Ronnie Teeman: Meet Leeds’s longest serving lawyer

Ronnie Teeman.
Ronnie Teeman.
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Ronnie Teeman, the longest-serving lawyer in Leeds, has just published his memories. John Fisher talks to him.

It was when his home was burgled when he was a young lad living in Moortown that Ronnie Teeman realised that law was the profession he wanted to enter.

When he came down for breakfast he was greeted by two CID men.

“Mother explained that I hadn’t to go into the dining room because they were waiting for the fingerprints man to come.

“I was in a dilemma because in the dining room was my school homework, but the police wouldn’t let me in.”

So he went to school without his homework. Roundhay’s deputy headmaster, G.G. Hall was collecting the boys’ books and enquired where Ronnie’s book was. He told him about the burglary.

“Don’t tell me that burglars took your miserable homework, boy,” he mocked.

And referring to Ronnie’s fantastic imagination the master advised, in a derogatory manner, that when he left school he ‘should consider becoming a lawyer’.

The seeds were immediately sown.

Now 80 years old, Ronnie is the longest-serving lawyer in Leeds and has just published his warts-and-all memoir, A Lawyer for All Seasons.

“I couldn’t have been a bad lad to him all the time because when I qualified Hall became a client,” he said.

Ronnie started practising in 1952 after graduating from Leeds University and being articled at the law firm Ernest Wurzal.

One of the many highlights of his career was the trial of police officers after vagrant David Oluwale was killed .

“I was representing the police against the Establishment which was a difficult situation because usually the police are the Establishment,” Ronnie recalled.

In May 1969 38-year-old African immigrant Oluwale’s battered body was recovered from the River Aire.

He had a history of spells in prison and psychiatric hospitals and was well known at Millgarth police station.

Two officers eventually went to prison after being found guilty of assault.

“The case was famous mainly because it was the first time anyone had looked at the subject of those members of society who had been cast aside,” Ronnie said.

“Put quite simply the police didn’t know how to deal with Oluwale, nor, frankly, did society.

“It was a misguided sense of loyalty that made many members of the police force keep quiet – they didn’t want to see any one of their brethren accused of treating Oluwale badly – and that was a very sad thing.”

Ronnie, who lives in Roundhay, is married to Shirley and the couple have two children.

He prides himself on being at the right place at the right time when something exciting was happening.

He recalls the time when there was an attempt to assassinate President Nkrumah of Ghana and how he became involved in the case.

“There were some educated families in Ghana and one of these had a connection with Leeds University because their sons had all been at the University to get their degrees.

“I was a lecturer at the University at the time and we had this boy called Osei Bonsu who was connected to Nkrumah’s family.

“The 24-year-old was visited by Leeds police to say that the Ghana police were coming over to interview him about using his bank account to start a revolution.

“He was immediately passed on to me. Within two days the Ghana Secret Police had come over to Leeds to take him back to Ghana to face trial.

“I had a stand-up row with the Ghana police because in no way would I allow the boy to leave the country.

“He stayed with me for two or three weeks till the hue died down. Soon after, the attempt to assassinate Nkrumah took place.”

The Billy Bremner trial was one of Ronnie’s high-profile cases when Bremner sued The Sunday People for alleging on the front page that he had offered to bribe a player in a vital match.

“We sued the paper, who fought it bitterly, but eventually Bremner was successful and received what was then record damages of £100,000, the highest award ever.”

Ronnie said: “The Sunday People claimed they would appeal but they never did. The interesting thing was that the newspaper really didn’t have a vendetta against Bremner, as everyone thought.

“It was a vendetta against Don Revie and this was one way of bringing out all Revie’s misdeeds into the open.”

When Ronnie read David Peace’s The Damned United he thought it was an excellently-crafted book but that it lacked some authenticity.

Leeds United footballer Johnny Giles who was featured in the book thought it was libellous and consulted Ronnie.

“We took issue with the publishers. This was a difficult case to do because David Peace was the new novelist of the century.

“His defence was that it was a work of fiction but this book gained its impact by promoting fact and putting words and actions that were not correct into the characters in the book.

“You can’t promote a book that claims to be a true story involving Johnny Giles and then say it isn’t true, it just won’t wash.

“So the upshot was that the publishers paid up and corrected the second prints of the book.”

Ronnie has a high profile in Europe where his expert knowledge of EEC law enables him to negotiate deals with Italian football clubs for the likes of Liam Brady and Joe Jordan.

“I’ve had my spats and I have a feeling that much of what I have written in the book will hit home,” he said.

* A Lawyer for All Seasons is available from Amazon at £13.99.