John D. Mayne

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John Dawson Mayne
Advocate-General of Madras Presidency
In office
Preceded by John Bruce Norton
Succeeded by Sir H. S. Cunningham
Personal details
Born (1828-10-31)31 October 1828
Died 1917 (Aged 88)
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin
Occupation lawyer
Profession Advocate-General
Religion Anglican

The Rt. Hon. John Dawson Mayne QC, PC (1828–1917) was a British lawyer and legal expert who served as acting Advocate-General of the Madras Presidency and a member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. He is remembered as the author of Mayne's Hindu Law regarded as the most authoritative book on the Indian Penal Code. His married life was marred by a scandal, which prevented him from gaining a knighthood.


Born on 31 December 1828, to John Mayne (1793–1828), a Dublin lawyer who died before John Dawson was born. His mother, Anna (Graves) Johnson (1798–1864), had first married Edward Johnson (died 1818) J.P., of Ballymacash House, Co. Antrim. Mayne's middle name was for his great-grandfather's cousin and benefactor, Thomas Dawson, 1st Viscount Cremorne.

He came from a well-known family and was a grandson of Judge Edward Mayne and Dean Richard Graves. He was a nephew of Sir Richard Mayne and a first cousin of Admiral Richard Charles Mayne, Chief Justice Sir William Collis Meredith, Edmund Allen Meredith, Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell, Major-General Arthur Robert MacDonnell and Francis Brinkley. His sister married a son of Abraham Colles, and through her he was the uncle of Ladies Ashbourne and Bewley.


Mayne had his initial education in Dublin and graduated in law from Trinity College, Dublin. He was called to the English bar in 1854, but practised in the United Kingdom from 1854 to 1856 before moving to Madras, India. Mayne served as the Professor of law, logic and moral philosophy at the Presidency College, Madras from 1857 throughout the 1860s. He also served as Assistant Legal Secretary to the Madras government from 1860 to 1872 and as a Clerk of the Crown during the 1860s. He served as Advocate-General of Madras from 1862 to 1872. He left India in a cloud of scandal, running away from his wife with the wife of another man, Annie Craigie-Halkett.

In England, despite the scandal, Mayne was appointed and a member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in 1873, retiring in 1903. He also served as a Professor of Common Law at the Inns of Court from 1879 to 1883. In 1880, he unsuccessfully contested for the Parliamentary seat at Falmouth. He was an enthusiastic family historian, producing an impressively long 'pedigree' of the Maynes from 1900 back through some thirty generations to Normandy, but beyond the 17th century, like so many family histories of the time, it was riddled with errors of assumption.

At Madras, 1859, he had married his first wife, Helen Sarah Hamilton (born 1841), daughter of Colonel Robert Hamilton of the Madras Staff Corps. She divorced Mayne in 1872 after he ran off with his soon to be second wife, Annie Craigie-Halkett (1833–1917). Annie's first husband's name is unknown, but she was the daughter of Charles Craigie-Halkett-Inglis of Hallhill, Fife and Cramond House, near Edinburgh, by is wife Susan, the youngest daughter of Sir John Marjoribanks of Lees (1763–1833), 1st Bt., M.P., Lord Provost of Edinburgh. Annie and 'JD' (as he was known) divorced their respective spouses so they could marry in May 1873. Annie was reputed to be very beautiful despite her face being marred by a 'Port wine mark' (birth mark), which led her to favouring veils in later life.

In 1917, he and Annie died within six weeks of one another, at their home 'Goodrest', also known as Shinfield Park, Berkshire. The gardens were so extensive at Goodrest that they required twenty gardeners to maintain its upkeep. Mayne left no children by either marriage, but took great joy in being both a financial and legal help to many of his relatives.


  • C. E. Buckland. Dictionary of Indian Biography. Genesis Publishing Pvt. Ltd. p. 280. ISBN 8170208971, ISBN 978-81-7020-897-6. 
  • Joseph Foster (1885). Men-at-the-bar: a biographical hand-list of the members of the various Inns of court: including Her Majesty's judges, etc. Reeves and Turner. p. 311.