Obiter will miss Sir James Munby when he retires as president of the family division.
In his latest speech, to the Family Law Bar Association conference, Munby led us on a tour of how Royal Mail delivered long-distance post by coach to illustrate the importance of modernising the justice system.
Apparently, after Telford improved what we now know as the A5, and spanned the Menai Strait, the Irish Mail coach ran 261 miles from London to Holyhead in 26 hours and 55 minutes.
However, the coach was doomed by the arrival of the railway, Munby said. The horses on the mail coach could run at 10mph, but by the 1840s the Great Western Railway was achieving speeds of 80mph. Meanwhile, a water trough introduced on the Chester and Holyhead line in 1859 meant steam trains could run non-stop for hundreds of miles.
Alas, Royal Mail no longer carries our post by horse, Munby notes. ‘The moral is clear. We must welcome the future with enthusiasm and optimism, lest, like the Luddites, we find ourselves on the wrong side of history.’
Obiter agrees, but wonders if Munby’s enthusiasm for railways is an extended hint about what he would like as a retirement present.