Mr Peter Morgan


By Lindy McNamara 2 July 2014

Lindy McNamara: This is an interview with Peter Morgan by Lindy McNamara and the date is the 2nd July 2014.  Good morning Mr Morgan.

Peter Morgan: Good morning.
Lindy McNamara: Would you like to just say something Mr Morgan and we can make sure it's recording properly?

Peter Morgan: My name is Peter Morgan, Peter Ranemby Morgan. The Ranemby part is interesting because that’s the name of an Aboriginal who saved or protected my ancestor on some occasion.

Lindy McNamara: Let’s start with some of the basics. Maybe we can start with your date of birth and where you were born?

Peter Morgan: Yes, 25th June 1928, born at the hospital in North Adelaide.

Lindy McNamara: And your parents, what were their names?
Peter Morgan: My father’s name was Edward James Ranemby Morgan and he was a lawyer who became a Judge of the industrial court.  I think he did very well in that role.

Lindy McNamara: And your mother?

Peter Morgan: Dorothy Millar, M-I-L-L-A-R, she was a granddaughter of Peter Waite but she was brought up in England, where her parents were living.

Lindy McNamara: So childhood memories, you said you were brought up in North Adelaide, is that correct?

Peter Morgan: Well initially we were on the corner of Ward Street and Jeffcott Street, I think that’s right, in a very nice house.  As a child I always thought the whole thing was a bit small, and eventually we moved to 52 Church Terrace, Walkerville where we had a substantial two storey house on quite a large block of land.  Altogether it was a very excellent place for children to live.  The street below the house was splendid, it was quite steep and we used to make go karts with pram wheels and roar down the hill very dangerously.

Lindy McNamara: Where did you go to primary school, where was your schooling?

Peter Morgan: The Montessori Kindergarten, and then I went to St Peters College.

Lindy McNamara: All the way through your schooling?

Peter Morgan: Yes, at St Peters. I started off in 3B in the preparatory school and then eventually went to the senior school.  Then I was sent to Morgan College Oxford, where a whole lot of South Australians were - not that I had very much to do with them, b.  Because they were mostly if not all, ex- service people. I was very fortunate in everything that came along.

Lindy McNamara: Was the decision to study law influenced by your father?

Peter Morgan: I don't think he had any particular passion for me to become a lawyer, in fact at Oxford I read history, but then eventually passed bar exams and was called to the bar.  Then when I returned to Adelaide I was able to register as a member of the legal profession in Adelaide.  Quite how that was possible I'm not at all clear.

Lindy McNamara: You didn't study at university here in Adelaide? All your studies were done at Oxford?

Peter Morgan No. I was at the university here for a short time.

Lindy McNamara: The University of Adelaide?

Peter Morgan: Yes, but most of my time at the university was - or yes my basic time at university was through Morthland College, Oxford, w.  Which was where there was a number of South Australians actually.

Lindy McNamara: Any ones that you can recall that you were there with, who that went on to come back to South Australia?

Peter Morgan: Yes, a whole group of ex- servicemen that were encouraged to go there, and really very satisfactory from their point of view and everyone's point of view.

Lindy McNamara: When you came back to Adelaide, did you have to do articles here in Adelaide?

Peter Morgan: No, I think that was a bit fortunate, because I think - anyhow the answer is no..

Lindy McNamara: Where was your first job in the legal profession when you came back?

Peter Morgan: I worked with Sir Edgar Bean the parliamentary draughtsman and then I went into [Baker McEwen Millhouse] and Co.

Lindy McNamara: What sort of areas of law, were you specialising in, anything in particular?

Peter Morgan: I would say very general, I don't think I'd pretend to specialise in anything.

Lindy McNamara: You were appearing in Court as well?

Peter Morgan: A little bit, not much, but yes to some extent.  We were very inexperienced.

Lindy McNamara: Who were some of your colleagues at the time, can you recall?

Peter Morgan: Well not off hand no, but I certainly had plenty of colleagues.

Lindy McNamara: So it was very much learning as you went?

Peter Morgan: No I don't think so, I always did the necessary learning in time for when it was required.

Lindy McNamara: Any memorable early cases that you were involved with that you can recall?

Peter Morgan: Well I don't recall off hand, you realise that’s a long time ago.

Lindy McNamara: What year were you admitted in South Australia?

Peter Morgan: Oh I'd have to work that out, I can’t give you the year off hand.

Lindy McNamara: 1951 - does that sound about right?

Peter Morgan: Well I'm not going to guess.

Lindy McNamara: So you were at Baker McEwen is that right?

Peter Morgan: Yes Baker McEwen Millhouse and Co.

Lindy McNamara: What year did you leave there and where did you go after that?

Peter Morgan: Well my memory of all this is a bit vague. I can’t recall off hand.

Lindy McNamara: Which firm did you go to?  You were a partner at which firm after that?

Peter Morgan: Oh after Baker McEwen? No I don't recall.

Lindy McNamara: Was it [Moulden and Sons]

Peter Morgan: Yes that’s right, it was Moulden’s yes.

Lindy McNamara: Were you then specialising in any areas or it was still general legal work?

Peter Morgan: Not really no.  Of course I obviously had a lot to do with Arnold MoMulden who was a very very capable lawyer.

Lindy McNamara: You spent some time as a Judge’s Associate, is that correct?

Peter Morgan: Yes I did spend some time as a Judge’s Associate.

Lindy McNamara: Which Judge were you with?

Peter Morgan: I can’t remember - Millhouse I think. 

Lindy McNamara: Can you recall anything about that time as far as type of work you were doing?

Peter Morgan: No.

Lindy McNamara: Just looking back at your legal career…

Peter Morgan: You’re talking about years and years and years ago.

Lindy McNamara: Yes I know, it’s a long time isn’t it?  You became involved with the Law Society at some point during that time?

Peter Morgan: Yes I certainly did.

Lindy McNamara: What made you want to be part of what was happening at the Law Society?

Peter Morgan: At the time I think it was considered almost necessary for you to be a member of the Law Society.  Which I became and where I remained for a long time.

Lindy McNamara: You were on several committees there, you were on the Superannuation Committee?

Peter Morgan: That I don't remember, too long ago.

Lindy McNamara: In those early days, you would have known just about everyone that was in the legal profession in Adelaide?

Peter Morgan: I think I probably knew all of them.

Lindy McNamara: So it was very closed?

Peter Morgan: With one exception I think or perhaps more, but they were all very excellent and did well.  They were very capable good people.

Lindy McNamara: Did anyone become your mentor?  Did anyone take you under their wing?

Peter Morgan: Well the principle one would have been Sir Edgar Bean when I was working on the parliamentary drafting.  That was quite strenuous actually, I was fairly newly married and it involved being up all night in parliament.  It used to sit right through the night, and that was all a little bit trying.

Lindy McNamara: Did you have children at the time yourself?

Peter Morgan: Well at about that time, we would have started having children, yes.

Lindy McNamara: So it would have been quite stressful on the home front?

Peter Morgan: No it wasn’t stressful, but it just kept you busy.

Lindy McNaramara: Long hours?

Peter Morgan: Yes, but it didn’t worry me though, not at all.

Lindy McNamara: You thought that working long hours was all part and parcel of being a lawyer?

Peter Morgan: Well yes of course.  The legal profession is a wonderful organisation - well it’s not an organisation, it’s a wonderful group of people with whom to work.

Lindy McNamara: What sort of things did you enjoy about being a lawyer?

Peter Morgan: Oh everything, I suppose I spent quite a lot of time drawing wills.

Lindy McNamara: You must have met a lot of different people through that sort of work?

Peter Morgan: Well, yes, I would have.

Lindy McNamara: Is that something that drew you to the law?

Peter Morgan: Will making is - you’ve really got to be jolly careful, you’ve got to get it right.  Because once it’s done, and the person making the will dies, everyone’s stuck with it.

Lindy McNamara: Did you ever have any issues, did you ever have complaining families?

Peter Morgan: No recollection of it, but probably there were.  No I don't think so, I was very careful with what I did.

Lindy McNamara: You would describe yourself as being quite meticulous?

Peter Morgan: I don’t think I would be so pleased with myself that I could say that.

Lindy McNamara: I'm sure you were though.

Peter Morgan: I certainly worked hard and was careful and worked very long hours too.

Lindy McNamara: So you joined the Law Society and from what I gather you were on several committees during your time?

Peter Morgan: Yes I was a member of the Law Society and active in its activities.  Although the detail it’s all too long ago for me to remember.

Lindy McNamara: You became President, that’s right?

Peter Morgan: Yes. I don’t know how that happened.

Lindy McNamara: And that I think was 1977 - ’78?

Peter Morgan: I've got no idea of the date, it’s a long time ago.

Lindy McNamara: It is a long time.

Peter Morgan: The Law Society was always excellent. The members were very sensible and competent.  There was no basic problem that I can recall.

Lindy McNamara: Can you recall some of the people that were on the Law Society at the time, some of your colleagues that you were working with?

Peter Morgan: Not at that stage, no. If I looked at a list, I could tell you the ones I knew or had to do with.  But I won’t venture into that.

Lindy McNamara I read somewhere that in one of your President’s reports, initially you said you had some misgivings about becoming President of the Law Society.  Why do you think you would have had misgivings?

Peter Morgan: Oh just in order to appear humble.

Lindy McNamara: But I'm sure you were quite capable during your 12 month term?

Peter Morgan: I hope so.

Lindy McNamara: One of the issues that seemed to raise their i head during that time, was new technology.  Can you recall that back in those days it was just the start of word processing coming in, and a new filing system I think
started at the Law Society at the time?

Peter Morgan: A new what?

Lindy McNamara: Filing system, a different way of…

Peter Morgan: I certainly don’t remember the new filing system, but anyhow I certainly took a tremendous interest in the practice of the law and how it should be done and so on.

Lindy McNamara: Can you recall any of the other issues during your time as President?  I think one of the reports I read that you were quite keen to ensure that there was a good relationship with the media while you were President?

Peter Morgan: Did I? You know more about me than I know.  Well I would have, I don’t remember that, but that was the sort of thing that I would be interested in and try to maintain a good relationship with them.  Because to get into any kind of dispute with the press would be quite bad, or very unfortunate and something to be avoided.  But at the same time, it didn’t mean that you would accept things that you thought were wrong in principle.  You wouldn’t do that.

Lindy McNamara: I think another one of the issues at the time was changing from articles to students having to do a workshop, that was in the process I think as you were President.  Can you recall anything about those?

Peter Morgan: No I don't recall that.

Lindy McNamara: I think another one was the establishment of the Legal Commission, can you recall anything about the Legal Aid system at the time?

Peter Morgan: No, except that I must have taken a very active interest in it.

Lindy McNamara: Yes well it sounds like you did, it sounds like you were very keen to have the Commission established, and there seemed to be a lot of support for that. I think John Doyle was on the committee with you?

Peter Morgan: You see he was a very able person.

Lindy McNamara: Ted Mulligan, I think also?

Peter Morgan: Yes another one.

Lindy McNamara: Obviously it was quite a tight group of people that were in the legal profession during your time.  Did you get up to any mischief during that time?

Peter Morgan: I'm sure we didn't. Yes, well I really simply don't remember, but I think it’s highly unlikely.  Certainly I would have been extremely careful not to do anything that would get the profession into strife.  That would have been quite stupid.

Lindy McNamara: So you were very keen throughout your career to make sure that the legal profession had a very high reputation within South Australia?

Peter Morgan: Well I would have to say that wouldn't I?  I certainly would have been extremely keen that the profession behaved well.

Lindy McNamara: What are some of the changes that you saw?  Because you left Moulden’s in 1986 and then went out to be a consultant is that correct?

Peter Morgan: I don’t remember.

Lindy McNamara: You must have seen some big changes from when you first started practiscing, to perhaps towards the end of your career?  Do you know some of the things that you noticed as a lawyer that changed during your
time, your career?

Peter Morgan: Well no doubt there were great changes, but I do not remember, it’s all too long ago.

Lindy McNamara: So after you left Moulden’s what sort of work? You don't recall what sort of work you were doing after that?

Peter Morgan: No, I don’t.

Lindy McNamara: What are some of the things you do with yourself now that you’re not practiscing law?  Do you still take an interest in the law?

Peter Morgan: Oh yes I certainly do.  Well, I read and sort of do various jobs around the place, nothing very constructive.  I was at one time a very keen woodworker, of course that was something we learnt at St Peters.  But I think I gradually fell away from woodwork.

Lindy McNamara: So have you got any little projects at home that you're working on?

Peter Morgan: I've got a very nice shed, but these days I hardly use it.  I seem to spend a lot of time doing nothing.

Lindy McNamara: Oh well that’s always a good thing sometimes.  Can you recall what year you retired from the law?

Peter Morgan: No, I don’t recall.

Lindy McNamara: Anything else that you can remember back on your career?  Any of the cases that you were involved in that stand out, that you look back and think oh I was very proud of that achievement.

Peter Morgan: Not off hand no.  But I hope that in everything that I did I always put in the maximum effort, into whatever I was doing.  And tried never to be lazy or slack or anything else like that.

Lindy McNamara: Were you always well prepared if you had to go to court?

Peter Morgan: Yes, initially I was in court a bit, but gradually as far as I can remember I stopped appearing in court.  Of course there was a big change when the profession of barrister emerged and people started distinguishing between barristers on the one hand and solicitors on the other.  There was no legal difference as far as I recall in South Australia, but there was a practical difference.  I don’t think I ever saw myself as a [Comberton] barrister.

Lindy McNamara: So you took the path of being a solicitor?

Peter Morgan: Yes.

Lindy McNamara: You were more comfortable perhaps not appearing in Court?

Peter Morgan: Well the direction in which I went meant that I would have appeared less and less and less in cCourt.

Lindy McNamara: Who were some of the good friends that you made in your legal profession?  Some of the fellow lawyers that you might still keep in touch with perhaps?

Peter Morgan: Well I'll have to think that up and give you a list I think.

Lindy McNamara: Any that spring to mind that you might have worked with?

Peter Morgan: No, well not off hand.  At 86 I've lost a lot of memory.

Lindy McNamara: Yes. Could you ever see yourself doing something else in your life besides being a lawyer?

Peter Morgan: No.

Lindy McNamara: That was always what you wanted to be?

Peter Morgan: Yes, well it’s where I ended up.  Not so much a question of wanting, but that’s just how things happened. I always found the legal profession very good, the members of the profession excellent people to be with. 
By and large they were extremely honest and capable.  I got a feeling there was one member of the profession that I wasn’t terribly keen about, but so what.

Lindy McNamara: Can you recall how many members there were at the time? Yes, well have you an idea how many members? We were talking before how many members now in the Law Society.

Peter Morgan: How many are there now?

Lindy McNamara: Well I'd need to check, I'd be like you I can’t remember.  But I would think there would be over a couple of thousand now.

Peter Morgan: Yes, well I'd be guessing, but I wouldn't have thought more than about 300, that's just a blind guess.

Lindy McNamara: Well I guess if you knew everyone that was working with you at the time, that it would have to be…

Peter Morgan: Well, that’s just a blind guess, if I can come up with a better figure I'd better let you know.

Lindy McNamara: So obviously over the years, the numbers have changed significantly.

Peter Morgan: You ought to be able to find that actually.

Lindy McNamara: Yes we can, I'll have a look before you leave.

Peter Morgan: It would be a good idea if you had a look and told me how many people were in the profession at that time.

Lindy McNamara: Yes, I'd be able to tell you then, and you’ll know. And you were saying, you’re quite impressed with the Law Society’s new premises?

Peter Morgan: Oh certainly, I'm staggered. I can’t think of the Law Society with anything so grand.

Lindy McNamara: Can you recall what the premises were like that you were working from when you were President?

Peter Morgan: Well very vaguely, but there was nothing wrong with them.

Lindy McNamara: No, but perhaps not on this scale?

Peter Morgan: Nothing as fantastic as this.

Lindy McNamara: It’s amazing what’s happened.

Peter Morgan: Part of my problem is that at 86, there’s an awful lot of things I just don't remember. Ffull stop.  

Lindy McNamara: You're looking fairly fantastic for 86.

Peter Morgan: I don’t think I'm actually dotty, but my memory has sagged quite a bit.

Lindy McNamara: I have that problem and I'm not that old!.

Peter Morgan: But I don't think I was ever as able as my father, who was a Judge and enjoyed - his interests really were art and architecture.  But somehow or other I think he got pushed into the law by his father.

Lindy McNamara: Was your grandfather a lawyer as well?  His father - was he a lawyer?

Peter Morgan: No, he wasn't.

Lindy McNamara: Your dad must have been a bit of an inspiration for you?

Peter Morgan: He was, yes. He had a passionate interest in art and architecture and so I've got a house full of all sorts of wonderful things that he selected over the years.  I think he was a Jjudge of the industrial court for quite
a long time.

Lindy McNamara: You said you had a strong interest in history when you were at Oxford?

Peter Morgan: Well I read history which I think was a feeble mistake and I don’t know quite how that came about.  Because I undoubtedly should have switched to law, which I easily could have done.  It was quite easy to switch over there, you could just change.  Stupidly I didn’t do that and just trundled on with the history school, which I don’t think I ever thought was terribly exciting or stimulating.

Lindy McNamara: You didn’t think that was going to be your lifetime career?

Peter Morgan: Well no. It was the sort of thing that you do when you’re young, you just bumbled on and not realising that there were better things to do than reading modern history.

Lindy McNamara: But it must have been an exciting time at Oxford when you were there?

Peter Morgan: Yes. , well there was a large Sir Archibald Grenfell Price, got a whole lot of South Australians to Oxford and more particularly to [Bordon] College.  But I had really virtually nothing to do with the major group,
because they were nearly all ex- servicemen of course, and I wasn’t.  I was too young to – fortunately - for me to be in the army or whatever.  

Lindy McNamara: So were these all boys from St Peters?

Peter Morgan: Yes, Archie Price, he actually he was very helpful to all of us I think, and somehow or other, I don't know how it came about.

Lindy McNamara: Was he the benefactor that was supporting it?

Peter Morgan: Well no he didn't pay for anything, but he was helpful about getting into the college,  and as I recall.  But once I think my memory fades almost every day.

Lindy McNamara: You were saying you’ve got five children yourself?

Peter Morgan: Yes.

Lindy McNamara: How many grandchildren?

Peter Morgan: Well no I won’t hazard a guess on that.

Lindy McNamara: 16 maybe? I think that’s what someone said.

Peter Morgan: Yes, I think it’s 16 but I'm not absolutely sure.

Lindy McNamara: That’s a lot of birthdays to remember.

Peter Morgan: Oh well Susan, my good wife, she can handle that sort of thing with ease, no problem at all.  

Lindy McNamara: She’s obviously been a great support for you throughout your career?

Peter Morgan: Absolutely yes. I'm more than fortunate. I really have been very fortunate in having such a good wife and such splendid children and grandchildren.

Lindy McNamara: Obviously very happy to be in Adelaide ,too, South Australia?

Peter Morgan: Yes I think that it suits me, but it’s really basically where I've always been for a long time now.

Lindy McNamara: You were saying that you have a property or a house on Kangaroo Island?

Peter Morgan: Yes indeed we do.  A grassy flat by some sand hills there, just behind the sand hills, which is very good.  But I have a major interest in the Mutooroo Pastoral Company which is inherited really, and that keeps the family quite busy.  It’s a sheep and cattle farm north of Adelaide in the bush.

Lindy McNamara: How far north?  Whereabouts is it based?

Peter Morgan: Oh just north of the gulfs, north and east of the gulfs.

Lindy McNamara: So you take still an interest in that?

Peter Morgan: Oh certainly, yes indeed.  It’s called the Mutooroo Pastoral Company and it was really established by Peter Waite, my great grandfather.  That’s the chap who led to the establishment of the Waite Institute.

Lindy McNamara: So your family has strong ties in South Australia?

Peter Morgan: Certainly do, yes. Well we’re very fortunate.

Lindy McNamara: Well I think that’s covered a lot of what you’ve achieved during your lifetime.

Peter Morgan: What’s worrying me is how much of what I've said is not accurate, because…

Lindy McNamara: Well if it’s not you can have a look at it and check it and make sure. We’ll do a transcript and you’ll be able to read it.

Peter Morgan: Oh well if you let me have a copy of the transcript, then I can. You can fax that to me. Anyhow if you can’t do it that way you can do it by post.

Lindy McNamara: Yes, all right well we’ll end our interview today and I'm sure there might be other things that we can add into it afterwards.