Made to Middle Temple Parliament on 6 March 2018
I want you to imagine a child growing up in a family he loved but did not find easy, a child who felt that people who understood all of him would not accept him. That child grows to secondary school age and acquires the instinctive feeling that he had a life to lead, a life of consequence. That feeling manifested itself in an ambition to become a barrister.
He tells his mother. To him, her response was heart-breaking. She did not understand what a barrister was and what being one meant. But if Paul wanted this, then his parents would support him.
Support him they did. Of slender means, Paul’s parents could not conceive of the level of debt that students now rack up. But with the aid of grants and scholarships (including a Winston Churchill Pupillage Award from Middle Temple) Paul was called to the Bar.
Today his family would be called ‘a non-traditional background’. Hobbled by lack of means, and a poverty of ambition begat by lack of understanding, but a wish for their son to do well and an almost child-like faith in him - making their sacrifice all the more poignant because they had no idea about what it all meant – they gave him his start in the life he had chosen
His career was amazing. He not only rose to the top of the government legal service, he transformed it. His liberal progressivism sat well with his career, as he described it, of a proud bureaucrat. Bureaucrat he might have been. But he did not display it in the way we normally associate with that term. His indiscretion was laced with disbelief that he should be rubbing shoulders with the Queen and her prime ministers. His confidential gossip could switch on a sixpence to anger at the ‘banter’ of homophobes.
And so he came to us and it was fitting that he was elected our Treasurer for 2018 with a burning ambition to see that the Inn did what it could to enable those from ‘non traditional backgrounds’ to come to the Bar. To that end he was starting to bring his knowledge, wit, humour and political savvy. As he did so, more came to love him. I saw this in the response of everyone - the junior and senior staff, the Under Treasurer who so looked forward to this year and Benchers be they senior or junior - to the hammer blow that struck on that Monday, the news of his death.
All of us in our grief can see how well short of his greatness we fall.
The obituaries and tributes, numbed by shock and disbelief, have appeared and are still appearing. We shall know more about more formal things like memorial services when Rene is able to face such decisions.
But we here can dedicate ourselves to honouring him in this year, 2018, the year of the Treasurer-ship of Paul Jenkins. Whilst each of us will separately keep him in our hearts forever, let us now remember him together, and honour him with a minute of silence.