Colin Turpin 1928-2019
Colin Turpin 1928-2019
Wednesday, July 24, 2019

We are deeply saddened to report the death of one of Clare’s longest-serving fellows, Colin Turpin, who died in Oxford on 18th July 2019 after a short illness. He was 91 years old.


Colin was born in Middelburg, Eastern Cape, South Africa in 1928.  He attended St Andrews College, Grahamstown, matriculating at the age of 16 in 1944.  He then took up a teaching position at St Mark’s School, Swaziland, before commencing his degree at the University of Cape Town in 1946.  He graduated with an LL.B in 1950.


Following a short period of employment as an advocate in South Africa, he came to Cambridge in 1951 to study at Christ’s College and was admitted to the Cambridge degrees of BA and LL.B.  Colin met and then married Monique and in November 1953 they sailed together for South Africa.  Colin was appointed to a lectureship in law at the University of Natal.  After six years, and with a young family, they left South Africa in 1959, Colin having been awarded an Oppenheimer Trust scholarship.  Following a period of research in Holland and France, and with the post Sharpeville oppression intensifying, Colin and Monique resolved to remain outside South Africa.  Colin found a position as a University of Cambridge lecturer, joining the Clare community as a Fellow in 1961.  


Colin’s background in Roman Dutch law meant that he initially taught Roman Law, but increasingly his focus moved to the laws of contract and government.  His ‘Government Procurement and Contracts’ was published in 1972 in the Penguin Law in Society series.  He then turned his scholarship to the British constitution and his second book, ‘British Government and the Constitution: Text and Materials’ was first published in 1985 in the Law in Context series.  It ran to seven editions over 24 years (latterly together with Professor Adam Tomkins) and was widely acclaimed as a leading textbook on constitutional law.


Colin played a key role in cementing Clare’s reputation for excellence in Law.  For him, the teaching of law was of no less value than the scholarship he brought to his research.  Countless students benefitted from his lectures and College tutorials, along with his wise counsel and encouragement.  Throughout, he brought to his teaching of the law his profound and enduring sense of social justice.


He was a highly valued member of the College, forming enduring relationships with Fellows of the College across all disciplines.  He took charge of the Lady Clare Fund, allocating funds to alumni in need, with great care and consideration.  Colin loved spending time in Clare’s gardens and showing visitors around the Fellows’ Library. The Turpin Law Reading Room in Ashby Court carries his name.


In 2006, the Turpin-Lipstein Fellowship in Law was created in his honour, to continue Colin’s legacy of providing first-class tuition to Clare’s law undergraduates. Initially established on a temporary basis, the Fellowship became permanently endowed in 2018.


photo by Gisele Wulfsohn.