Rattigan, William Henry (DNB12)

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RATTIGAN, Sir WILLIAM HENRY (1842–1904), Anglo-Indian jurist, born at Delhi on 4 Sept. 1842, was youngest son of Bartholomew Rattigan, who left his home, Athy, co. Kildare, at an early age and entered the ordnance department of the East India Company. Educated at the high school, Agra, he entered the 'uncovenanted' service of government in youth as extra assistant commissioner in the Punjab, acting for a short time as judge of the small causes court at Delhi. But being dissatisfied with his prospects he resigned, contrary to the wishes of his family, in order to study law. Enrolled as a pleader of the Punjab Chief Court on its establishment in 1866, he built up an extensive practice, first in partnership with Mr. Scarlett, and then on his own account.

Coming to England, he was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 3 Nov. 1871, and was called to the bar there on 7 June 1873, also studying at King's College, London. Returning to Lahore, he speedily rose to be head of his profession there. He was for many years government advocate, and in 1880, 1881, 1882, and 1886, for varying short periods, he acted as a judge of the chief court. In Nov. 1886 he resigned his acting judgeship so as to continue his practice without further interruption. A linguist of unusual ability, Rattigan mastered in all five European languages, several Indian vernaculars, and Persian. German he studied assiduously, and he translated the second volume of Savigny's 'System of Roman Law—Jural Relations' (1883). In 1885 he took the degree of D.L., with first-class honours, at Gottingen.

In February 1887 Rattigan became vice-chancellor of the Punjab University, then on the verge of bankruptcy. He succeeded in regenerating the institution, and was reappointed biennially, retaining the vice-chancellorship till April 1895. He was made a D.L. of the university in Jan. 1896, and LL.D. of Glasgow in 1901. In 1891 he accepted the presidentship of the Khalsa College committee, and by his energy and influence overcame dissension among the Sikhs, with the result that an institution for their higher education on a religious basis was established at Amritsar in 1897. When he retired from India in April 1900 the Sikh council appointed him life president, and on his death a memorial hospital was erected at the college (opened in 1906). He was an additional member of the viceroy's legislative council in 18923 and of the Punjab legislative council in 1898–9.

A self-made man, without advantages of family influence, Rattigan made substantial contributions to legal literature amid his professional and public labours. He published 'Selected Cases in Hindu Law decided by the Privy Council and the Superior Indian Courts' (2 vols., Lahore, 1870–1), 'The Hindu Law of Adoption' (1873), 'De Jure Personarum' (1873), and he collaborated with Mr. Justice Charles Boulnois (1832–1912), of the Punjab chief court, in 'Notes on the Customary Law as administered in the Punjab' (1878). His most important book, 'A Digest of Civil and Customary Law of the Punjab' (Lahore, 1880), which reached a seventh edition (1909), was designed to classify material for a future codification, and rendered Rattigan a foremost authority upon customary law in Northern India. His other works were 'The Science of Jurisprudence' (Lahore, 1888), which, chiefly intended for Indian students, reached a third edition (1899); 'Private International Law' (1895); and a pamphlet on the international aspects of 'The Case of the Netherlands South African Railway' (1901). Rattigan was knighted in Jan. 1895, was made queen's counsel in May 1897, and was elected bencher of his inn in June 1903.

On settling in England in 1900 he practised before the privy council. At the general election of 1900 he unsuccessfully contested North East Lanark in the liberal-unionist interest; but at the bye-election on 26 Sept. 1901 he won the seat by a majority of 904. Speaking rarely, and chiefly on Indian matters, he was respected by all parties. He was killed in a motor-car accident near Biggleswade, on his way to Scotland, on 4 July 1904, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

He married (1) on 21 Dec. 1861, at Delhi, Teresa Matilda (d. 9 Sept. 1876), daughter of Colonel A. C. B. Higgins, C.I.E., examiner of accounts, public works department; (2) at Melbourne, on 1 April 1878, her sister Evelyn, who survives. By his first marriage he had two daughters and four sons, and by his second marriage three sons.

There is a memorial window in Harrow Chapel, where Rattigan's sons were educated, and a tablet is in the cathedral at Lahore.

[Rattigan's legal works; the Punjab Magazine, Feb. 1895; Men of Merit, London, 1900; Glasgow Contemporaries at Dawn of XXth Century, Glasgow 1901; Punjab Civil Lists; The Times, 5, 6, 7, and 11 July 1904; The Biographer, Nov. 1901; Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore, 7, 9, and 22 July 1904; Pioneer, 7 July 1904; Law Times, 9 July 1904; family details kindly supplied by Lady Rattigan.]

F. H. B.