Retiring legal legend heralds the end of an era after a 59-year career
A legal legend has finally closed his case book after nearly 60 years of an illustrious career in law with many court battles.
Bertie Mather, of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire solicitors Elliot Mather, has announced his retirement marking the end of an era and a working life spanning 59 years.
The 76-year-old is best known as a dapper, charismatic and eloquent defence solicitor who built a greatly-respected reputation representing clients at magistrates’ courts across Derbyshire, the Peak District and Nottinghamshire.
He began at his father’s legal firm which was founded by Mr Mather’s grandfather and his retirement brings an end to the family’s 111-year link with the partnership.
His predestined career was originally announced in the Derbyshire Times with a public notice after his birth in 1941 expressing the family’s hope he would become a partner.
Mr Mather, who lived in Chesterfield but now resides in the Peak District, said: “The day I qualified my parents went on holiday for a fortnight and father said, ‘I am going to throw you in the deep end’, and by the time he came back I was in the swing of it.”
He initially retired as a partner aged 65 but worked as a consultant for five years and continued representing clients in the courts until March, this year.
Mr Mather said: “I have worked tirelessly. I have tried to go the extra mile for the client and tried to give 150 per cent.
“You have to try your best to find the good points in everybody and I have said of my clients, that all of my geese are swans.”
Throughout a fascinating career Mr Mather has dealt with high profile and sad cases involving accused murderers, distressed clients and relatives and has had to attend post-mortems.
He said: “A difficult defendant who I remember representing on a very serious assault charge escaped while being transported by taxi from Leicester prison to Chesterfield court and he was at large for several days and eventually murdered members of a local family.”
Mr Mather has witnessed many changes from the days of crowded court houses with defendants cuffed to radiators, tables and a toilet during times when there were more automatic custodial sentences and difficult working conditions meant he once had to complete three trials in a day.
He added: “One day in Bakewell, the bail room was so full I went to see my man and they said he is in the lavatory and I said I would wait and they said I could go straight in and I found him sitting on the lavatory handcuffed to a tap.
“Courts in those days were packed full from morning to the end of the afternoon and eventually the High Court made a decision they should not sit beyond 4.30pm because of the situation.”
During these times, Mr Mather adopted the RAF war film phrase “Angels High” echoing his strategy of getting to court early to swoop down and sign-up unrepresented clients.
And the long working days were not without their tribulations as one other escapee client of Mr Mather’s gave prison officers the slip at speed only for everyone to later learn he was an amateur sprint champion.
Legal checks have also changed since Mr Mather’s early days when he recalls how drink-drivers were tested with tongue-twisters and one client successfully split a match into six slithers with a razor blade to be spared.
Despite an impeccable career, Mr Mather was caught with a skeleton in his closet after burglars raided the firm’s Chesterfield office and fled shocked and empty-handed after finding a medical skull and bones in a box once owned by a surgeon relative.
He added: “Things have changed so much over the years and I have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century by my partners and colleagues with so much of our work now being computerised.
“It has been an unbelievable time.”
Mr Mather also praised his wife Brenda, who had been office manager at the firm’s Matlock office for many years, for helping him to shoulder the many pressures of the job.
He added: “I pay tribute to Brenda because she has been patient throughout putting up with clients regularly ringing me at home day and night.”
The great-grandfather - famed for his high kicks and for clicking his heels as he skipped from court - is still a keen hiker.
And having undertaken long distance treks for charity he is now planning to stride out on The Lyke Wake Walk later this year during a well-earned but active, heel-clicking retirement.