My father, Walter Skrine, (like Dato Peter Mooney) joined the Sarawak Legal Service. He went to Kuching immediately after the 1914/18 war and at the suggestion of his cousin, Dato Frank Douglas, who had joined the Malayan Civil Service toward the end of the last century (he was involved in the building of the Klang-to-Kuala Lumpur railway), my father left Sarawak Government service and joined Bannon & Bailey in about 1920. Mr Bannon retired as a wealthy man in the late ‘20s or early ‘30s, having dealt successfully in property of one sort or another. Mr Savage Bailey ... died in Malaya as a result of an accident some time in the 1930s. My father retired from Malaya as senior partner of the firm in 1938, leaving Bill Briggs as captain of the ship. Bill Briggs was a brilliant lawyer ... Later he was appointed a judge in the East African Court of Appeal.
One of the partners in Bannon & Bailey who survived the Japanese occupation as a prisoner-of-war in Siam was Morris Edgar. He was senior partner when Peter Mooney joined Bannon & Bailey in 1960. Peter Mooney became a partner in 1961 and the other partners of Bannon & Bailey at that time were myself – I had joined the firm in 1948 as a Legal Assistant and became a partner in 1952 – and Stanley Peddie, who transferred from Drew & Napier and became a partner in 1955.
In 1962 there was a difference of opinion between the other three partners and Morris Edgar. The three partners took Counsel’s opinion and decided that the correct course was to wind up the firm, by agreement if possible, and start again. At the time of the dissolution, Don Bewsher, Chin Yoong Chong, Hussein Onn, Tommy Lee and Alex Lee were all Assistants in Bannon & Bailey and they all elected to join Skrine & Co. with Don Bewsher and Chin Yoong Chong also becoming partners in the new firm on its inception. There was a clerical staff of about 16, amongst whom were Mrs. L.K.Chu , Miss Lam Soo Chee, Chin Sin Onn, Lim Pung Eam, Sum Kok Chu, Idris Senin, Yap Yoon Lin, William Tan and Saro’s father, Arumugam. The other staff were Abdul Rahman B. Hadi, Mohd Amin B. Nawawi, Wong Ah Heng, Mohd Rashid, Khoo Joo Lian and Wong Kim Nyong. In the event most of the staff elected to join Skrine & Co.
I have been pondering on why Providence has been so kind to Skrine & Co. up to date, and how this firm founded by a polo-playing Anglican Englishman, a bridge-playing Presbyterian Scotsman, a piano-playing Roman Catholic Irishman, a north country beer connoisseur Englishman (religion unknown) and an Ipoh Chinese Methodist managed to cohere as well as it did and to attract a string of Asian partners, and to keep and then expand its clientele. Perhaps the enterprise prospered because we trusted each other, did not spare ourselves in trying to provide a good and honest service to our clients, and because we were absolutely dedicated to making the firm a success. There is no doubt that the firm came first and usually our private lives a rather poor second…
John Skrine at Buckingham Palace where he was appointed Commander of the British Empire
It would be invidious to mention any of the thousands of cases in which the firm has been involved, but it has acted in many cases of national importance. It has, I believe, never refused to act because the case was unpopular or politically dangerous provided there was a proper arguable case to present, and we have always considered it a matter of duty to present the client’s case as professionally as possible. These are important traditions to uphold.
24th February, 1988