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However, we're always finding new material
because other people refer to him...like in the Bushby diaries (Judge Arthur
Bushby was Begbie's registrar and county court judge). Also we change the
script every year because we don't want to get bored with it and...because
we're working tandem, we're always firing ideas off each other, so the script
is fluid. You can't really get bored with the guy because you're always
finding [new] things and you don't know what they're going to be.
Branwen Patenaude used to collect
a lot of oral history and once had an opportunity to interview this lovely
old lady in McLeese Lake who'd been at one of the Assizes that Begbie had
presided over when she was a young girl. When Branwen had finally worked
her around to the subject she wanted to talk about the old lady said, 'Begbie,
that miserable old bugger, don't want to talk about him let's talk about
So what kind of man was Begbie?
Was he a miserable old bugger?
That's really hard, really hard to find
any references. But as far as being a miserable old bugger, I think that
he was confronted with a situation where there was this great conglomeration
of miners descending basically from out of California, but from all over
the world anyway; and because California was an unorganized territory, they're
looking at doing the same things they did down there, which was running
there own mining camps however they felt like it.
When they arrived here I often think that
they thought they were going to do the same thing. Begbie figured if you
let them start getting away with it then you're going to have anarchy. I
think what he decided early on was that he had to impress on them that this
was the way the law worked. As far as the criminal actions were concerned;
if Fred stabs Joe, then Fred is going to end up in a court, with a jury.
In fact down on the Fraser, in one of his early cases, Begbie empaneled
twelve Americans to hear a case (which was basically illegal because jurors
had to be British citizens) and said, 'I want you guys to hear what happens
so you understand what the system is so you can pass the word on; no knives,
no pistols and any law that is going to be dispensed is going to come from
this bench and no where else', and I think that the word got out.
If he was miserable around the place it
was just to get the word out at the beginning that 'this is the way the
law is and it's going to be imposed here whether you like it or not.'
So he was a bit of teetotaler
in the sense that if somebody committed an injustice then they paid for
Yes, I think this is the way he looked
at it. I mean, for the crimes themselves the penalties are set, but you
have some flexibility. But he didn't really make up the law. People tend
to give the impression that he made up the law as he went along and this
isn't true. He'd practiced as a barrister for ten years and he'd been in
the courts as a lawyer for that length of time in England and its all in
the books. It's all in the law books that he carried around on one of his
He didn't practice criminal law
Not criminal law. He worked in the Chancery
Court, 'contracts, wills and other peoples money', but he's aware of the
system because he did some court reporting as well. The law would make sense
to him. He's already got the mechanisms to interpret the law. The criminal
code lays down the penalties, it's just a question of coming up with three
years or ten, the jury does the rest.
What about the accusations that
Begbie had investments in the Barker Co., which would have been a gross
There are [government] monies which
can be dispersed [to the public]. There is no certain evidence that has
been found to prove that he had any [personal] investment at all in it.
There were monies available to assist miners, particularly at the end of
the mining season if they had to leave and didn't have money or else assistance
for miners if they were stranded in various places. He's got a reasonable
explanation for that as far as we could judge. There's no doubt about it
that everybody's done something from time to time that other people don't
agree with. But as far we can see, there's nothing really horrendous or
skeletous in his cupboard.
Once again, seeing that you have
portrayed this character for so many seasons, do you feel that you've developed
any sense of repoire with the personality or character of Judge Begbie as
he were, and in what way would that manifest itself?
Well, the way that you read the man
off the pages, little by little, you find that he's...well, he had a good
sense of humour and he was firm and didn't stand for any nonsense. Once
you get those things together and that he dealt with the crime as best he
could, with the facilities that he had to use... Here, once I get out on
the street...you think about all the things you know and you try to portray
what you know of the character on the street. If someone sees you on the
street, hopefully they're not going to think, 'Oh, there's a guy dressed
up like Begbie'. You have to hope that if they talk to you or see you or
hear you, not just in the presentation but in passing, that they will say
'Good morning, Judge' and not 'Who are you supposed to be' and of course
that depends a lot on what you do yourself.
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