TRIBUTE TO LORNA COLE, BARRISTER AND HEAD OF CHAMBERS: “INVINCIBLE”
Lorna Cole was called to the Bar in 1951 and was head of chambers at Hull for many years, she sadly died earlier this week. Richard Wright QC, Leader of the North-Eastern Circuit, sent out a tribute to her today which he has agreed I can share. I knew Lorna very briefly (we were against each other in a case that eventually got adjourned) but she was clearly one of those marvellous advocates who could be both friendly and formidable, with her client’s best interests foremost in her thoughts.
Lorna Cole graduated from the University of Leeds with a First Class Honours degree and a determination both to be called to the Bar (which she was by Lincoln’s Inn – we think in 1951?) and to practice on the North Eastern Circuit. She was the first woman to do so and the first woman to state her pretensions at Grand Court. The entirely male mess at Leeds refused to allow her to dine with them and made her eat in the corridor before she was admitted after cigars and port to state her pretensions before being told to leave. She was also refused entry to the robing rooms across the Circuit.
Despite these early experiences Lorna would regularly tell her pupil Liz Shaw that there was no such thing as discrimination against women at the Bar. She was also appalled when the rules on Court dress were amended to enable women to wear trousers. Perhaps that is the perspective of someone who had the grit and determination to smash through the glass ceiling and leave it wide open for those who followed her.
Together with Jack Walker, Richard Hutchinson and Michael Barker, Lorna became a founder member of Wilberforce Chambers in Hull, then situated on Bowlalley Lane. She later became Head of Chambers – the first female Head of Chambers on the North Eastern Circuit – a position that she held until 1995. She continued in Chambers until she reached the age of 75 (though that was a closely guarded secret!).
Lorna had two families, her own and her Chambers family. At home she held the family together after the untimely death of her husband Carl Rosen. A well known Hull solicitor, he would come to Chambers every day to have lunch with his wife and died suddenly in 1982 waiting for her to return from Court. Nevertheless, she attended Chambers every day, even if out of Court and her appetite for work was incredible. On one occasion, having fallen in the snow, she refused hospital treatment for a broken elbow to continue her case with the result that she developed a permanent loss of function.
She last attended Mess when she attended the 100 years celebration in Leeds where she was as ever on sparkling form and received a standing ovation.
She was a classy Lady who always took great pride in her appearance, loved trips to New York on Concorde and enjoyed smoking a good cigar!
Invincible is a word that has been used to describe her – and so she was.