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Parliament House


Faculty Portrait Book Reflects Scotland's History

News - date posted 23/11/2012

The Faculty of Advocates has never had a private space to display its unique collection of legal portraits and statues dating back to the 16th century which is one of the reasons their home in Parliament Hall has become one of Edinburgh's favourite tourist attractions.

Over the centuries the families of distinguished judges and lawyers have gifted portraits and statues of their distinguished relatives to the Faculty while the Faculty has commissioned portraits as a mark of respect to distinguished members.

The portraits were created by artists and sculptors of renown - including Sir Henry Raeburn, John Singer Sargent and Sir Edward Paollozzi - and the statue of Forbes of Culloden by Louis- Francois Roubiliac (1702-62) is regarded as one of the supreme works of sculpture in Scotland.

The collection has been brought together in Parliament House Portraits: The Art Collection of the Faculty of Advocates jointly edited by Colin Sutherland QC (now Lord Carloway) and Sheriff Roger Craik QC.

It begins with John Spotiswoode (1565 -1639) and concludes with John Smith who became an advocate in 1967 and appeared in a number of notable criminal trials before his political career blossomed and he became leader of the Labour Party.

Apart from the photographs of the portraits, the fascination of the book lies in the biographical notes penned by members of Faculty on the lives of some of Scotland's most powerful and colourful figures who lived through turbulent and dangerous times in the country's history, when choosing the wrong side could result in imprisonment or death.

They include an era (1684) when a judge, Sir Hew Dalrymple of North Berwick, challenged an advocate to a duel after taking offence at personal remarks made during a heated exchange in court.

Major historical figures such as Sir Walter Scott, Francis Jeffrey, and Henry Cockburn fill the pages alongside major political power brokers such as James Dalrymple, Viscount Stair and six generations of the Dundas dynasty who "bestrode the courts for much of the 17th and 18th centuries."

We learn that Spottiswoode, Archbishop of Glasgow and St Andrews and Primate of Scotland, President of the Court of Session, was once censured for playing football on a Sunday.

Sir George Lockhart of Carnwath is remembered as the only Scottish judge to have been assassinated when a vengeful litigant shot him in the back way on his way home from St Giles in 1689.

Lord Gardenstone (1721-93) was one of a rich crop of judicial eccentrics. He was addicted to snuff and was reputed to keep a pet pig in his bedroom. In Kay's original portraits he is depicted on his way to Parliament House astride his pony with a small kilted servant boy trotting behind and his favourite dog "Smash" leading the way.

Cockburn says of Lord Eskgrove: "Often have I gone back to court at midnight and found him, whom I had left mumbling hours before, still going on, with the smoky unsnuffed tallow candles in greasy tin candlesticks and the poor despairing jurymen, most of the audience having retired or being asleep."

Lord Dunsinnan is alleged to have been involved in helping the escape of his niece from the Old Tollbooth in Edinburgh where she had been confined under sentence of death for adultery with her brother-in-law and the poisoning her husband.

Lord Eldin's strong Scottish accent caused great amusement in a House of Lords appeal over the use of a millstream. When he argued that "the watter" had run that way for 40 years the Lord Chancellor challenged his pronunciation saying: "Do you spell water in Scotland with two ts.?" "Na my Lord we dinna spell watter with two ts but we spell mainners with two ns."

Lord Glenlee stood out from his judicial colleagues in the early part of the 19th century by insisting on walking each day from his Edinburgh home to Parliament House in full judicial robes and wig preceded by his macer.

In more recent times Lord Justice Clerk Aitchison was asked if he intended to sue an English newspaper which reported his elevation to the Bench with the misprint: "Sottish Judge elevated." "No" he replied. "I'd rather sit tight."

Lord Clyde (the second) was a dominant figure as Lord President in the 1950s and 60s when there was no compulsory retirement age for judges. It was said that if he delivered a judgment in appeal court after lunch and there was a soporific silence from one of his elderly colleagues he would simply say: "Lord so and so concurs."

Dame Margaret Kidd, the first female member of Faculty, called to the Bar in 1923 and in 1948 became the first woman in the UK and Commonwealth to take silk.

When the Faculty gave a dinner in her honour after 50 years at the Bar the late Lord Milligan suggested that Margaret Sinclair should be given at least a high tea for 25 years.

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The Faculty of Advocates
Parliament House

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