Obituary: Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight

Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight, Lord Lyon King of Arms from 1981 to 2001, has died following a long illness that was both bravely fought and serenely borne.  His late wife was a Hay by birth and he was a regular attender and popular speaker at Clan Hay Society gatherings in days gone by.

Malcolm Rognvald Innes was born on 25 May 1938 in Edinburgh, the son of advocate, historian and future Lord Lyon Sir Thomas Innes of Learney.  His mother was Lady Lucy Buchan, a daughter of the 18th Earl of Caithness, of Auchmacoy House in Aberdeenshire.  He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy before going on to study law at the University of Edinburgh, and was admitted as a Writer to the Signet in 1964.  In 1962, he married Joan Hay, the daughter of Tomas Darling Hay WS, another Edinburgh lawyer, a very happy union blessed with three sons, which continued until Lady Innes’s death in 2013.

As the son of a very high-profile herald, his connection with Scotland’s heraldry and the Court of the Lord Lyon began early and lasted for the rest of his life.  He was appointed Falkland Pursuivant Extraordinary in 1957.  The following year he was advanced to the post of Carrick Pursuivant in Ordinary, and promoted to Marchmont Herald in 1971.  In the meantime, he had been appointed in 1966 to the important executive office of Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records, remaining in post until he succeeded Sir James Monteith Grant as Lord Lyon King of Arms in 1981.  During a period of 20 years in office, he was responsible for some of the most important and far-reaching decisions on the laws of arms of his time, and passed judgement on numerous claims and disputes on the succession to titles and chiefships, including the Earldom of Annandale, the Lordship of Borthwick, and the Dunbar of Mochrum baronetcy.  On his retirement in 2001, he was appointed Orkney Herald Extraordinary, which appointment he retained up to his death.  With 63 years’ continuous service, he was one of the longest serving heralds in the 700-year history of Lyon Office, a record surpassed only by Sir Francis Grant, whose heraldic career spanned 67 years.

His connection with the Court of the Lord Lyon, though, began even earlier.  As early as 1948, he served as Page to his father, the then Lyon, at a Head Court meeting.  There is a famous photograph of him in this capacity, standing alongside Sir Francis Grant, then Albany Herald and his father’s predecessor as Lyon.  In an astonishing example of continuity in office, this shows somebody who was a serving herald until his death this week, alongside a predecessor who was first appointed Carrick Pursuivant by Lord Lyon George Burnett in 1886, 134 years ago.

Sir Malcolm wrote extensively on Scottish heraldry, history and the laws of arms, and published a revised edition of that definitive guide, Scots Heraldry, written by his father, in 1978.  He was heavily involved in the Scottish cultural and historical scene, a founder and later president of the Scottish Genealogy Society and a past president of the Royal Celtic Society, in which capacity he was unfailingly generous with his knowledge, support and advice.

Perhaps his greatest affection, though, was reserved for the Heraldry Society of Scotland, which he helped to found in 1977, serving successive terms of office as secretary, chairman and president.  Lately he was elected Patron of the society, an appointment that brought him great joy in his declining months.  He was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order on his appointment as Lyon in 1981, and knighted 10 years later.

He is survived by his three sons, John of Edingight, Michael of Crommey and Colin of Kinnairdy, and eight grandchildren, who have our heartfelt sympathy.

© Alan Hay 2020