John Douglas Raeburn was born in 1936 at Westcliff-on-sea and grew up amid the furore of the Second World War. He lived in Cheltenham and attended the town’s Dean Close School, but in 1946 his family moved to Eastbourne where he attended Ascham Preparatory School and later Eastbourne College.
Having decided to enter the legal profession, after school he joined the firm of Langham Parkin Smart & Hickes, Grove Road Chambers, Eastbourne where he was articled to partner Geoffrey Hickes. He qualified in 1960. After working in Eastbourne, London and Brighton, in 1967 he joined the Bexhill firm of D. W. Harrison & Yearwood to assist the then sole partner, Tim Yearwood, Mr Harrison having died in 1957.
D. W. Harrison & Yearwood
“When I joined the firm of D. W. Harrison & Yearwood it consisted of Mr Yearwood, his managing clerk Mr Noakes and some three secretaries,” Mr Raeburn recalls. “The office was situated at 10 Eversley Road, Bexhill. It was a small but busy firm, relying mainly on conveyancing and probate, although I continued to do a small amount of crime and advocacy.
“I joined the firm at a time when in a small firm the practitioners did not necessarily specialise; you had a stab at everything. I believe the current system is probably much better in that clients now see specialists, but by and large, although we were generalists, our clients were generally satisfied with our services. I became a partner in 1968.”
Merger with Tomkins & Bowes
In 1971 D. W. Harrison & Yearwood merged with Tomkins & Bowes, another Eversley Road firm. Mr Tomkins had died in 1954 and Mr Bowes had retired in 1970, so the merger made good business sense for Tomkins & Bowes’ surviving partner, John (‘Jack’) Griffiths. Soon after the merger the joint firm was renamed Yearwood & Griffiths.
In 1972 John Gregory joined the Yearwood & Griffiths partnership. He was followed four years later by Michael Bugden and in 1983 by Patrick Donaldson.
Merger with Gaby Hardwicke
In 1995 Yearwood & Griffiths merged with Gaby Hardwicke, a decision that Mr Raeburn believes was taken at just the right time: “Both Jack Griffiths and Tim Yearwood had retired and so an amalgamation seemed to be the way ahead.”
Mr Raeburn became a partner in the amalgamated firm, which was for a time known as Gaby Hardwicke Yearwood & Griffiths. He worked initially at 24 Eversley Road and later at 2 Eversley Road, which meant he had worked in three different offices in Eversley Road.
Within two years of the merger Mr Raeburn retired from the partnership, but he nonetheless watches the expansion of his old firm with interest. “As an outsider witnessing the development of Gaby’s it has obviously expanded tremendously and it has been the right thing to do in the current climate where country solicitors’ firms have far more of a struggle than in the days when I was practising,” he says.
Away from the law
Mr Raeburn has always had a wide mix of hobbies and interests. He was Dinner Secretary of the Hastings and District Law Society for several years when as many as 400 attended the annual dinner at The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne. He was also a sometime President of the Society. For some years he was a Governor of Eastbourne College and a founder member of the now defunct Bexhill Old Town Music Hall Society (BOTMS) where he presided over proceedings as Chairman.
He is a former Chairman of Bexhill Round Table and a past President of the Bexhill Rotary Club. He played football, hockey and tennis in his youth to a ‘modest standard’ (his words). He enjoys reading, walking, playing golf (“On the basis that the more shots I hit the better the value of my subscription,” he says) and watching most sports. From time to time he travels to Craven Cottage to support his beloved Fulham Football Club.
Throughout his career he was loyally supported by his wife Paddy (real name Patricia) and is the proud father of a son and daughter and grandfather of six.
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Key partners (pre-1945)
Key partners (post-1945)
- George Herbert
- Jethro Arscott
- John Midgley
- Peter Taylor
- Malcolm Walker
- Geoffrey Baker
- Michael Bugden
- John Gregory
- John Raeburn
- Bryan Sagar