Obituary – Ian Richie Perkins 1961-2007
I have been asked to do many things since I became Chief Executive of the Bar Association, none harder than this obituary. Ian Richie Perkins or “Perko” as he was affectionately known was born on 11 September, 1961. His tragic death on Wednesday 14 November, 2007 following a cycling accident brought into sharp focus the fragility of life and the tenuous grip we have on it. It is hard to do justice to someone in a few lines. But if I was to say nothing else it would be to say that he was the greatest of friends. A loyal, honest and truly decent person. I can confidently say that as I was his friend for more than 34 years.
Ian spent his high school years at the Church of England Grammar School (“Churchie”). Neither of us ever fully adjusted to the change in title to the Anglican Church Grammar School. He was academically bright and was a keen sportsman, playing cricket and rugby. He was a Prefect and House Captain of Mansfield. His confidence, character and zest for life were self evident in those days. Churchie’s ethos was based on St Magnus, a Viking Earle known for his strength of character and his qualities as an educated man with a Christian nature. In my view, Perko was an exemplar of that.
On reflection, Perko was always destined for a life at the Bar. His early advocacy style was beginning to develop, even at Churchie. Numerous personal appearances before the Headmaster allowed him to develop new and unique arguments. When persuasion and the merits of the case failed, his personal charisma always seemed to carry him through.
In the Mansfield House Captain’s Report published in the 1978 School magazine “The Viking” he wrote:
This year has seen a continued emphasis on participation in activities rather than an all-out attempt to succeed. Nevertheless, some members of Mansfield have reached pinnacles of sporting success.
That is a fine piece of written advocacy because no parent reading that report would have realised that their son had no chance of sporting success in 1978. Mansfield was second only to Grenfell (my own house) for a total lack of sporting ability. The Mansfield exception was probably McKenna S.C. (as he then wasn’t) who, as I recollect, captained the School Basketball team.
In 1982, Perko graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Commerce and obtained his Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours in 1985. During his University days, Perko was a “Grey Coat” at the Ekka. A “Grey Coat’s” responsibilities included, in theory at least, a requirement to diligently follow the instructions of the Ringmaster to ensure that the jumps were correctly positioned prior to and during the jumping competition in the Main Arena. Unfortunately, fuelled with alcohol coupled with the effects of the sun and youthful enthusiasm, things didn’t always go to plan. The Stewards, by contrast, were models of sobriety and dedication.
Perko was articled to Brian McCafferty at Morris Fletcher and Cross and became a Senior Associate in January, 1989. He was called to the Bar on 7 June, 1993. His Masters were David Cooper (now of Senior Counsel) and Lister Harrison QC. Perko spent the bulk of his early years on Level 16 of the Inns of Court before moving, in more recent times, to Level 23 at 239 George Street. He enjoyed the friendship, support and camaraderie of his Chamber colleagues.
Over the years he developed an excellent commercial practice with a particular interest in Banking, Insolvency and Property. As we all know, in the law, and in particular at the Bar, a person’s integrity is everything and Perko had it in spades. Trusted by judges and his colleagues –what he said was accepted as the truth – nothing further was needed. He was, in short, a fine barrister with a keen mind and the right demeanour to succeed. The great tragedy is that we won’t see Perko reach his full potential which I have not a modicum of doubt that he would have.
In 2006, Perko was appointed a Director of Barristers Services Pty Limited, the Bar’s service company and was for many years a scrutineer for Bar Council elections. He was keenly aware of what it meant to be a professional and was always willing to assist new barristers as well as the Association in a number of areas. He was Junior Master to John Peden, Shannon Moody and Sally Jenkins.
Something of an “action man”, Perko trekked through the Himalayas, cycled through Vietnam and walked the Kokoda Trail twice. Many of these excursions were with Rob Davidson, one of his long time friends. It will come as no surprise to many members of the Bar to note that I was not, because of work commitments, able to join them on those treks. In reality, I found it inconceivable to imagine abluting in a ditch at high altitudes.
Perko liked playing a round or two, but in more recent years his visits to the greens at Royal Queensland became fewer. His real passion was cycling and he enjoyed it to the fullest. He enjoyed the long weekend rides, the trips to Adelaide to ride and following the Tour de France. The cycling holiday following Le Tour was a real highlight for him. He returned relaxed and re-energised. Despite his best efforts, he was never able to fully convince me of the benefits of a complete cardio vascular workout.
Notwithstanding the fact that he had gone to a strong rugby school, he became a devotee of Australian Rules Football and, in particular, a passionate supporter of the Brisbane Lions. He was a regular at Lions matches and followed the team to Melbourne on each occasion that they reached the Grand Final. Those visits to the Gabba were always filled with emotion as he followed the fortunes or otherwise of the team with great interest. They were also, more importantly, a great social occasion.
Few people would know that Perko was an excellent snooker player winning the Queensland Club Snooker competition on three separate occasions and was in line to win it again this year. The Club was a refuge for him and he was a regular participant in the various social and recreational activities it had to offer.
Perko never lost his enthusiasm for life, his love for his family and the enormous pleasure he got out of being amongst his friends. He was a devoted and doting uncle and took great pride in his nieces. He spoke of them often.
Ian was farewelled at St John’s Cathedral on Thursday 22 November, 2007. More than 800 mourners packed the Cathedral, a fine testament to his standing in the profession and the wider community. Perko’s wake was at the Brisbane Lions Club Members’ Dining room. It was a great occasion and I know that he would have approved. The sense of Ian’s loss still troubles many of us. He will be greatly missed by his family, his many friends and colleagues.