Sheriff David Smith, 1936-2015

David Smith

With the death of David Smith, Vice Chairman of Council, at the age of 79, the Society has lost one of its longest standing and most active members, who was a scholar with a wide field of interest. A member since the early 1960s, David served two terms on Council, from 1963 to 1967 and again from 1992 to 1998, when he was elected Vice Chairman of Council. He had been nominated to succeed Professor John Cairns as Chairman at the AGM in November 2015 but sadly had to withdraw his nomination on account of ill health.

Educated at Paisley Grammar School, David graduated MA (Glasgow) and LLB (Edinburgh), undertaking his Bar apprenticeship at Shepherd & Wedderburn and being called to the Bar in 1961. He was a tutor in law at Edinburgh University 1964-72 and standing junior counsel to the Scottish Education Department 1968-75. In 1975 he was appointed Sheriff of North Strathclyde at Kilmarnock, a post he held with distinction until his retirement in 2001. During that time he contributed to the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia of the Laws of Scotland (1988) and Macphail: Sheriff Court Practice (1998) and he was treasurer of the Sheriffs’ Association 1979-89. His first mention in the Society’s minutes is in November 1964, when he was instrumental in unlocking an impasse in the publication of William Hay’s Lectures on Marriage, which formed volume 24 of the Society’s series (1967). In 1991 he gave the Society’s Annual Lecture, his subject being ‘The Spiritual Jurisdiction 1560-64’ (later published in the Records of the Scottish Church History Society).  He contributed two papers to the Society’s Miscellany volumes, A Sixteenth Century Legal Opinion, which he edited and explained (Miscellany III, 1992) and A Banffshire Process of Perambulation, 1558: Alexander, Lord Salton v. Sir Walter Ogilvie of Boyne, Knight (Miscellany IV, 2002).  His help is also acknowledged by at least two of the Society’s editors in their volumes: by his long-term friend and fellow-sheriff, Peter McNeill, in his edition of Balfour’s Practicks (vols 21-2, 1962-3), and by Dr Tom Green in The Consistorial Decisions of the Commissaries of Edinburgh, 1564 to 1576/7 (vol 61, 2014).  David contributed his own learned articles on various historical subjects to the Juridical Review, the Records of the Scottish Church History Society, the Scots Law Times and the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland.  He also edited the maps on courts spiritual that appeared in the Atlas of Scottish History to 1707 edited by Peter McNeill and Hector MacQueen (1996).

Although David listed the history of the laws and institutions of Scotland as his principal recreation, another of his consuming interests was the sport of curling, on which he published extensively – Curling: an Illustrated History (1981); The Roaring Game: Memoirs of Scottish Curling (1985); Sport, Scotland and the Scots (contributed chapter on curling, 2000) and the Encyclopaedia of Traditional British Rural Sports (contributor, 2005). He was a member of a number of curling clubs, was President of the Ayr Curling Club,1995-96, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the national governing body of curling, in 2005.

David will be sadly missed by his numerous friends in the many fields in which he took such an active interest, not least in the Stair Society. We extend our condolences to his wife Hazel, his surviving children, Alison and Patrick and their families.  

Legal History Bibliography of David Buchanan Smith 1936-2015
(work in progress: contributions to

'Mr Erskine's notes' Scots Law Times (News) (1962) 74-75

‘Practicks’ Scots Law Times (News section) (1962) 147-148

‘Court of Session districts’ Juridical Review 7 (1962) 252-255

‘Majority verdict in civil jury trial’ Scots Law Times (News section) (1963) 145

‘ “A respectable infusion of dignified crime” ’ Juridical Review 23 (1978) 1-11

‘When Homer came to Glasgow …’ Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 30 (1985) 487-488

‘From my charter chest’ Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 36 (1991) 75-76

‘A sixteenth century legal opinion’ Miscellany III (Stair Society vol 39, 1992) 195-199

‘The Dean of Restalrig’s book’ Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 39 (1994) 409-410

‘The spiritual jurisdiction 1560-64’ Records of the Scottish Church History Society 25 (1995) 1-18

‘Mr Hercules Rollock’ Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 41 (1996) 497-498

‘Courts spiritual’, in Atlas of Scottish History to 1707 edited by Peter McNeill and Hector MacQueen (1996) 379-81

‘A Banffshire process of perambulation, 1558: Alexander, Lord Salton v. Sir Walter Ogilvie of Boyne, Knight’ Miscellany IV (Stair Society vol 49, 2002) 85-126

[updated 19 December 2016]