My dear friend Simon Kverndal QC died, far too young at 62, on Sunday 14 June 2020, peacefully, and surrounded by his immediate family. Many members of Quadrant could have written those awful words; but I have the advantage of having known Simon longer than most.
It is often said of people who have lived with long illnesses that they fought them courageously. Simon certainly did that; but he also bore his affliction with discretion and with cheerfulness. Until very recently, he kept the awareness of the illness from which he had been suffering for more than two years from all but a few of his intimates, and even to them he was always upbeat and cheerful. For him, his chemotherapy clinic was a ‘cocktail lounge’.
Though in many ways a typical English gentleman (a recurring theme in many of the tributes which have already started to pour in), as his surname suggests he was ultimately of Norwegian stock. His family were part of the shipping industry for several generations, and one branch had come to England and settled here in the 19th Century. But he remained proud of his Norwegian roots. Most summers he went with his family to the lakeside cabin in Norway he shared with his Norwegian cousins. His sons were named Thor and Finn in tribute to their forefathers.
The word clubbable might have been invented for Simon. He was a member of Hawks, Queen’s, the MCC, the Garrick and the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights. The first three announce his sporting prowess. He was good enough at racquets to play in the national Amateur Racquets Championship when over 40, good enough at real tennis to play for Cambridge for four years, being captain for two, the latter possibly a unique distinction. The Garrick and the Shipwrights were places where he could exercise his enormous talent for friendship, for bonhomie without superficiality, for wide-ranging conversation and for charm at all times. It was a matter of great pride to him that he had become Prime Warden of the Shipwrights this year, and it is sad indeed that he was unable to complete his term of office.
He was well-known for his real expertise in matters of wine. He had a blue (technically, a half-blue) for wine-tasting as well as real tennis. He served on the wine committees of the Garrick, the Shipwrights and of the Middle Temple, in essence yet another club, where he was a Bencher. Not many Silks can point to articles in Decanter in their CVs.
As it happens, Simon did not mention them in his CV either, because at bottom he was a serious professional. He was a hardworking and popular silk. Having always been a diligent and fluent advocate, he had blossomed in addition into a very effective arbitrator, renowned for his pleasantness and efficiency and, an unusual gift, for getting the right answer. Relatively recently he had started to act as a mediator and his personal qualities were generating a rapidly growing and enthusiastic following.
Simon had, from the outset of his career, been a member of Quadrant Chambers in its successive iterations. About a dozen strong when he joined, Chambers membership is now almost 70. Always approachable, always ready to help or advise, he was much-loved throughout Chambers, not merely by his contemporaries, but from senior Silks to junior juniors and even pupils, as a flood of sorrowful emails and WhatsApp messages attests. For Simon, Quadrant was another club. He put in many hours sitting on other less glamorous committees where he would offer sage advice on the organisation of legal institutions and the clubs of which he was a member. The London Shipping Law Centre and the Lloyd’s Salvage Working party were among those to whom he lent his spare time and commitment. So also, was his local church, to whose doings he was quietly but firmly committed.
This was a full life indeed; but it is right to end where I began – with Simon’s family. For all his love of wine, music, friends, sport and conviviality, Simon’s chief interest and concern at all times was his family. No-one who knew him could doubt that the centre of his focus was Sophie, on whom he doted, with his two sons only just behind. Their loss is a shocking one; and so is ours.