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Chairman of the Society

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Sir William Blackburne

Sir William Blackburne

William Blackburne was born in early 1944 to an English father and Norwegian mother. His family background is solidly professional (medicine, the armed services and the like). His father was a surgeon.


After schooling in his native Yorkshire and two degrees (languages and law) at Cambridge he was called to the Bar in October 1966 by the Inner Temple although a year or two later he joined Lincolnís Inn (the Inn of Call of Mr Jinnah, Dr Iqbal and Z.A. Bhutto) where he had his Chambers. He remained in Chambers in that Inn for the rest of his life at the Bar. In 1984 he was appointed Queenís Counsel (i.e. QC). In 1993 he was appointed to the High Court and became a judge of the Chancery Division. He was knighted later that year. Between 1998 and 2003 he was also Vice-Chancellor of the County Palatine of Lancaster and, as such, a member of the council responsible for the administration of the estates belonging to the historic Duchy of Lancaster (a major source of the Queenís private income). As Palatine Vice-Chancellor he had responsibility for the conduct of Chancery business in the North of England. He retired from the Bench in 2009 to devote himself to other causes. In the event, these have included the chairmanship of the Pakistan Society.


While at the Bar he served as a member of the Barís professional body, the Bar Council, serving as its treasurer for three years in the late 1980s. He was elected a Master of the Bench of Lincolnís Inn (i.e. a member of its governing body) in 1992. In that capacity he is heavily involved in the Innís governance. In the current year, 2013, he is (lay) Dean of the Innís Chapel and (honorary) Keeper of its Black Books, which record the Innís history.


In the late 1970s and again in the late 1980s he served, altogether for 11 years, as an elected member of the Council of the London Borough of Haringey. During that time he served on the Councilís Housing and Finance Committees and was heavily involved in the Councilís trusteeship of Alexandra Palace.


In 1964, aged 20, he visited Pakistan for the first time. He drove overland with three Cambridge friends in an old Land Rover, travelling via Afghanistan and entering Pakistan via the Khyber Pass. This was to be the first of very many visits to South Asia, mostly to Pakistan. He has travelled extensively in the Northern Areas and is a frequent visitor to Islamabad. He was in Tajikistan in July 2012. He visited Pakistan again in Jan/Feb 2013.


After rowing at school and university, he took up (not very successfully) climbing and mountaineering with several trips to the Alps and the Himalayas. These days he contents himself with hill-walking, mostly with friends in the Scottish Highlands. He is a member of the Alpine Club and of a small climbing club based in North Wales. As he gets older he devotes himself increasingly to gardening under the tutelage of his wife, Vivien! He and Vivien (they have no children) enjoy travelling. When time permits they also love to visit the theatre, cinema, concert hall and opera house. They have homes in Richmond and West Derbyshire.


Since retiring from the High Court Bench he has involved himself in numerous activities. He was and remains a member of the small committee which steered to completion the Bomber Command Memorial in Central London which the Queen opened in June 2012 and which is dedicated to the memory of the 55,500 or so persons (British and overseas) who gave their lives in the service of RAF Bomber Command during World War II. Music has also long been a great interest. In 2011 he was elected to serve a two year term (which expires later in 2013) as President of the Madrigal Society, a musical society founded in 1741 and which is reputed to be the oldest in the UK. And, after joining the Pakistan Society some 20 or more years ago, he was elected its Chairman in 2012. He took up this office on the retirement of Lt-General Anthony Palmer in October 2012.


1951 - 1964 Sir Frederick Bourne KCSI CIE SPk
Former Governor of East Bengal

1964 - 1970 Sir Ambrose Dundas KCIE CSI

1970 - 1981 Sir Alexander MacFarquhar KBE CIE
Former Director of Personnel United Nations

1981 - 1989 The Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick Bennett PC MP HQA Member of Parliament

1989 - 1999 Sir Oliver Forster KCMG LVO
Former British High Commissioner to Pakistan

1999 - 2000 Mr Richard Fyjis-Walker CMG CVO
Former British Ambassador to Pakistan

2001 - 2002 Sir Nicholas Barrington KCMG LVO
Former British High Commissioner to Pakistan

2002 - 2005 Sir Christopher MacRae KCMG
Former British High Commissioner to Pakistan

2006 Ė 2012 Lt Gen Anthony Palmer CB CBE
Former Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel)

Next Events

Wednesday, 19 August 2015 - THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT and THE GREAT WAR


Our An illustrated talk, marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War I by Dr Tazi Husain The Indian subcontinent contributed well over a million men to The Great War of 1914ó1918 and around 60,000 lost their lives. This presentation ........... more

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April 2015
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