Distinguished judge, Dr Frank McGrath, turns 100

Woodford resident Dr Frank McGrath celebrated his 100th birthday on December 30.

Born in Birkenhead, England, Dr McGrath was the only child of James McGrath, a shipwright, and Mary Broadfield, a tailoress and fine soprano. The family came to Australia in 1924 when Frank was just two.

Dr Frank McGrath celebrated his 100th birthday on December 30. Photo: Rosalind Croucher.

Dr Frank McGrath celebrated his 100th birthday on December 30. Photo: Rosalind Croucher.

After attending Canterbury Boys' High School, Dr McGrath completed his BA (Hons) in History, with the University Medal in 1942, then his MA and his LLB at the University of Sydney. At university he met Amy Cumpston and they married in 1944, a marriage which lasted until Amy's passing in September 2019 at age 97, a few weeks shy of their 75th wedding anniversary.

Dr McGrath was admitted to the Bar in 1951 and, in 1966, appointed as commissioner, then chairman, of the NSW Workers Compensation Commission. In 1984, he was made the Chief Judge of the NSW Compensation Court, in which capacity he served until his compulsory retirement, at the age of 72, in 1993. In his retirement speech to the court, he said that his life on the bench had been "a life of fulfilment and enjoyment".

Prompted by his wife to undertake a 'project' in retirement, Dr McGrath completed his PhD at the University of Sydney, at age 79. It was published as a book, The Framers of the Australian Constitution, 1891-1897: Their Intentions, which Professor David Flint described in his foreword as "a significant contribution to our understanding of the interpretation of the Australian Constitution".

A gifted pianist, Dr McGrath also took up playing the organ in his retirement, and sought out tuition in Sydney and London, with a number of church organists.

In 1977, Dr McGrath received the award of OBE, and in 1991, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to the law, particularly in the field of workers' compensation and to the community. His community work acknowledged, among other things, extensive service to the arts, such as his Presidency of the Arts Council of NSW from 1975 to 1984.

The McGraths owned holiday homes in the Blue Mountains, at Blackheath and Wentworth Falls, where they instilled in their four daughters a love of the Mountains. In 2012 they returned to the Mountains, to Woodford, and in 2016, made it their permanent home, with the eldest of their daughters, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM and her husband, Emeritus Professor John Croucher AM.