Scots Judges in the British Empire

Last year your blogger published a short study of the appointment of judges to “civil-law” jurisdictions in the British Empire, raising the question of whether there was ever a practice of selecting for these judicial posts individuals trained in Scotland or the Channel Islands. It is a topic that could bear much further research, with proper archival work. It was not your blogger’s intention to try to list such judges, but another rather obvious one has just come to his attention because of some current work on A. V. Dicey.

Dicey had a number of close Scottish friends, and, according to R. S. Rait in the years leading up to the First World War, liked to pass part of the autumn in Scotland visiting them. Thus, in August 1908, Dicey was a guest of his friend Donald Crawford, an advocate, Sheriff, and former Liberal M.P. Crawford had studied at Glasgow and Heidelberg, but most significantly for the connection with Dicey at Balliol College, Oxford.  He had also been a Fellow of Lincoln College from 1862 to 1882. He served as a member of the Scottish University Commission between 1889 and 1897. One can see the links and interest shared with Dicey. Also part of the party was his close friend James Bryce, politician, historian, lawyer, and then Ambassador to the U.S.A.

But I want here to focus on another member of the party, less well known than Bryce. This was Sir Archibald Lawrie. Lawrie has been known to generations of Scots historians because of his volume of 1905, Early Scottish Charters (before 1153). Your blogger had not before realised that Lawrie, who was a member of the Scots bar, had had a distinguished career as a colonial judge in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon. In 1872, he was appointed as a judge in Kandy, before in 1892 he was appointed as senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court in Colombo. He was knighted by Edward VII on his return to Britain.

On retirement, Lawrie lived at the Moss by Dumgoyne, in Stirlingshire, an area well known to your blogger. George Buchanan had been born there, and Lawrie was apparently a remote descendant of Buchanan’s brother. The Moss was a fairly typical, rather boxy, but attractive, Scottish Georgian house with a hipped roof. Lawrie extended it, the architect employed being Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The extension has been demolished, but it is possible to trace photographs on the internet. It was not obviously a success either aesthetically or structurally, but anything by the much-hyped Mackintosh is obviously of interest.