Chief Justice Joseph Needham: The Judge

[ Honourable Joseph Needham ]

Honourable Joseph Needham, Unknown, 1860, BCA, F-09729

Chief Justice of Vancouver Island and later British Columbia (1865-1870). He heard the trial of Tshuanahusset and pronounced the death sentence. In 1870 Needham was appointed Chief Justice of Trinidad and knighted. He retired to England where he died at age 83 in 1895.

His character may be seen, in part, from this anecdote told in his obituary in the Colonist , April 3, 1895: "On the first of April...some jokers nailed a quarter of a dollar to the sidewalk and then watched with delight people who were trying to pick it up. Along came the Chief Justice and when he found the coin nailed he calmly proceeded to kick away at it with his foot until he loosened it, and then, with grim satisfaction, put it into his pocket."

When Needham left for Trinidad, Franklin Lumley auctioned off many of his possessions and through them one can glimpse the lifestyle of the colonial elite. It is worth a comparison with William Robinson's possessions, as laid out in his probate file, to illustrate the gap between the rich and the common.

The household goods consisted of: "well selected furniture consisting in part of solid oak set, by Gillow of London; chairs, tables, cellarette, dining extension and other tables, chairs, sofas, lounges, large pier glass, curtains, cornices, lamps, bedsteads, and bedding of superior quality and make, solid mahogany wardrobe, bedroom sets, table and other linen, cutlery, glass, crockery, refrigerator, wines, and kitchen utensils.

"Also semi-grand piano, and walnut case by Kirkham of London, also choice and well selected library of standard works, also music, bound and unbound.

"Phaeton, made to order by Lenny of London, with patent axles, silver plated harness, three hunting saddles, double bridles, whips, stable gear.

"Also grey mare, Kitty--will carry a lady; also double barrelled gun, fishing rods, garden roller and tools, balance of stock of oats and hay.

"Also a fine cow, fowls, turkeys, geese, bees and hives."

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