His plan was to die before Coralie and leave her well looked after. When she died first he missed her terribly.

After her death he died a little each day, his zest for life evaporated and the best he could do was to hum “ I’m glad I ain’t young anymore.”

Some weeks ago, his heart became arrhythmic, he became very weak and died peacefully in his own bed on Monday the 22nd of July, just as he had wished. The train ran out of steam.

"Hilary certainly was a remarkable man, a natural leader and must rank as one of Bishops’ greatest sons.   I was two years junior to him at school where he was an exceptional head of House and Senior Prefect.   He was universally respected and liked," writes Michael Mathews (1951S).   


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