All in chambers are very sorry to hear of the death of David Martineau, who was for many years (from the ‘60s to the ‘90s) a central figure in chambers Iife, at 2 Garden Court and then 39 Essex Street, at a time when things felt very different, and were. His gentleness, charm, and winning humour were second to none. He started in practice as a criminal barrister in the mid-‘60s, became a Circuit Judge in 1994, sitting in Crown Courts in Central London, and retired from the Bench in 2013. We pay tribute to his memory, and send our condolences, respect and love to his wife, Liz, and family.
Michael Tillett QC, his room-mate in chambers for many years, and a close friend, has written the following tribute to David, for which we thank him enormously.
Following David’s very sad death as a result of an accident at home some two weeks ago, I would like to share some of my recollections. I had known David since we were teenagers. Our family homes in Surrey were not far apart and we were both at Cambridge in the early 60s. Most importantly, I was fortunate enough to share a room with him for some 15 years in our old chambers at 2 Garden Court.
David possessed an assured and easy manner which often belied intelligence and wit. He rarely demonstrated irritation or intolerance. At Cambridge, the academic life at the time was not as intense or competitive as it is today. David, who was at Trinity, was a fine athlete and found time to improve his already excellent tennis game. In vacation, he pursued a passion for skiing. In later years he amused many of us by insisting on using a “mono-ski”, a piece of equipment now long since out of fashion. Not only did the use of it delight him but he was a demon on the slopes with it.
David was also a highly entertaining observer of those he came across, especially in the lower courts on the London “beat” in the early days. Back in chambers, he would be ready to recount his experiences and I would put paperwork aside to listen. His views were invariably offered with laughter and a sense of fun, never with malice or “schadenfreude”. He was a very companionable and generous roommate over those many years.
My recollection of one exception to his usual good nature makes me smile. David had been instructed to attend court west of London by a firm of solicitors whose style of operation was not always conventional. On arrival at court David was surprised to find not the expected junior clerk, but the senior partner of the firm. At conclusion of the hearing, the partner warmly shook his hand and congratulated him upon an excellent result. But then the partner made a surprising request. He wondered whether David, being a member of the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, would be so kind as to support his own application for membership. David, put on the spot, felt he could hardly refuse. He signed the application form despite having some reservations about the suitability of the applicant. While others might have taken strong exception to the solicitor’s somewhat high-handed behavior, David was merely “piqued” and felt well able to see the funny side of it. I don’t think he ever did discover what the outcome of the application actually was.
I have emphasized the overwhelmingly calm, kind and generous spirit which David possessed. This was, to those who knew him and his family well, all the more commendable in light of the fact that David’s daughter Alice suffered from cystic fibrosis which in due course sadly proved fatal. This condition required the constant care of both David and his wife, Liz, and it was accompanied by worry and concern in large measure. Never once did I hear David speak of this as a burden. There is little doubt however, that it affected his entire life, especially the amount of energy and effort he could put towards his practice. I feel sure that this contributed substantially to his decision to leave the Bar early and to take a judicial position.
In conclusion, I have nothing but admiration for David. To the Bar and to Chambers he brought an integrity, grace and good humour which were and are worthy of emulation. After his retirement from the bench Colin Mackay, Nigel Pleming, and I enjoyed quarterly lunches with David, full of fond reminiscence.
His loss will be deeply felt.
1 June 2020