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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Colin Turpin 1928-2019It is with great sadness that the Faculty notes the death of Colin Turpin, Emeritus Reader in Constitutional Law, who died on 18 July aged 91. It is a notable coincidence that two other Fellows of Clare College are currently the same age.

Colin Turpin (1928-2019)

Colin Conyngham Turpin was born in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, in June 1928. In 1950 he took a LLB at the University of Cape Town, and then a Cambridge LLB (now the LLM) in 1953. He studied and rowed at Christ’s College. Thereafter he became an Advocate in South Africa and taught at the University of Natal. He was elected a Fellow of Clare College in 1961, joining within the fellowship (as they became) Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, QC, FBA (1927-2012) and Kurt Lipstein QC. In 1964 Bill Wedderburn took the Cassel Chair of Commercial Law at the London School of Economics. In 1969 Bob Hepple became a Fellow of Clare College. Colin’s later pre-retirement colleagues as College law fellows were Elizabeth Freeman and David Howarth.

Colin Turpin was a leading authority on Constitutional Law. His best known work is British Government and the Constitution: Text and Materials (7th edn, Cambridge University Press, 2012, with Adam Tomkins; the six previous editions, beginning 1985, were sole authored). In Government Contracts (London, 1972) and Government Procurement and Contracts (London, 1989) he investigated a complex and virtually inaccessible subject, hitherto known only to a few Whitehall cognescenti. Sir Bob Hepple, QC, FBA, who overlapped with him first as Fellow (1969-1976) and then as Master of Clare College (1993-2003) aptly described Turpin’s scholarship as 'meticulous'. His publications are original, luminous, precise, very closely researched, and display a wide vision. Indeed Colin was known to spend more time in the University Library conducting his research than in the Squire Law Library, such was the abundance of extra-legal sources which he wished to comb.

From the early 1960s until the mid-1990s, Colin Turpin lectured on Roman Law (giving the property component in the Advanced Roman Law course), Constitutional (and Administrative) Law, and French Law (Government Contracts). His two main supervision subjects were (UK) Constitutional Law and (English) Contract. Such was his enthusiasm for teaching that he only stopped supervising in Constitutional Law when he reached 80 (seventeen years short of the College supervision record set by Kurt Lipstein (1909-2006), who supervised Roman Law until shortly before his death).

A group of legal alumni have endowed the Turpin-Lipstein Law Fellowship in Law jointly in his honour and in memory of Kurt Lipstein. Law reading rooms are dedicated separately to Colin Turpin and Kurt Lipstein within Clare College.

Colin took great pleasure in running the Eric Lane Visiting Fellowship. This fund enables visitors from all parts of the world to reside in College for eight weeks with full living expenses paid in order to engage in research relating to `the advancement of peace or social harmony’.

Before retiring from his Readership in 1995, Colin had served the Faculty in many capacities, including as Secretary of the Degree Committee and Editor of the Cambridge Law Journal. He is remembered with affection by generations of students as a generous, mild, punctilious, and penetrating teacher. He set the gold-standard as a flawless and devoted Director of Studies and Tutor. Amongst colleagues he is remembered with awe and deep respect, for he was consummately professional in every sphere of his wide-ranging Cambridge activity. A great servant of the University, the Faculty, and College, he was a modern, innovative, liberal academic with wide intellectual interests.

Colin was married to Monique for over 60 years. She died not long before Colin. They have four children and eight grandchildren.

Colin's family would like to extend an invitation to attend a celebration of his life on Friday 2 August at noon.