The 1922 devils

27 Jun

Emma Boffey, who called to the bar last week, takes a look back at the devils who were admitted to the Faculty 100 years ago.

ON a dark winter’s evening, with snow swirling above the frosty lawn next to the Laigh Hall, the devils of 2022 – who were all admitted as members of the Faculty of Advocates last week – wondered aloud what experiences their predecessors had while completing their training.

The devils traditionally sit in an area of the Advocates Library known as the Laigh Hall and their desks are surrounded by portraits of members who have passed through the ranks of the Faculty. When inspiration or motivation was required, it was often remarked: “we can do this: they were all devils once too”. 

And so an interest grew around finding out who the devils were in 1922 – one hundred years ago – and what became of them.  

The history of devilling 

Devilling is a fairly recent development in the Faculty’s history. In the early days Intrants were required to submit a thesis, on which they were examined before acceptance into the Faculty. The Victorian Advocates changed their admission regulations and required Intrants to spend an 'idle' or unpaid year before taking their final exams. Some Intrants spent this time shadowing practising Members informally but in 1904 the Faculty formalised this to what we would now recognise as “devilling” (though it would not become compulsory until 1968, when the Dean's Secretariat's records show that Devilmasters start to be listed for some of the Members calling in the early 1960s, with more having Devilmasters as the years went on).  

Devilling in 1922 v 2022: similarities and differences 

The devils of 2022 are considerably different to those who came before them in 1922. The 2022 devils are replete in number: there are 28 of them, the second largest group ever. They hail from all corners of Scotland and bring a diverse range of experiences and interests to the Faculty. Their careers at the bar and the stories they will create are just beginning. Amidst their cohort may be a future Dean of Faculty, a future Lord Advocate or a future Lord President: their destiny remains to be determined.  

So, how then did the 1922 devils compare? In some respects the Faculty the 1922 devils joined is not so very different to today: the Advocates Library would be recognisable, and the shape and size of the Faculty was similar. In 1922, there were 358 members, who were grouped into six stables, numbered one through to six. The office bearers comprised the Dean, the Vice-dean and the Treasurer, with the Clerk/Keeper being a combined role.

There are however several obvious differences between the 1922 devils and those calling in 2022. The first is that the 1922 devils were far fewer in number: just four devils called to the bar in the summer of 1922. The second difference is that they were, of course, all male. Margaret Kidd would not call as a Member until the following year in 1923 and would remain the only female Member of the Faculty until 1948. The third, stark difference is that all of the 1922 devils had preceded their devilling period by service in the First World War.   

From the trenches to the Faculty to snails in bottles 

The 1922 devils were Archie, Thomas, Gordon and George. They called together in a meeting of the Faculty held on 14 July 1922. While devilling, they all lived in the New Town of Edinburgh close to each other. They also lived near the then Dean of Faculty, James Condie Stewart Sandeman KC. The Dean of Faculty resided at 11 India Street, while Archie lived at number 54 and George at number 48. One wonders how they felt about the risk of bumping into their neighbour after too many refreshments of an evening during devilling. 

The 1922 devils were, like every year of new calls, a unique bunch. They came to the Faculty having endured extraordinary sacrifice and service during the First World War. Their careers were just maturing at the senior bar when the Second World War arrived at the Faculty’s door. Much tragedy would have visited the Faculty during those difficult decades. As well as the social change that Scotland saw during that time, legal change was also afoot as Mrs Donoghue’s case progressed in the Court of Session from 1928 to its appellate conclusion before the House of Lords in 1932. Perhaps the 1922 devils might have walked up and down Parliament Hall discussing the matter with their contemporaries, as the course of legal history around the world was to be influenced by a small snail in a bottle. 

We are indebted to our Faculty predecessors for their records, particularly the then Keeper and Clerk of Faculty, W K Dickson, for his meticulous handwritten notes. These provide extraordinary detail on who the devils and Members were in 1922. The notes, which are held and preserved by the Advocates Library, include minute detail such as where the members lived, their stables and clerks, any judicial service they undertook and any notable life events, including marriages and deaths. These records have been supplemented by the work of Stephen Walker, who the Faculty commissioned in 1985 to produce a listing and detailed biography of each member since the 19th century.   

What follows is the result of their labour: it allows us to tell the story of what became of the 1922 devils – Archie, Thomas, Gordon and George. 

Archibald (Archie) Considine

Born 10 May 1895, Archie called to the bar at the age of 27. He lived at 54 India Street in Edinburgh.

Archie had been educated at Balliol College, Oxford. Before he came to the bar he served as Captain of the 13th Royal Scots, serving in France and Belgium during the First World War from 1914 to 1919.  

From 1930, he served on the Education Committee of the Edinburgh Corporation. Archie never married. He died on 31 March 1949, aged 53.  

Thomas Innes

Thomas was born on 26 August 1893. He called to the bar at age 28. He lived at 2 Inverleith Row in Edinburgh.  

On 27 December 1928, at age 35, he was to marry Lady Lucy. Lucy was the daughter of the 18th Earl of Caithness, which perhaps gives some insight into the social classes in which Members of the Faculty mixed at that time.  

In 1940 when the Second World War came to the Faculty’s doors, Thomas was appointed as Herald-en-Liaison for the Armed Forces and served in this post until 1945. 

Thomas was later appointed Lord Lyon. He died on 16 October 1971, aged 78. 

James Gordon McIntyre (known as Gordon)

Gordon was born on 21 July 1896. He was the son of Thomas McIntyre, a shipowner, and Jeanie Paterson. He grew up alongside three sisters at Sorn Castle, which his father had purchased in 1908.  

Gordon came to the bar as a decorated war hero. When the First World War started, he was determined to serve. Being too young at the time (he was then only 18), he ran away from school and lied about his age to ensure he could enlist and serve in the Ayrshire Yeomanry.  

Gordon undertook a short period of officer training and then joined the Gallipoli campaign. While there, he was badly injured in the shoulder in a trench and was rescued by his sergeant. Following his recovery, he went to the trenches of the Somme. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty he was awarded the Military Cross, a Bar to the Medal and then the Croix de Guerre in 1919. Shrapnel from a grenade had hit and destroyed his leg which had to be amputated in a field hospital. Copies of his letters to and those from his mother at Gallipoli and in Egypt are now held in the Liddle Collection at the University of Leeds Library. 

After the war Gordon went to Balliol College, Oxford where he gained a BA. He may have known Archie at Balliol, who was studying there at the same time. Gordon then studied law at Glasgow University. When he started devilling, he lived at 16 Melville Street in Edinburgh but was later to move to 31 Heriot Row. He called to the bar aged 25. 

The summer after devilling in 1923, he went on to marry Madeline, who was the daughter of Mr Robert Scott Moncrieff, Writer to the Signet.  

Gordon enjoyed an illustrious career at the bar and was appointed King’s Counsel in 1936. In 1939 his peers elected him as the Dean of Faculty and he served as such during the Second World War from 1939 to 1944. He was then elevated to the bench in 1944, serving as a Senator of the College of Justice, adopting the judicial title, Lord Sorn. He was involved, either at first instance or on appeal, in over 400 reported decisions. He retired in 1963.  

Lord Sorn died on 1 July 1987, aged 90. He is buried with his father in Sorn Churchyard.  

George Reid Thomson

George was born in Bellshill in Lanarkshire on 11 June 1893, the son of a minister of the United Free Church. He had spent part of his education in Cape Town in South Africa before studying at Corpus Christi College in Oxford, then Edinburgh. Like his peers, he had served in the First World War as a captain in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. 

George called to the bar at age 29. He lived at 48 India Street in Edinburgh. 

At age 32, in 1925, he married Grace, who was the daughter of another United Free Church minister. 

George also enjoyed a stellar career at the bar and was appointed King’s Counsel in 1936, at the same time as his fellow devil, Gordon. During the Second World War, while Gordon served as the Dean of Faculty, George served as Advocate Depute. After the war, George, a committed member of the Labour party, was elected as the Member of Parliament for East Edinburgh in 1945.

He was also appointed Lord Advocate. He served as MP and Lord Advocate until 1947, when he was appointed as the Lord Justice Clerk, to be known as Lord Thomson. 

Lord Thomson served as Lord Justice Clerk until he died in 1962 when he was aged 69.

The story of the 1922 devils 

What then does the story of the 1922 devils reveal for the 2022 new calls? The 1922 devils – for all their later achievements and illustrious careers – were simply all devils once upon a time too. On their calling day on 14 July 1922, they could not have predicted how their careers would unfold and how world events would shape them. Perhaps they too would have quietly smiled and laughed – as the 2022 devils might – had they been told on calling day that amidst their ranks was a future Lord Lyon, Lord Advocate, Dean of Faculty and Lord Justice Clerk. In 1922, their stories were still unwritten, as it is for the 2022 calls today.

It is a privilege of the highest order to be a Member of the Faculty of Advocates and preserve its function for the benefit of future generations. We have within the Faculty an enduring legacy of those who have gone before us and have borne that privilege: they serve as a reminder of the difference that individual members can make as advocates and collectively when coming together. While we, as individuals, may pass only temporarily through the ranks of the Faculty of Advocates, it endures – always.