More When I Know You Better: The Life of Albert Sanguinetti, 1923–2009

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Focusing on Albert Sanguinetti from his early life to his retirement from the legal sector, including his tenures in Gibraltar, Kenya, and Hong Kong, this biography provides an in-depth view of the life of a prominent figure in the legal field in the late twentieth century. It is written from an objective, external viewpoint and paints a colourful and lively picture of Sanguinetti in a voice that could almost be his own. Using Sanguinetti’s life experiences, the biographer touches on various historical events, including the Mau Mau revolution in Kenya and the 1957 riots in Hong Kong, and details the social and political problems of the times, such as lingering colonialism, class structure issues, and human rights violations, among others. These glimpses of history through Sanguinetti’s eyes are accessible, thought-provoking, and truly representative of the man himself.

Offering a well-rounded image of the eccentric subject, this book fulfils Sanguinetti’s common response to questions about both his personal and professional life — “more when I know you better”. It will undoubtedly be of interest to those who knew Sanguinetti as well as legal professionals, young barristers, and readers with an interest in post-war history in Gibraltar, Kenya, and especially Hong Kong.
Pub. Date
Oct 3, 2022
264 pages
140 x 216 mm
Unlike most people, Albert Sanguinetti stipulated that after his death, his ashes should be scattered and that no tablet or memorial should be erected in his name. Not even a small head stone in an obscure churchyard or a name to squint at in a hundred on the wall of a columbarium. Baulking though at thorough obliteration from the human record, he set out in his will provisions for " a writer be selected ... to write and edit a book ... relating events and my activities", and most people do not do that either. He made this provision because, he said, many friends and acquaintances had persistently asked him to do so during his life and that he particularly owed it to Gibraltar and Hong Kong to record historical events in which he had been involved. It came to pass that Sanguinetti's nephew and trustee, James Gordon, who lives in Gibraltar, approached me to put this biography together. I had been introduced to Sanguinetti in late 2008 to discuss writing his life story from his own account, supported by documents. Writing a history from this base is not as easy as it might sound, requiring energy and persistence from both parties. Sadly, these were fading in Sanguinetti and when he went into hospital, the project was dropped. Ten years later, I have had the chance to carry it through for him.

I am grateful for the earlier research done by Brian McElney and for his anecdotes on his long friendship with Sanguinetti, and for a further version of his early years provided by Virginia Blackburn. Much information and support was given to me from Gibraltar by James Gordon and here in Hong Kong by his friend and trustee, Gladys Li. Sanguinetti would have been 99 years old this year, had he lived, so there is almost no one left from his earlier life to recall him. Of his later years, I learned much from his loyal friends Peter and Audrey Ho and from the companion of his last decade who generously and poignantly brought back his memories for me.

The archive I have worked from consists of boxes of Sanguinetti's files containing correspondence, press cuttings, magazine articles, memoranda, transcripts of statements, interviews, invitations, meeting minutes, and various court judgements that he kept because they had involved him, related to him, or simply interested him. This includes notes he made on these documents. While some of the information in the text is not associated with a particular citation or official case number, the majority of the quoted and referenced material can be found in these files. Where these documents have been in Hong Kong and to hand, I have included citations referring to the archive by the number of the box that the document has been kept in. Some information, including that transmitted in emails, is kept in Gibraltar.

Thirteen years on from his death, the world Sanguinetti lived and worked in has been significantly altered. Hong Kong is 25 years on from colonial rule and much more integrated with the motherland. While he had been an ardent supporter of the Common Law, he was also a friend to the China of his day and had backed the negotiations for the Joint Declaration in the 1980s. It is impossible to guess what his opinions of today's world would have been, and this book makes no attempt to do so, focusing instead on the man himself and the life he lived.

I refer to him as Sanguinetti throughout the text which is the usual practice in a biography and because I did not want to imply, by use of his first name, any long friendship. I met him only occasionally, over a matter of weeks, but that was a privilege and a delight, and I only wish there had been time to hear more of this story from his own lips.

Stuart Wolfendale
Hong Kong, August 2022

Chapter 1   Childhood on the Rock
Chapter 2   Scattered by War
Chapter 3   London Calling
Chapter 4   A Different Kind of Colony
Chapter 5   Home to Higher Office
Chapter 6   Hong Kong: On the Bench
Chapter 7   To the Bar
Chapter 8   Riot and Reform
Chapter 9   Hard Work and High Points
Chapter 10 Two Reports
Chapter 11 The Golden Years
Chapter 12 Retirement

Stuart Wolfendale studied history at Cambridge University and is a writer and editor based in Hong Kong. He has been a columnist for newspapers such as the South China Morning Post, Eastern Express, and Hong Kong Standard, as well as a contributor to regional, British, and North American publications. He had a wide variety of work experience before he became a writer, including being an administrative officer in both the United Kingdom Home Civil Service and the British Hong Kong Government. He is also the author of Imperial to International: A History of St John’s Cathedral.