July 9

The passing of Tasmanian Governor, Peter Underwood

[The late Justice Peter Underwood AC.]

It was with shock that I learnt of the sudden death of the Tasmanian Governor, The Honourable Justice Peter Underwood AC who died at the Royal Hobart Hospital after complications following surgery removing a tumour from his kidney.

Justice Underwood was appointed to the Tasmanian Supreme Court in 1984 and was in his second term as governor which would have finished in 2016. He was 76 years of age. Although a proud Tasmanian he was actually born in Great Britain, migrating here in 1950 as 13 year old child.

[Tasmanian Convenor, Reg Watson, with daughter Kylie at a recent reception at Government House, hosted by the late Justice Peter Underwood AC, Governor of Tasmania.]

I knew the Governor of Tasmania quite well. He was Patron of the Council of United Commonwealth Societies which ACM (Tasmania) is a member. When past President I entertained him at dinner and lunch. Recently I attended the June reception at Government House in honour of the birthday of Her Majesty, expecting to see the Governor as host, but in turn, we were entertained by the Lieutenant Governor, Justice Allan Blow as Peter Underwood was ill in hospital.

I always found the Governor attentive and respectful. He also had a good sense of humour, but I had the opinion that he would not suffer fools easy. I was interviewed by ABC Radio news this afternoon and was asked what would be his legacy. I replied that he served the Office of Governor with dignity and respect and undertook his duties very well. He was our 27th Governor and successfully followed on the heels of William (Bill) Cox, who was popular and very good. At times it can be very difficult in continuing a role that was so successfully undertaken, but Justice Underwood did so. Occasionally I would write to His Excellency through the email system regarding particular matters to which he would personally reply. On one occasion he wrote me a long hand note received in the post, which I still have in my files.

Yes, he was a good Governor, leaving his wife, Francis, four children and three step children. His family was at his side during his last moments. It will be hard to replace him. The State Government has offered the family a State funeral.

The Governor-General, Sir Peter Crosgrove, as would be expected, spoke highly of the late Governor of Tasmania.


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