Memorial Event For Professor Geoffrey Wilson Bartholomew
23 July 2005, Moot Court

Speakers (from left to right) Attorney-General Chan Sek Keong ’61, Dr Kevin Tan ’86, Prof R.H. Hickling, Mrs Hendon Bte HJ Mohamed ’62 and Dr Philip Pillai ’71


On 23 July 2005, the Faculty commemorated the late Professor Geoffrey Bartholomew, 6th Dean of the Faculty and launched a campaign to establish a Professorship in his name

Many distinguished individuals gathered at the Faculty’s Moot Court to pay tribute to a great teacher, scholar and former Dean of the law school – the late Professor Geoffrey Bartholomew who passed away on 10 March 2005 in Sydney.

The event also saw the launch of a campaign to raise at least $1.5million for
The Geoffrey Bartholomew Professorship. Through the Professorship, the Faculty hopes to further the inspirational legal scholarship and, as Attorney General Chan Sek Keong described at the memorial, the “refreshing, provocative and stimulating” teaching best exemplified by Professor Bartholomew. Thanks to generous contributions including those by Principal Donors - Shook Lin & Bok, Drew & Napier, Rajah & Tann and Allen & Gledhill, more than $450,000 has been raised so far.

Professor Bartholomew taught many prominent alumni including former Deans Professor Tommy Koh ’61, Ambassador-at-large; Dr Thio Su Mien ’61 and Professor S. Jayakumar ’63, Deputy Prime Minister, Co-ordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Law who all attended the memorial.

Sharing their memories of Professor Bartholomew at the event were Dr Kevin YL Tan '86; Attorney-General Mr Chan Sek Keong ’61; Dr Philip Pillai ’71 and Professor Hugh Hickling who used to teach at the Faculty and representing Professor Bartholomew’s former students from Malaysia, Hendon Bte HJ Mohamed ’62.

Legendary contributions to Singapore Legal History

Dr Tan spoke of Professor Bartholomew – the Scholar. He recalled the profound impact that the “exceedingly kind, generous, open and friendly” Professor had on his own legal scholarship through their years of correspondence and collaboration. Professor Bartholomew’s final published article was a joint work with Dr Tan on the history of law reporting in Singapore in Essays in Singapore Legal History (2005).

In the late 1980’s when the Attorney General was looking at various ways to reform the notorious s.5 of the Civil Law Act, he invited the Professor to write an article for the Singapore Academy of Law Journal. The Professor produced a ‘magisterial’ work on English statutes in Singapore law which contributed in no small part to the Application of English Law Act 1993.

Inspirational teaching “like a tornado that hits you”

An extremely versatile teacher, Professor Bartholomew taught a wide variety of subjects though he is best remembered for teaching Legal History, Legal Systems, Comparative Law and Jurisprudence.

Recollections of Professor Bartholomew’s teaching style brought laughter to lighten the mood. The Attorney-General reminisced upon his first encounter with the Professor at his lecture on “Hermaphrodites & the Law” in 1959 which left him and many others wondering when they would be “assailed again with and stimulated by such a speaker on another exotic legal topic.” Dr Pillai ‘complained’ about the Professor’s “unwelcome but ultimately beneficial” style of teaching which involved no lecture notes or suggested reading list which understandably greatly discomforted his Conflicts of Law class. Dr Tan had asked many of his former students what it was like to be taught by Professor Bartholomew and all described the Professor as one who always spoke spontaneously in lectures, often with a beer in hand! “His mind was encyclopaedic, his memory formidable.”

As Dr Pillai put it, “his contributions to generations of lawyers in Singapore and Malaysia should not pass unmarked.” The memory of this inspiring man led Dr Pillai to spearhead the drive to establish a Professorship at the University where Professor Bartholomew made seminal contributions. To this day, the Professor’s teaching of Jurisprudence has left the Attorney-General with “a life-long habit of thinking about law in a jurisprudential way”.
Professor Bartholomew left us with his legal legacy and we should also leave one for the law students of the future.

“[He had] an irrepressible joy and passion for the law, legal literature and learning... he was the sunlight whose light both nurtured as well as penetrated the minds of junior faculty” – Dr Philip Pillai ’71, former student and later colleague of Professor Bartholomew

“He made light of everything, but behind that, there was a certain profoundness” – Hendon Bte HJ Mohamed ’62, on the “fun sessions” during Professor Bartholomew’s Family Law classes

“[He was] the most gifted academic lawyer I have ever met in my life” – Professor Hugh Hickling, former teacher at the Faculty and the first Parliamentary draftsmen and Law Review Commissioner of Malaysia

If you wish to make a contribution to The Geoffrey Bartholomew Professorship, please call 65-6516-1305

For more information on The Geoffrey Bartholomew Professorship, please click here