Book review: Eccentrics, conspiracy theories and tribal kings

Book review: Eccentrics, conspiracy theories and tribal kings

In the opening lines of the introduction to his book, Tales From An Environmental And Tribal Lawyer, Jerry Pearlman writes the following: “In telling these stories I have sometimes, probably wrongly, called the great people whose work is described in Part One as ‘nutcases’. Really they are eccentrics. Some people have told me that they do not like the word nutcase, so to be certain that I do not offend anyone, I have called them zealots”.

The former Leeds Law Society president’s opening remarks set the tone for this autobiography (of sorts), which certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to giving the reader a flavour of the “zealots” that he has come across in his colourful career.

Split into two sections, the book highlights some of the more unusual cases that he has worked on.

The first section is characterised by men who, through their own persistence and research, helped Pearlman to put together strong cases to win cases involving peat bogs and road planning, among other things. He mixes a good bit of legal history with some amusing – and shocking – anecdotes such as that of the “Witchpiss Man”, whose home brew was so strong that it stripped the silver coating off kitchen sinks and whose temper would lead him to throw about the most grotesque of insults.

Along with the other individuals that Pearlman bases his tales around, the “Witchpiss Man” (William Bunting to his friends) was not shy of expressing his conspiracy theories and working in unconventional ways. But his determination went a considerable way in making sure that a peat bog in West Riding is now a National Nature Reserve.

In the second part he recalls a fascinating episode in his early career where he was asked – completely by chance – to help out a tribe involved in a land dispute in Uganda. This eventually led to Pearlman and his wife going to the coronation of the Bunyoro tribal King, Solomon Iguru.

It’s all told with a natural flair. If it’s ever converted into an audio book, then you can just picture listeners closing their eyes and imagining that Pearlman is telling them his stories over a whisky and a cigar, inside the smoking room of a private club.

He writes about a legal career from a bygone era. We are all the poorer for its passing.

Tales From An Environmental And Tribal Lawyer is available from Amazon. You can also get a copy by emailing: jjp@pearlman.co.uk or info@beecroftpublications.co.uk

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