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Lives Remembered: Robert Thompson ( 0) Printer friendly page Print This
By Michael C. Feltham. Axis of Logic
The Independent
Saturday, Jul 18, 2009

Editors' Note: Michael C. Feltham, Axis author of "Feltham on the Economy" wrote the following obituary for his good friend, Axis of Logic columnist, Robert Thompson which was published in The Independent (UK). This report of Robert's life contains many details which were not included in our own memorial to him, published in May. Robert's death in May of this year was of course, a profound loss for his family and friends like Michael and the rest of us who write and publish Axis of Logic. His death also represents an immeasurable loss for our readers around the world. Robert shared his observations and wisdom on Axis of Logic for which he wrote exclusively for years on nearly a daily basis. His column, "Letters from France" is linked below this obituary.

- Editors, Axis of Logic

My dear friend, Robert Thompson, who died on 20 May at the age of 77, was an international lawyer who throughout his career was a fearless, tireless and unsung fighter for fairness and justice.

Robert William Metcalfe Thompson was born in Leek, Staffordshire on 24 August 1931 of a family redolent of Anglican belief, his grandfather being the Vicar of Leek. Robert's linguistic excellence was embedded in his family, his father being bilingual in German and English and later adopting both Welsh and Irish Gaelic. He was received into the Catholic Church in May 1952 at St Peter's Church, Woolwich, as a matter of religious conviction.

Attending Abbotsholme School in Derbyshire, Robert excelled at rugby and distance running. The founder of Abbotsholme had as two of his assistant masters Edmont du Moulin and Kurt Hahn: Hahn founded a school in Germany, but after the Nazis came on the scene he moved his school to Scotland and named it Gordonstoun. Du Moulin, meanwhile, went on to found a school in Normandy, Les Roches, to which Robert was an early exchange student, starting off his love of France.

After National Service in the army, starting as an Assistant Instructor (Gunnery), and with a tempting military career in prospect, he accepted a place at St. Edmund's Hall, Oxford to read law. Having qualified as a solicitor he joined a practice in Leek and specialised in tax and estate law with some note.

France called, however, and he joined the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris in 1969, as Director of the Legal Group, and also served as Secretary General of the Court of Arbitration, the most important international commercial arbitration body in the world, taking major responsibility for relations with the Arab League states and Comecon, the Eastern bloc's equivalent of the EC.

Returning to England he again practised in Dover, serving simultaneously as Agent Consulaire de France there. In 1992, he returned to France as a Conseil Juridique and later qualified, at the age of 61, as an Avocat of the Boulogne-sur-Mer Bar, defending serious criminal cases. He retired as an Avocat Honoraire in 2000.

When his friend Stephen Jacobi founded Fair Trials International, Robert immediately became a patron – which act perhaps sums up his motto: "Justice – Equity – Equality". Passionate about politics and maintaining a constant correspondence with his peers, and politicians of distinction, Robert was never a member of any political party, though his knowledge of France and French politics and politicians was encyclopaedic.

Given the extensive travelling he undertook on the ICC's behalf – to Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, India and Pakistan – it is easy to ignore the fact of his increasing disability, caused by ankylosing spondylitis and the loss of a kneecap in a bad motor accident. In later life increasing disability drastically affected his mobility, so he took to writing and, remarkably for such a technically averse person, the internet. He wrote a much-read column, "Letters from France", for Axis of Logic, a webzine of growing influence based in Boston, Massachusetts.

As the cancer which ended his life increasingly affected his physical movement, not deterred, he typed, towards the end, slowly and painfully with his left hand only: he was naturally right-handed.

He is interred in the small yet beautiful church at Tramecourt, Nord Pas de Calais, France, a short distance from the battlefield at Agincourt. He leaves his wife of 54 years, three daughters and one son.

Michael C. Feltham



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