PARKER, NEVILLE, lawyer and judge; b. 8 June 1798 in Saint John, N.B., second son of Robert Parker, a Boston loyalist who became ordnance storekeeper and comptroller of customs at Saint John, and Jane Hatch, daughter of another Massachusetts loyalist; m. 22 April 1821 in St Andrews, N.B., Elizabeth Margaret Sheddon Wyer, and they had ten children; d. 6 Aug. 1869 at St Andrews.
Neville Parker followed the customary path of the children of New Brunswick’s small loyalist upper class in the early 19th century. He attended the Saint John Grammar School, King’s Collegiate School at Windsor, N.S., in 1811, and then King’s College, Windsor, from 1812 to 1816. After graduation he entered the legal profession, studying in the office of Ward Chipman* Jr. He was admitted to the bar in 1819 and began to practise in St Andrews.
By 1826 Parker was practising law in Saint John. Until 1834 he was in partnership with his brother, Robert, and then until 1838 with William Jack. In 1833, when Robert Parker resigned as judge of the Court of Vice-Admiralty, Neville Parker was given the position. In 1837 he was offered a place on the Executive Council by Sir John Harvey*, who recommended him to the Colonial Office as a “gentleman of the highest character and professional attainments.” But before the appointment was confirmed in London, Parker was given in March 1838 the newly created post of master of the rolls. Because he had been a master in chancery since 1823 and by 1838 was the senior master, he was the logical choice for the position and appears to have held it with distinction until the office was abolished in a reorganization of the judiciary in 1854, which Parker and his fellow judges opposed. Parker then became a puisne judge of the Supreme Court. In 1860 he also became judge of the Court of Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, and served until illness forced his retirement in October 1868. After his appointment as master of the rolls, Parker resided in Fredericton, but at the time of his death he was visiting St Andrews.
Neville Parker was a prominent member of New Brunswick’s establishment, but as a judge he was probably not above the average. Although James Hannay* remembered him as a “very dignified old gentleman,” in his younger days he was known for his fiery temper. When still a youth he challenged General John Coffin* to a duel, but the latter, who was 67, declined the invitation. In 1834 Parker was one of the leaders in the protest of the provincial bar against the appointment of an Englishman, James Carter*, to the New Brunswick bench; his brother Robert had hoped to obtain the post. In 1846, when he was asked to serve with the lieutenant governor and Executive Council on a court to deal with cases of marriage and divorce, he refused on the grounds that extra funds were not provided for an usher and a suitable meeting-place for the court. The result was a prolonged and bitter conflict with Sir William Colebrooke and the Executive Council, to whom his actions seemed “a clear case of misbehavior.” During the 1850s Parker repeatedly took the lead in defending high judicial salaries against the demands of the assembly for reductions. It was these actions rather than his judicial decisions, which occasionally gave Neville Parker a prominence he otherwise neither sought nor merited.
N.B. Museum, D. R. Jack, “Pre-loyalist biographical data, and other notes” (typescript of original notes in Saint John Regional Library), pp.33–35. PANB, REX/mi/ex, draft minutes, 10 Dec. 1846, 30 March 1847. PRO, CO 188/56, Harvey to Glenelg, 28 July 1837; 188/59, Harvey to Glenelg, 16 March 1838; 188/99, Colebrooke to Grey, 30 March 1847. Fenety, Political notes and observations. Daily Morning News (Saint John, N.B.), 7 Aug. 1869. Morning Freeman (Saint John, N.B.), 7 Aug. 1869. St. Croix Courier (St Stephen, N.B.), 12 Aug. 1869. St. John Daily Telegraph and Morning Journal (Saint John, N.B.), 7 Aug. 1869. Political appointments and judicial bench (N.-O. Coté). Hannay, History of N.B. Lawrence, Judges of N.B. (Stockton). James Hannay, “The Supreme Court,” Daily Telegraph (Saint John, N.B.), 23 Dec. 1892.