Lo­cal le­gal firm marks 85 years

The Gazette (Derwent Valley) - - NEWS - DAMIAN BESTER

THIS week marks 85 years since young lawyer Joseph Dixon rode into New Nor­folk on his mo­tor­cy­cle and hung his shin­gle out­side a room at the Freema­sons Ho­tel.

It was the first week of Septem­ber, 1933, and Mr Dixon had done his re­search.

He was aware of the pos­si­bil­ity of a ma­jor new in­dus­try be­ing set up in the Der­went Val­ley and had vis­ited the area with his fa­ther a few weeks pre­vi­ously.

Eighty-five years on, the firm of J.H. Dixon Bar­ris­ters and Solic­i­tors is a lo­cal in­sti­tu­tion and still go­ing strong.

Man­aged by Stephen Dixon since 1985, the firm has seen the Der­went Val­ley go through sev­eral phases of de­vel­op­ment, but none more so than the ad­vent of Aus­tralian Newsprint Mills, now Norske Skog.

In an in­ter­view with the Gazette in 1993, Mr Dixon Sr re­called that in 1933 lo­cal em­ploy­ment cen­tred around the peg fac­tory and the asy­lum, as well as agri­cul­ture and small fruits grow­ing.

He was 22 when he ar­rived at New Nor­folk on his BSA mo­tor­cy­cle on Septem­ber 3, 1933, and opened his le­gal prac­tice in a room at the Freema­son’s Ho­tel in High St.

When war was de­clared in 1939 he re­ported for duty with the navy and served past the end of the war as a lieu­tenant com­man­der.

Dur­ing his navy ser­vice the prac­tice was man­aged by the Ho­bart firm of Mur­doch and Clarke with the as­sis­tance of Mr Dixon’s sec­re­tary Alma Swan.

Stephen Dixon said Mrs Swan worked for the firm for about 30 years, and he added that all the staff that fol­lowed had been just as in­dus­tri­ous.

“We have al­ways em­ployed lo­cal women in the of­fice and they have all been ex­cel­lent,” he said.

“Quite a few of the sec­re­taries started from school, worked for a time and then left to have fam­i­lies and came back later on. I can’t speak too highly of them for loy­alty and com­pe­tence.”

In 1960 the of­fice moved to rooms above the old Hill’s phar­macy (now Melody House mu­sic school) and in 1969 when the firm pur­chased the old Com­mer­cial Bank of Australia build­ing at 52 High St, it had come full cir­cle, as this was where Mr Dixon Sr had opened his ac­counts in 1933.

Mr Dixon se­nior also served the dis­trict as the in­de­pen­dent Mem­ber for Der­went in the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil from 1955-61 and 1967-79.

Son Stephen worked for the firm for sev­eral years and was ad­mit­ted to the bar in 1972. His fa­ther con­tin­ued to work part time well past the end of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer and into his 80s. He died in 2002, aged 91.

Stephen Dixon found his niche rep­re­sent­ing clients in many of the smaller courts of petty ses­sions around the state, trav­el­ling vast dis­tances be­tween courts in New Nor­folk, Queen­stown, Scotts­dale and Bruny Is­land — and places in be­tween.

Mr Dixon has also been ac­tive in the com­mu­nity from his days as a rower and re­serves foot­baller through to be­ing pres­i­dent of the New Nor­folk Dis­trict Foot­ball Club and now serv­ing on the Old Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

With no chil­dren of his own, Mr Dixon hopes to find some­one to take over the firm in the fu­ture.

Hav­ing out­lasted sev­eral other firms which have opened lo­cal branches in the past, he be­lieves there is still a need for Der­went Val­ley res­i­dents to have lo­cal le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

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