This fine advertising cover from the Queensland, Brisbane branch, of the New Zealand Insurance Co. (Fire & Marine) bore the ‘Four Corners’ 1d orange Queensland imprinted stamp and was postmarked with a Brisbane duplex dated JA 23/ 03. Below the Maori male figure it stated “Freehold Assets and Other Investments secured to Queensland Policy Holders £60,000″. The cover was addressed to Messrs Morris & Fletcher, Solicitors, Brisbane (Figure 1).
“When Charles Morris and Sidney Fletcher opened the doors of their legal office in George Street, Brisbane in 1896, it was unlikely they dreamt that more than a hundred years later it would have grown to become one of Queensland’s largest law firms and part of the third-largest law firm in Australia. The early years of Morris & Fletcher and its successor Morris, Fletcher & Cross, were not always easy, especially during the depression and the second world war.”
Charles Andrew Morris, the senior founding partner (from 1896-1925) was born in Tamworth, NSW on April 15, 1861. He spent some of his early working years droving and working on outback Queensland stations, and then in journalism as part-owner of a Cunnamulla newspaper. He became an articled clerk when aged 24 and was almost 30 when admitted as a solicitor in December 1890. In 1896 he asked Sidney Fletcher to join him in practice and thereby laid the foundation for the ultimate firm named after 3 partners. The 1890s were boom times in Queensland and Morris & Fletcher prospered with a solid conveyancing s as well as a high profile in advocacy work. Morris remained with the firm until 1925, when he resigned to become a barrister, at the age of 65. He died nine years later on July 24, 1935 (Figure 2).
Sidney Day Fletcher was a founding partner from 1896 to 1933, but the Fletcher family’s connection with the firm spanned a total of 72 years ( for 2 sons, Ronald Vernon and Owen Maynard extended the family involvement until 1968). The association of Morris and Fletcher appeared somewhat incongruous, for Morris was a keen racing man and Fletcher was a strict Methodist and a teetotaller. He shared with Morris a talent for advocacy, and this was greatly tested when Fletcher was confronted by a distraught client who produced a gun and threatened to kill himself on the spot. Fletcher was able to calm the man, persuade him to kneel and to pray with him. He retired from the firm in 1933, and he died 9 years later at the age of 73. He had continued in a sole practice until the time of his death (Figure 3).
Frederick Thomas Cross joined the firm in 1915 as office manager, and he had qualified as an accountant. He studied law at night and in December 1920 he was admitted as a barrister. In 1923 he was made a partner in the firm now known as Morris Fletcher & Cross, a name that was to remain at the forefront of legal practice in Queensland until the firm became Minter Ellison Morris Fletcher. By 1933 he had become the senior partner and he established a large practice in motor vehicle personal injury cases. He resigned from the firm in1945 to continue his career as a barrister and he died in 1966 (Figure 4).
I gratefully acknowledge that Lynn Meyers, Librarian, Heritage Collections, State Library of Queensland provided a large volume of information on this firm, for the internet was largely unproductive. The article in TMB, 19 July 1996, page25 supplied the majority of the information, particularly the paragraph in quotes and the photographs.