top of page
< Back

Tribute to Arthur Sigismund Diamond

Israel Finestein

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Arthur Sigismund Diamond, M.M., M.A., LL.D., 1897-1978* Judge ISRAEL FINESTEIN, Q.C. For many years, in the legal world served by the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, 'A.S.D.' were among the best known and most respected initials. On the innumerable orders made and directions given by Master Diamond, he appended those letters in large script, bold, precise, decorative, and highly distinc? tive. How well the pen revealed the man. There was nothing insignificant about him. His mind was at once disciplined and adventurous. He brought to bear upon the administration of the law, as upon historical research and presentation, a character? istic thoroughness and elegance. He was a man of quality and style in thought, word, and gesture. There is a story told of the advocate who had a large library of historical and literary works, as well as law books. A visitor inquired of him how it came about that a lawyer should be possessed of so varied and well-stocked a collection. 'Yes', came the reply, 'with? out them I could well be a good mechanic. But with them, I may aspire to become an architect'. Our friend was an architect. It showed through, from his standard work on the law of master and servant?how many generations of students were reared on it?to his analyses of the note-books of the solicitor, Philip Carteret Webb. Those note-books formed the background to his notable Presidential Lectures in this hall on aspects of eighteenth-century Anglo-Jewry. It shows through the entire range of his many-sided literary work, in which versatility did not offer itself as an excuse or palliative for any lack of expertise but made expertise its companion and ally. Whether he applied his mind to primitive law, the history of language, our communal history, or the contemporary Jewish scene, he was a scholar with his feet on the ground. As a practical lawyer, he was at home as much with principles as with their appli? cation. On Sigy's retirement as Master, the learned editor of the massive periodic volume entitled Supreme Court Practice, of which he had been part-editor, de? scribed his services to that vital publication as an 'immense and invaluable assistance and contribution'. Identical language may be used in respect of his vir? tually two-decade tenure of the strenuous office of Master of the Supreme Court. His knowledge of the rules and procedure was encyclopaedic. His dispatch of business was firm, * A memorial tribute delivered before the Jewish Histori? cal Society of England 15 March 1978. courteous, and manifestly fair. No Master was more beloved than he. Never once did I hear him refer, however obli? quely, to the award of the Military Medal in the First World war or to his service therein, although he would, or so it seemed, consider it his duty to tell interested younger men what the world was like before they were born, and in particular who was who and what was what in the Anglo-Jewry of that time. His judgment of people and events was not marred by the parochial assumption that London is the centre of the world. Still less was he afflicted by any of that provincialism which, it is thought by some, is a mote in the eye of North-West London Jewry. He was not born in Leeds for nothing. By instinct and tempera? ment, he abhorred pomposity, wielded influence with a smile, and was never without the inspiration of wide horizons. Sigy had a quiet but visible pride in his pre-Second World War chairmanship of the Law and Parliamen? tary committee of the Board of Deputies. He held that office during stressful years for the Jewish community and Jewish people, and he proved an energetic and creative chairman. His role in numerous facets and departments of Anglo-Jewish life, notably in his syna? gogue, and of Jewish life further afield, including Israel, have been and will be appreciatively spoken of. If I may be allowed to say so, I believe that the musical tradition of his synagogue found in him an informed, if somewhat reformist, champion. After all, not only was he a Cantor's son, the The Times has extended itself by calling him 'a competent musician', an accol? ade whose temperate language should perhaps be assessed having regard to the columns in which it appears. In all that he touched, there was the mark of dedica? tion, disguised as interest or curiosity. Behind the modest exterior and unraised voice, there was the unmistakable sign of high distinction. He made public duty appear an act of friendship. There are many here tonight who will instantly and affectionately recog? nise the aptness of that observation, in their recollec? tions of our some-time President, the former Chairman of Anglo-Jewish Archives, and the former Chairman of our Executive Committee. We all remember his contributions to the post-lec? ture discussions in this hall. Length was forgiven, they were so sprightly, learned, and apposite. We shall remember his advice in committee, always practical Ill</page><page sequence="2">112 Judge Israel Finestein and considerate. It was through no desire of his that he retained his chairmanship of the Executive Com? mittee for as long as he did. Each time that he accepted the renewed invitation, he made it clear to all that he wanted to hand over the responsibility as soon as feasible. He thereupon proceeded with zeal to give his attention to detail as before. At a time of development and growth in the Society, his contribution over many years as lecturer, officer, leader, and guide was important and memor? able. While he took delight in this body as the longest standing learned society in Anglo-Jewry, he had no illusions over its prospects. He was well aware that its future requires to be worked for, and that its grounds of appeal for the community's support must be under permanent scrutiny and prospective renovation. Sigy knew the founder of our Society well. He was a frequent visitor to Lucien Wolfs rooms in Gray's Inn. I can hardly think that his interest in the Jewish community of the Commonwealth and Restoration was unconnected with that friendship. And his atten? tion to the community of the early Georges is at least in part an extension of that interest. Sigy's valuable papers on all these periods in the Transactions reflect considerable depth and originality of research. In par? ticular, his Commonwealth and Restoration papers belong to the stream of discovery, disclosure, and assessment regarding those years which Wolf set in train. In these areas, Sigy in a sense linked himself with the fountain of our studies and the origins of our Society. He who was with us so few weeks ago, by his life and work abridged the span of the Society, whose centenary now begins to approach in earnest. We are the poorer by his death, because the link which he represented has gone. But his distinguished works remain. We are also the poorer for larger reasons. Each of us has lost a colleague and a friend. His presence added prestige to the Society. It also added colour and character. We shall miss his humour, the wry joke, the gaiety, the eager step which illness did not subdue. In extending our sincerest condolences to his wife and all the family, we also convey to them our sense of gratitude for his public and communal service, the enduring example of his life, and our many happy personal memories. A.S.D. will not be forgotten.</page><page sequence="3">1 ^''^^^'^ ^^^^^^^^^^^ Arthur Sigismund Diamond, M.M., M.A., LL.D. Master of the Supreme Court President of the Jewish Historical Society of England 1963-64 (1897-1978)</page></plain_text>

bottom of page