James Robertson Justice: Wikis


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James Robertson Justice
Born James Norval Harald Justice
15 June 1907(1907-06-15)
Lee, London, England
Died 2 July 1975 (aged 68)
Romsey, Hampshire, England
Other name(s) Seamus Mor na Feaseg
James R. Justice
James Robertson
James Robertson-Justice
Occupation Actor
Years active 1944 - 1971
Spouse(s) Dilys Ethel Hayden (1941–1968)
Irene von Meyendorff (1975–His Death)

James Robertson Justice (15 June 1907 [1] - 2 July 1975)[2] was a popular Anglo-Scottish character actor in British films of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.



The son of an Aberdeen-born geologist who was named after his father, James Justice was born in Lee, a suburb of Lewisham in South London, in 1907. Educated at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, Justice studied science at University College, London, but left after a year and became a geology student at the University of Bonn, where he again left after just a year. He spoke many languages (possibly up to 20) including French, Greek, Danish, Russian, German, Italian, Dutch, and Gaelic.[3]

After university

Justice returned to the UK in 1927, and became a journalist with Reuters in London, alongside Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. After a year he emigrated to Canada, serving as an insurance salesman, taught English at a boys' school, became a lumberjack and mined for gold. He came back to England penniless, working his passage on a Dutch Freighter.

On return to Britain he served as secretary of the British Ice Hockey Association in the early 1930s and managed the national team at the 1932 European Championships in Berlin to a seventh place finish. He combined his administrative duties in 1931–32 with a season as goaltender with the London Lions.[4]

After a single trial as a racing driver at Brooklands, he left Britain again to become a policeman for the League of Nations in the Saarland area of Germany. After the Nazis came to power, he fought in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. It was here that he first grew his signature trademark bushy beard, which he retained throughout his career. On return to Britain, he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, but after sustaining an injury in 1943 (thought to be shrapnel from a German shell), he was pensioned off.

Love of Scotland

He married nurse Dilys Hayden in Chelsea in 1941, who gave birth to his son James. On his return from the war he reinvented himself with more Scottish roots. Feeling strongly about his Scottish ancestry, he claimed his birth place as under a distillery on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, in 1905.[5] He unsuccessfully contested the North Angus and Mearns (UK Parliament constituency) for the Labour Party in the 1950 general election.[3]

Acting career

Justice took up acting after joining the Players' Club in London. The club, under the chairmanship of Leonard Sachs who was latterly chairman of BBC's television's The Good Old Days, would stage Victorian music hall nights. Standing in for Sachs one night, he was recommended for the film For Those In Peril in the summer of 1944.

As an actor, with his domineering personality, bulky physique, and rich, booming voice, he was soon established as a major supporting player in British comedy films. His first leading role was as headmaster in the film Vice Versa, written and directed by Peter Ustinov, who cast him partly because he'd been "a collaborator of my father's at Reuters." Justice was the demanding Sir Lancelot Spratt in the "Doctor" series of the 1950s and 1960s, beginning with Doctor in the House in 1954 playing, a role for which he is possibly best remembered. In his films he was sometimes credited as Seamus Mòr na Feusag (Scottish Gaelic, translation: Big James with the Bushy Beard), James R. Justice, James Robertson or James Robertson-Justice.[6]

On 31 August 1957, he helped launch the TV station Scottish Television, hosting the channel's first show, This is Scotland.[citation needed] From 1957 to 1960, and again from 1963 to 1966, he was Rector of the University of Edinburgh.[7] In the 1961 war film The Guns of Navarone, Robertson had a co-starring role as well as narrating the story.

It was rumoured that he was the first choice for the part of the stern headmaster in Bottoms Up, which eventually went to Jimmy Edwards.

Later life

After a series of affairs and the drowning of his son in 1949 at his watermill home in Hampshire, Justice separated from his wife; she eventually divorced him in 1968. He met actress Irina von Meyendorff on the set of The Ambassadress in 1960 and they remained together until his death. He suffered a series of strokes in his later life, which left him unable to work, and he died penniless in 1975. His ashes were buried in a North Scotland moor near his former residence.

A biography called James Robertson Justice — What's The Bleeding-Time? (named after a joke in the first Doctor film) was published by Tomahawk Press on 3 March 2008.(ISBN 0953192679). It was written by James Hogg and Robert Sellers and Howard Watson.



  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: SEP 1907 1d 1112 LEWISHAM - James Norval H Justice
  2. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: SEP 1975 20 0869 ROMSEY, James Harold N. R. Justice, DoB = 15 June 1907
  3. ^ a b Sheridan Morley, "Justice, James Norval Harald Robertson (1907–1975)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 12 Nov 2007
  4. ^ A to Z Encyclopaedia of Ice Hockey entry. Retrieved November 1, 2007.
  5. ^ Pendreigh, Brian (18 November 2007), "'Scots actor Justice outed as Londoner", Scotland on Sunday, http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/entertainment.cfm?id=1819412007 
  6. ^ James Robertson Justice at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ "Full list of Rectors to date". The University of Edinburgh Information Services. http://www.lib.ed.ac.uk/faqs/parqsutz.shtml#Rec1. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Sydney A. Smith
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
1957 – 1960
Succeeded by
Jo Grimond
Preceded by
Jo Grimond
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
1963 – 1966
Succeeded by
Malcolm Muggeridge

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