The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Gorrie, Sir John
Gorrie, Sir John, formerly Chief Justice of Fiji, was the son of the Rev. Daniel Gorrie, of Kettle, co. Fife. He was born in 1829 and educated at Edinburgh University. In 1856 he was admitted as an advocate, and in 1860 was appointed one of the honorary advocates-depute for Scotland. From 1862 to 1869 he practised in London, becoming in 1868 a candidate for the Border Burghs, but he did not ultimately go to the poll. Mr. Gorrie's name was first brought prominently to the front in 1865, when he was selected by the Jamaica Committee, consisting of Mr. John Bright, Mr. Samuel Morley, and Mr. Charles Buxton, to proceed to Jamaica to inquire into the alleged excesses of martial law. Mr. Gorrie, who was assisted by Mr. Horne Payne, Q.C., and Mr. Phillippo, succeeded in laying bare many acts of cruelty and injustice. Struck with the ability and energy displayed by Mr. Gorrie, the Colonial Office, shortly after his return to England, offered him the post of substitute Procureur-Général of Mauritius. Within less than a week after his arrival at Port Louis he proved to his own satisfaction that the labouring class of Mauritius were subjected to abuses, and a report to the Colonial Office to this effect resulted in the despatch of Sir Arthur Gordon to Mauritius, with instructions to appoint a local committee to investigate the charges. The report of this committee, of which Mr. Justice Gorrie was the most prominent member, led to the appointment of a royal commission. It was found that abuses did exist, and Mr. Gorrie had the satisfaction of altering the whole labour law of the colony in consonance with his own views and those of the royal commission. Mr. Gorrie held office in Mauritius as Advocate-General from August 1869 to Sept. 1870, and was a puisne judge in the island till 1875. When Sir Arthur Gordon was promoted to Fiji, Mr. Gorrie was a few months later requested to proceed to the Pacific to take up the poet of Chief Justice of Fiji (March 1876). As a member of the Legislative Council of the island, it fell to the lot of the Chief Justice to frame all the important legal measures deemed to be necessary. When the Crown assumed jurisdiction over the South Seas, the Chief Justice of Fiji was also made Judicial Commissioner of the Western Pacific, and, in the absence of Sir Arthur Gordon, was called upon to discharge the duties of the High Commissioner. In 1882, in which year he was knighted, he became Chief Justice of the Leeward Islands, and in 1885 Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago. Sir John Gorrie married in 1855 Marion, daughter of Michael Graham, of Edinburgh, who died in 1884. In 1892 a commission was sent out from the Colonial Office, at the request of the Legislative Council of Trinidad, to inquire into the conduct of the senior puisne judge and the administration of justice generally. This led to the suspension of Sir John Gorrie, who returned to England to make an appeal to the Privy Council. Soon after his arrival he died at Exeter on August 4th, 1892.