Faculty Stalwart Retires
News - date posted 17.02.11
Alex Olsen, who became the public face of the Faculty of Advocates, has retired after 28 years of service.
In nearly three decades at Parliament House Alex worked for eight Deans of Faculty, seven Vice-Deans, six Treasurers, seven Clerks of Faculty and six Keepers of the Library.
Paying tribute to Alex at a presentation ceremony, Richard Keen QC, Dean of Faculty, described him as a "cornerstone" of Faculty affairs who became the Faculty's public face, a welcoming presence always willing to help.
"On behalf of member of Faculty, I just want to say how grateful we are for the many years of service you have given.
It is tremendously appreciated."
The affection and esteem in which Alex Olsen was held was marked by the number of Judges, Faculty Office Bearers past and present, colleagues and court staff who attended a presentation ceremony at the Laigh Hall to say farewell.
Alex began his career at the Faculty in what was then the new position of bag operative - delivering and collecting documents to the homes of advocates - and was Deputy Superintendent for the past 10 years.
He was a welcoming face on the Faculty front desk and over the years a series of Office Bearers leaned on his knowledge and guidance.
The Deputy Superintendent's role at the Faculty involves a wide range of duties from ceremonial occasions such as the installation of a
new Senator of the College of Justice and the admission of new members of Faculty to the preparation of weekly rotas for the cleaning staff.
The job requires motivation, excellent communication skills, ability to work under pressure, a pleasant and enthusiastic attitude, common sense, diplomacy and discretion. Alex Olsen possessed all of these qualities in abundance.
Apart from his general duties Alex was a highly skilled calligrapher and was the guiding hand behind the beautifully-crafted formal invitations issued in the name of various Deans of Faculty over many years.
Irene Cumming, the Faculty Superintendent, recalled that the first major challenge faced by the new team of Irene and Alex was the change of biscuits in the Advocates Reading Room.
For many years years the only biscuits available were digestives of the plain and chocolate variety and no-one had dared to upset Colin Manson, the previous Superintendent, by asking for a choice.
Since then Irene and Alex have been responsible for many major projects - notably the installation of a new heating system for the Advocates Library, major stonework repairs to the George IV building and refurbishment of the Law Room and the Laigh Hall.
Alex's ability to keep a cool head in a crisis was demonstrated when Irene went on holiday for the first time.
He arrived at work to discover that raw sewage had been pouring into the basement at the Faculty's Lord Reid Building for two days.
He summoned urgent help and all went well until Edinburgh Festival security demanded that since the High Street was closing the vehicle cleaning up the Mackenzie Building mess must be removed immediately.
Alex refused, police were summoned and after Alex invited them to test the air at the Mackenzie Building they agreed that the clean up operation must continue.
At Alex's farewell presentation Irene Cumming recalled: "You always remained calm, nothing seemed to panic you and you always dealt with the practical issues so easily. I certainly would not have got through them without you."
She said Faculty visitors would miss not just Alex's welcoming face but the "post-it" notes on the front desk.
Describing Alex as a "total technophobe" Irene added that his only concession to the modern age was the widget which allowed him to enjoy draught beer at home.
She added: "You have supported me steadily throughout the last 10 years. You turned your hand to anything, nothing was ever a bother to you, and at all times you have put the Faculty and members first."
Superintendent and Deputy made such a good team that one of the caterers in Parliament House thought they were married.
Alex Olsen said he regarded it as a privilege to have been able to work at the Faculty for 28 years and to have helped help members of Faculty.
Alex will be succeeded as Deputy Superintendent by Scott Brownridge, another highly experienced member of staff who previously was previously the Faculty's Intrants Co-ordinator and latterly in the Dean's Secretariat.
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