A FEW NOTES ON THE RETIREMENT OF HIS HONOUR JUDGE GOSNELL TODAY (“WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS”)

You may expect me to write about the retirement today of the Designated Civil Judge for Leeds and Bradford, HHJ Mark Gosnell. He has, after all, been providing material for the blog for many years, on costs, evidenceprocedure and much more.  The cruel gods of court listing mean that I cannot make his valedictory in court this morning (I will be able to watch remotely).  I have decided not to write about HHJ’s work  in court at all. There is much that is going to be said this morning on HHJ’s work as judge.  However, I am writing about a feature of his non-legal career for which is is famous – his life as a musician.  Here I have some inside knowledge and I’ve had a little help from my friends…

 

THE INTRODUCTION

About 14 years ago I knew that we had a new DCJ who played guitar and sang (not in court, obviously) . Aptly, I  first met Mark at a gig.  The band I play in was performing at the BPP Student Ball in Leeds and Mark was a guest.  In the interval he came into the band room and said how much he enjoyed the playing : “three musicians and a drummer”, he said (as we shall see  below Mark’s stance on drummers has been a constant feature).

(The band in question was originally a four piece  band started 23 years ago by members of my previous chambers. Over the years members have emigrated and left on good terms and we have gained other members – I’m now the only original player. Our current set up is two barristers, one solicitor, two judges (both now retired) and our bass player is a “ringer” (non-lawyer). Originally named Waley & the Marlers, we changed the name when the lead singer moved abroad, we are now named after our drummer “Scott and the Antarctics”).

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

Shortly after that gig the band’s keyboard player moved south.   We needed a second instrument. As we all know two guitar bands never go out of style and Mark took the role of guitar player and backing singer.

(Waley and the Marlers – “the early years”).

RIDE SALLY RIDE

There is a little known, but strictly enforced, statute that requires bands of a certain type to play Mustang Sally.  Mark’s initial sally into lead singing in our band was when we changed the key so Mark could sing lead (to A Major for all those interested). So it was clear that Mark could sing as well as play guitar (at the same time…).  This proved fortunate, as we shall see.

(Playing a wedding.  You can just about see my fingers…)

 

THE MOVE TO THE FRONT

The lead singer of the band got a job abroad and we needed a new male singer.  Mark stepped into the void, singing the lead (male) parts as well as playing guitar. He is, it has to be said, an excellent frontman, building up a rapport with the audience. Not even his jokes prevent people from having a good time.

(Mark playing a semi-acoustic here. He has now graduated to playing a Gretsch.)

 

THE VENUES

For reasons that, frankly, escape me we have – thus far – not played the major stadiums of the world. We have played music festivals, beer festivals, cricket clubs, golf clubs and a variety of hotels and clubs in Leeds. We’ve played student balls, Law Society Dinners, birthday parties, weddings, FLBA dinners, judge’s retirement dinners, charity festivals and the Leeds Legal Walk (where, unfortunately, we cannot play this year).

CAN’T BUY ME LOVE…

If anyone is thinking that HHJ has been having a lucrative second income alongside his judicial career I must disabuse you of that notion now. Over the years we have raised money for charities, including M.S. Guide Dogs and the numerous charities supported by the North Leeds Charity Beer Festival.  Among other jobs I am the band treasurer, on the few occasions we have a surplus, the money has been paid to stroke support groups.

 

ITS ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC: A MAN YOU DON’T MEET EVERYDAY

I suspect that the band that Mark used to play in had a lot more heavy rock influence than out current set up. (A group known as “Wasted” – a parody on “Busted”).

In the 23 years of playing we have only had one review,  describing out set list as “a gentle romp through the musical genres”.   Over the years Mark has gradually become converted to our style, culminating in “We must play Dance the Night Away [the Mavericks] – it always fills the dance floor” (which is  true). Recently he has suggested that  the backing I play for a new number is best played on the mandolin rather than guitar (a major conversion – almost a road to Damascus moment for Mark).

I suppose that adaptability and flexibility may be important features for judicial office. Mark has that in droves. When we played a wedding with a large Irish contingent, we played – and he sang – a whole range of Irish  songs and tunes. Galway Girl (Steve Earle’s version) has stayed in our set list.

 

(Mark’s previous band).

 

THERE’S SIX OF US IN THIS (INCLUDING A DRUMMER)

(Scott and the Antarctics)

You learn a lot about people when you play music with them.  On one occasion we were playing a charity gig at Mark’s local golf club. The MC stated that “Mark’s band is about to play”. We thought nothing of it.  The next morning there was a message  from Mark on the band’s , WhatsApp  apologising for the fact that we had been referred to as “his band”.  Something that never bothered us at all.  (We now have an agreement it is “everyone’s band” – and anyone can claim title – depending on where we are playing.)

 

A WORD FROM HH SCOTT WOLSTENHOLME

The band is, however, named after our drummer, a retired judge himself.  I invited him to say a word about Mark.

“You know he’s a good guy when you see the large photo of the Rolling Stones on the wall in his chambers. A good singer and guitarist, whose only fault is a hard wired contempt for the musical abilities of drummers. Or is it just me?”

(Fear not gentle reader, Scott can hold his own when it comes to drummer jokes and gives as good as he gets).

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? YOU CAN CHECK OUT – BUT YOU CAN’T LEAVE

I think Mark is planning to work as a mediator.  He’s going to be good at this, he has been honing those skills in band rehearsals for years now (“Gordon you do know that your amp gets louder as the valves warm up”).  He may well be playing more golf. I am hoping he will be playing more guitar and singing.  We may get to play those stadiums yet…

 

 

(Mark’s toughest gig – playing to his granddaughters).