G. A. H. Branson

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Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson (11 July 1871 – 23 April 1951), known professionally as G. A. H. Branson, was an English barrister who became a judge of the High Court of Justice. In that role he was known as Mr Justice Branson.

In his youth Branson was notable as an oarsman and rowed in the University of Cambridge boat for the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race of 1893. He is the grandfather of Richard Branson.

Early life[edit]

Born at Great Yarmouth in 1871, Branson was the son of Mary Ann (Brown) and James Henry Arthur Branson, senior acting magistrate at Calcutta, India, who himself had been born in 1839 at Madras.[1][2]


He was educated at Bedford School, where he was a scholar, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was an Exhibitioner. He took his degree in the Classical Tripos and was also Captain of First Trinity and a rowing blue, taking the bow of the Cambridge Boat for the Boat Race of 1893.[3][4]


In 1894, after leaving Cambridge, Branson was articled to a firm of solicitors, Markby, Stewart & Co. He also became a member of the Inner Temple and in 1899 was called to the bar and joined the Northern Circuit. Writing books on the Stock Exchange helped to make his name as a young barrister, and he was Junior Counsel to the Treasury from 1912 to 1921.[3] In 1918 he was elected as a Master of the Bench of the Inner Temple.[5] In 1921 he was knighted and appointed a Justice of the High Court of Justice, King's Bench Division, serving until 1939.[3] In January 1940 he was made a member of the Privy Council.[6]

Personal life[edit]

In 1915, Branson married the widow Mona Joyce, a younger daughter of Major George James Bailey of Invergloy, Inverness-shire and his wife Edith Emma (née Headley). They had one son, Edward James Branson (1918–2011), and one daughter. Branson continued his interest in sport and was a lifelong member of the Leander Club.[3]

In 1916, Branson took part in the trial of Sir Roger Casement for treason, acting for the Director of Public Prosecutions as junior to F. E. Smith. The court decided that a comma should be read in the text of the Treason Act 1351, crucially widening the sense so that "in the realm or elsewhere" referred to where acts of treason were done and not to where the "King's enemies" may be. It was thus claimed that Casement was "hanged on a comma".[7]

In 1950, shortly before his death, his son Edward James Branson became the father of the future billionaire Richard Branson.


He died on 23 April 1951. Who's Who reported that his address at the time was Bullswater House, Pirbright, Surrey.[3]


  • George Arthur Harwin Branson, The Stock Exchange and its Machinery (London Chamber of Commerce, 1903)
  • Sir Walter George Salis Schwabe, George Arthur Harwin Branson, A Treatise on the Laws of the Stock Exchange (London: Stevens & Sons, 1905)


  1. ^ J. A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, Part II, vol. I (1940), p. 365
  2. ^ William Addams Reitwiesner, Ancestry of Richard Branson at wargs.com, accessed 9 September 2013
  3. ^ a b c d e 'BRANSON, Rt Hon. Sir George Arthur Harwin PC 1940; Kt, 1921' in Who Was Who 1951–1960 (London: A. & C. Black, 1984 reprint, ISBN 0-7136-2598-8)
  4. ^ The Eagle, vol. 17 (1893), p. 331
  5. ^ The Law Journal Vol. 53 (1918), p. 411: "Mr. G. A. H. Branson has been elected a Master of the Bench of the Inner Temple."
  6. ^ "No. 34773". The London Gazette. 16 January 1940. p. 297.
  7. ^ George H. Knott, Trial of Sir Roger Casement (1917), p. 207