Roddy’s Folly: R. P. Meagher QC – art lover

Roddy’s Folly is published by Connor Court Publishing.

  • To read about the book on the publisher’s website, click here.

Praise for Roddy’s Folly

Peter Coleman, The Spectator Australia:

“Freeman’s aim has been to leave his readers with ‘the tone’ of a friend who was not a great man but was passionate, inspirational and authentic. He has succeeded.”

Tony Abbott, Quadrant:

“It wasn’t folly to speak against the errors of these times, as Roddy did. It is our duty to speak out against that which diminishes us, although it helps to see the good as well as the ill in the times in which we live. Thanks to Damien Freeman, Roddy Meagher is with us yet: to inform, to amuse and to teach.”

Roy Williams, The Australian:

“[Freeman] contends that his subject has ‘intrinsic significance’. By book’s end, I had come to agree with Freeman. Meagher’s story is surprisingly multifaceted and Freeman tells it fairly and well… as Freeman ably demonstrates, Meagher was a unique and important Australian.”

Robert Richards, Law Society Journal:

“What I most like about the book is that it is much more than a biography. Much of it involves philosophical discussions about the value of art, the significance of equity law, and the role of universities… I enjoyed Roddy’s Folly and it is certainly a book I will go back to.”

Michael Sexton, Sydney Morning Herald:

“[Freeman] has used Meagher’s life as a basis for some extended essays on art, the idea of the university, religious belief, marriage and the standard text on the law of equity (of which Meagher was a co-author). This is, of course, a novel approach to biography … but anyone who is interested in Meagher is likely to enjoy this material as well… His life provides an intriguing glimpse into the small and sometimes strange world of the law.”

The Hon. Justice J. D. Heydon AC, High Court of Australia:

“No-one will ever appreciate the whole truth about Rod Meagher. Although this book is in a sense only one perception of it, it is an acute and rich perception… Readers will be deeply grateful to Damien Freeman for his labours and his reflections on the magnificence of that astonishing subject.”

The Hon. Michael Kirby AC, CMG:

“Above all, he is a very interesting character. Australia is full of rather boring people. Roddy Meagher was never one of them… Damien Freeman feels affection for the subject; but is not blinded to his human foibles. (Even I have them).”

About Roddy’s Folly

Roddy Meagher’s legacy as barrister, scholar, wit, and aesthete is legendary. When he retired from the New South Wales Court of Appeal, the Chief Justice, Jim Spigelman, praised him as “the most widely loved judge of his time” and “one of the intellectual giants of our legal history”.

Freeman’s biography is the first book-length study of R. P. Meagher QC. It considers his relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, the University of Sydney, the Australian Bar, and the tradition of legal scholarship to which he made a monumental contribution. In doing so, Freeman tries to get inside the mind of the man, and offers an analysis of Meagher’s attitude to feminism and political correctness, as well as his place in Sydney’s bohemian and establishment circles. This discussion is set within an account of his marriage to the painter, Penny Meagher, and the central place of art in their life together: for her as artist; for him as art collector.

Roddy’s Folly draws on interviews with a range of leading figures in Australia’s legal, political, ecclesiastical, academic, and artistic life, including Sir Laurence Street, Murray Gleeson, Jim Spigelman, Cardinal Pell, Pierre Ryckmans, Dame Leonie Kramer, Marie Bashir, Edmund Capon, Glenn Murcutt, David Handley, Michael Kirby, and John Howard.

Michael Kirby’s humorous sketches of the view from the Bench were sketched by him in court and presented to Meagher when the two judges sat together. These previously unpublished sketches are reproduced for the first time in Roddy’s Folly, shedding light on the lighter side of life on the Bench.

Book launch

The book was launched by the Hon. Tony Abbott MHR at the Old Sydney Law School on 23 April, 2012.

  • To see a video of the launch, produced by Justinian’s Richard Ackland, click here.
  • To read Tony Abbott’s speech, which was published in the June, 2012 issue of Quadrant, click here
  • To read the remarks delivered by Justice J. D. Heydon at the launch, click here.
  • To read Peter Coleman’s column on the launch in the Spectator, click here.

Speaking engagements

Freeman has been invited to speak about Roddy’s Folly at a number of events.

  • To listen to “Larger than Life: Roddy Meagher QC”, a podcast of Freeman’s speech at the Sydney Institute, click here.
  • To read the Sydney Institute transcript published in The Sydney Papers, click here.
  • To read “Roddy’s Folly and Kirby’s Cartoons: Michael Kirby, Roddy Meagher and the Challenge of Friendship”, Freeman’s remarks at a breakfast for Sydney University alumni, at which he introduced Michael Kirby, who spoke about his relationship with Roddy Meagher, click here.
  • To read “Roddy Meagher: a life in art”, a talk that Freeman gave at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, click here.

Articles about R. P. Meagher and Roddy’s Folly

A number of other articles shed further light on the book’s author, its subject, and illustrator.

  • To read the Australian National University’s National Centre of Biography obituary that Freeman originally wrote for the Australian Financial Review after Meagher died on 3 July, 2012, click here.
  • To read “R.P. Meagher and the idea of a university”, a paper that he contributed to the Australian Bar Review’s tribute issue to R. P. Meagher, click here.
  • To read “Scribblers on the Bench”, an essay he published in the Australian Financial Review, on the eve of the launch of Roddy’s Folly, which discusses Meagher’s relationship with Michael Kirby, click here.
  • To read “Educating Roddy”, an article by Jonathan Pearlman in the Sydney Alumni Magazine (July, 2012) about Freeman’s relationship with Meagher, click here.
  • To read Paul Sheehan’s opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald about Roddy Meagher and Freeman’s biography, click here.
  • To read an article by Fr Ross Jones SJ, Rector of Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview, about the discussion of the Jesuits in Roddy’s Folly, click here.