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Joseph Bramwell Graham

Joseph Bramwell Graham [X464/98]
Joseph Bramwell Graham [X464/98]

Joseph Bramwell Graham was born on 29 March 1885 at Shelley near Huddersfield [Yorkshire], the son of Henry and Ann Graham. He became Clerk to the County Council in 1925 and served for twenty six years until his death in 1951. From 1927 to his death he lived at Elstow Lodge. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has some notes on his life prepared by Frank Crompton [X464/82] which read as follows: “The writer of these notes was associated with Mr. Graham for 37½ years at the Shire Hall, Bedford”.

“Mr. Graham left the service of the Town Clerk of Wakefield in 1907 to join the Staff of the Clerk of the Peace and of the County Council for Bedfordshire (the late Mr. William Woodfine Marks) to whom he became articled. The writer joined Mr. Marks’ staff as personal Secretary in 1914. Mr. Marks often told the writer how very diligent Mr. Graham was in his studies and how well he had applied himself to the work of the Department. Mr. Graham was admitted a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Judicature in 1913 and in 1915 he had made such good progress that he was appointed Deputy Clerk of the Peace and of the County Council. Ten years later, on the death of Mr. Marks, he was appointed to fill the vacancy of Clerk and it is fitting to ay that the appointing body, the Bedfordshire Standing Joint Committee, did not consider it necessary to advertise the appointment, but chose Mr. Graham by unanimous vote”.

“In the 1914-1918 War, Mr. Graham was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Bedfordshire War Agricultural Committee. This Committee was charged with the very important task of extending the cultivation of land for the purpose of Food production, so vital to the Country in view of the great losses of shipping through enemy submarine warfare”.

“As a Junior Solicitor, as Deputy Clerk and as Clerk Mr. Graham had an amazing capacity for work, and his highest thoughts were always for the wellbeing of the County of his adoption”.

“His official functions included the very important posts of Honorary Clerk to the Lieutenancy, Registration Officer for Bedfordshire and Acting Returning Officer for Parliamentary Elections. He also held the office of Under-Sheriff for the County of Bedford. He was legal adviser to the County Constabulary and held many honorary posts including those of Honorary Solicitor to the former Bedford County Hospital, the Bedfordshire Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association, the Bedfordshire Nursing Association, the Bedford and County Girls’ Home”.

“He was Clerk to the Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire Joint Board for the Mentally Defective until that body was taken over under the National Health Service. He was also Clerk to the Bedfordshire Compensation Authority and the Bedfordshire Licensing Committee and was the first Clerk of the Bedfordshire Valuation Panels set up to deal with rating under the Local Government Act, 1948”.

“During the 1939-1945 War he was the Controller for Civil Defence within the County of Bedford and also became Clerk and Solicitor to the Bedfordshire War Agricultural Executive Committee. All these appointments he carried with much skill and dignity and he applied his wealth of knowledge and experience for the benefit of all concerned. As a lawyer he was most able and shrewd and in the counsels of the Society of Clerks of the Peace he was known as “the wise virgin”, a title he was very proud to enjoy”.

“He was awarded the C. B. E. in 1945 for his services during the War but he always modestly stated that his personal Staff won this honour for the County”.

“His appointment as a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Bedford was another fitting recognition of his sterling worth and wonderful record of service”.

“He took the deepest interest in children and old people, in Nursing and in Agriculture. Nothing was ever too much trouble to him and he had the happy manner of anticipating the wishes of all with whom he was concerned. He used to say: “My telegraphic address is “EARLIER, BEDFORD”. He also warmly supported the writer’s motto of “DO IT NOW”.

“Mr. Graham never tired of helping those in need or distress and would go to any trouble to assist colleagues or staff to secure appointments in new fields. Likewise, he was a keen defender of the rights of the staff of the County Council. Anyone could secure an audience with him. He denied none, however busy he was. His sound judgement, based upon a long and valuable experience and training was always greatly appreciated”.

“With all his talents, and all his remarkable skill in the law, he retained a modesty serene and detached that won profound respect. By his qualities of heart, no less than by those of mind, he greatly endeared himself to all who were privileged to know him. For a quarter of a century, he and the writer never had one discordant note”.

“Mr. Graham’s genial manner was appreciated by all. He was fond of the quotation from Shakespeare: “Beware not enter in a quarrel”. He followed this motto throughout and would do all in his power to repair breaches in relationships, but if he had to fight he quickly proved himself champion of the cause involved”.

“He was a great philosopher”.

“In earlier days he was very devoted to music and had a beautiful natural tenor voice. He played much Golf and Tennis and was keenly interested in Fishing and Shooting. He also supported many sports organisations. He was a Life Member and Vice-President of the Bedford Rugby Football Club, Vice-President of the Bedfordshire County Cricket Club and for many years its legal adviser. He was President of the Shire Hall Cricket Club. To these and other organisations he gave valuable financial support”.

“The writer recalls when the Shire Hall Cricket Club were invited to play Podington at Cricket and when they suffered ignominious defeat at the hands of the Village team, Mr. Graham humorously stated that he himself felt the defeat more keenly than the rest of the Shire Hall because Mrs. Graham triumphed over him!” [His wife Erica was an Orlebar of Hinwick House before marriage]

“In the Courts, in the Committee Rooms, in the Council Chamber at the Shire Hall, or indeed, wherever he went Mr. Graham had a kind word and thought for every one and was always ready to exchange a joke or short story”.

“On the last day in which he was sitting in Quarter Sessions (May 22nd, 1951) he found time to enter the Barristers’ Robing Room at the conclusion of the day’s work to exchange jokes with Mr. Arthur Ward, K. C. and Mr. rex Vaughan, K. C. He and Mr. Ward were very old friends and often chatted about farming, Mr. Ward being a keen farmer in the Isle of Man. Mr. Ward’s book Stuff and Silk is well worth reading. The writer is the only person who ever attended a consultation at Mr. Ward’s flat in London when Mr. Ward was sitting in his silk pyjamas and dressing gown! Mr. Graham often asked the writer to take his place at consultations and at sittings in the High Court. The most recent occasion was when three Cases Stated came before the Lord Chief Justice of England at the Royal Courts of Justice when the decisions went in favour of the Bedfordshire Constabulary. This is mentioned just to show that Mr. Graham showed great confidence in his staff and had no fear but that his office would be upheld by those who were at all times anxious to show loyalty and devotion to him”.

“On one occasion, when the late Lord Lieutenant (Mr. Howard Whitbread) was travelling with Mr. Graham to a meeting at Leighton Buzzard, Mr. Whitbread said: “I will bet you a book of stamps, Graham, that you will not have what I shall call fro when we arrive at Leighton Buzzard” whereupon Mr. Graham replied: “I am prepared to take you on, Sir, but it would be wrong to take your book of stamps as I am SURE that Mr. Crompton will have with him in the other motor car ALL THAT YOU REQUIRE”. When the party arrived at the Police Station at Leighton Buzzard, true to type, Mr. Whitbread immediately called for the deeds of the property, and these were produced by Mr, Crompton who had no instructions to bring them. Mr. Graham beamed with joy. This serves to remind the writer that Mr. Graham always said: “YOU MUST BOTTOM EVERYTHING. LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE. USE YOUR BRAINS. VERY FEW HAVE ABOVE THE AVERAGE IN BRAINS, BUT USE WHAT YOU HAVE. VERIFY YOUR REFERENCE. FOLLOW THE WIRDS OF THE STATUTE”. He was thorough in all these things”.

“One thing Mr. Graham did appreciate was when his Staff anticipated his wishes by drafting documents for his approval, or drafting formal communications”.

“Mr. Graham took up motoring in 1921 and his first motor car was a FIAR coupe. Prior to that time, he had to be content with a bicycle, which he rode with great dignity”.

“He always lived a most contended life and even before his marriage he wasted little time on entertainment and was fully satisfied by attending an occasional dance. He was always a devoted member of the Church and was a great advocate of congregations being permitted to take full share in the singing in Church”.

“He loved all his work and has an amazing capacity for it throughout the years. The writer recalls the years when the office had to work each night until 11 p.m. during the months of stress. Mr. Graham was always in the thick of it”.

“Mr. Graham had a wealth of experience in High Court practice, in the work of Royal Commissions, and in Parliamentary practice and procedure. He was also a great conveyancing lawyer in former years”.

“He received a most valuable training under that brilliant man, Mr. Marks, whose vigorous demands would have weakened stronger men than Mr. Graham. But Mr. Graham always met the demands made upon him, however great the cost. He has given himself to his County and to his Country, regardless of cost”.

“In the earlier days, Mr. Marks was wont to ask Mr. Graham or the writer for the correct time. When Mr. Graham put his hand in his vest pocket to collect his watch, Mr. Marks would say: “Don’t do that; I know the watch is not there; it must be at the pawnbroker’s!”

“One day when he (Mr. Marks) asked where Mr. Graham was, the writer said: “At the Workhouse” whereupon Mr. Marks said: “I knew he would go there because he wears too many suits!” All this banter helped the busy life. And so Mr. Graham carried it on through his own heavy period of office. It was a common practice for years when in the Court of Quarter Sessions for Mr. Graham and the writer, in quiet moments, to exchange short jokes and comments on paper and this happened during the last period of duty in Quarter Sessions in May, 1951”.

“For 29 years, in a very happy marriage, Mr. Graham was blessed with the inspiration of a loving and devoted wife, and the success of his work may be attributed to Mrs. Graham’s wonderful devotion. He was a very proud father and wise mentor and always expressed the wish that the children would not marry during his lifetime. We who are left for the time being are grateful for a store of very happy memories”.

Joseph Bramwell Graham died of a heart attack on 28th May 1951, aged 66, whilst attending the Chief Constables Association conference at Bournemouth. He was buried on 1st June 1951 at Elstow.

Elstow Lodge February 2012
Elstow Lodge February 2012