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Eric Miller and Father Franke

Philip_selth Philip Selth OAM [left], executive director of the NSW Bar Association, is writing the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Eric Stanislaus Joseph Miller QC (1903-86), a prominent NSW Catholic barrister in the 1940s-60s.

Eric Miller defended his cousin John Joseph Murphy when Murphy was court-martialled in Lae in 1946 for providing information to the Japanese while a prisoner of war. Murphy was honourably acquitted.

At some time, possibly when in PNG for Murphy’s court-martial, Miller met Father Bernie Franke in Rabaul and subsequently arranged for Faher Franke's catechisms to be translated into Pidgin. Miller was at some time also briefed by the Commonwealth on two occasions to defend native police officers on Nauru who had been charged with murder / manslaughter.  Both were acquitted.

Philip Selth is seeking any information he can lay his hands on about Eric Miller, and especially about these matters. He says he will appreciate any help you may be able to provide.

You can contact Philip by email here.


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Philip Selth

In response to Colin Huggins: Thanks!

Actually, today you would probably get NOTHING!The NSW Government changed the personal injury laws a few years ago - I was part of the campaign against that decision - today you would probably only get your immediate medical bills paid.

I doubt your case was reported in the law reports -but presumably it was in the press. I will see what I can find out and will let you know what I discover.

I have read all the Joey's magazines, reports etc. I can now even tell
you what the Racing Eight Miller QC presented cost! He gave a fortune
to Joey's - probably because they waived all his fees when his unemployed
father died while he was at school. Dad had been sacked for taking part in the 1917 Railway Strike.

James Oglethorpe, RAAF 3 Squadron Association

The transcript of Captain Murphy's surreal and unjust court-martial is online in the National Archives at this address:
Enter 121 in the 'page' box to get to the delightful defence summary. Rumpole of the Bailey move over!

Miller's win for Murphy was not the end of the matter. Much correspondence ensued - up to Prime Minister Chifley level - in attempts to recover costs and reverse the defamation from the ridiculous Army pre-trial press release. [See National Archives at]

I have recently written a review of the book 'Horio. Next You Die' which depicts Murphy's heroism and strength of character in no uncertain terms. You can find this at

Murphy may also have been somehow involved in the catchism translation. He was author of 'The book of Pidgin English' (1937).

Philip Selth

Thanks for the comments above. I have trawled the St Joseph's College archives - Eric gave many prizes - and a racing eight! - to the school. I have been in touch with several members of the family. Colin - I should be grateful if you would contact me so I can learn more about your case. Eric did a lot of personal injury cases - he was a great jury advocate.

Philip Selth

I should declare a personal interest in PNG. As a student I helped install a water pipeline at Koinambe. I also studied Pacific history at the ANU with Dorothy Shineberg and Harry Maude.

Colin Huggins

I went to college with Eric Miller's son, Roger. Roger completed his Leaving Certificate at St. Joseph's College in 1959. I believe that Roger went into Law.

Eric Miller was my QC in the 1950's when I (through my family) sued the Moree City Baths when I fell off the diving tower onto cement rather than water. Thus the reason I have false teeth. Moree now has a new diving tower with safety features. I should have had the tower named after me! Eric won the case for me.

I would suggest that as there is an annual award presented to a senior student at St. Josephs that if Philip Selth contacted SJC he may get some information or at least a follow up - possibly Roger if he is still alive.


Eric Miller was a prominent old boy of St. Joseph's College, Hunters Hill. His youngest son, Roger, was in the class ahead of me. Roger to the best of my knowledge also followed his father at the bar.

I believe that Eric Miller has an annual award presented in his honour. English or debating? Contacting St Josephs College should be worthwhile for any information.

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