Robert Colquhoun Hay: RIP

It is with great sadness that we report the death earlier this month of Sheriff Robert Hay, CBE, WS, the former Commissioner of Clan Hay, aged 86.

A native of Stirling, where his father practiced as a dental surgeon, Bob was born in 1933 and studied law at the University of Edinburgh.  After graduation, he practiced as a solicitor before serving as Deputy Procurator Fiscal of the City of Edinburgh from 1963 to 1968.  He then returned to private practice for a further eight years before entering the judiciary, where he was to spend the rest of a long and distinguished legal career.

Bob's first judicial appointment was as Chairman of Industrial Tribunals for Scotland, of which he became President in 1981.  Three years later, he was appointed a temporary sheriff, an role which proved to be a precursor to his appointment as Sheriff Principal of North Strathclyde in 1989.  He would remain in that position until his retirement in 1998.  His contribution was recognised after his retirement when he was appointed Honorary Sheriff of Dumbarton.

{Bob was always a pains to point out, especially to our transatlantic cousins, that in Scotland a sheriff is not, in fact, a policeman, but a judge.  The role of sheriff dates back to the reforms initiated by the Canmore Kings of Scots in the 12th century and today, the Sheriff Court handles the overwhelming majority of litigation in Scotland.  It has a wide civil and criminal jurisdiction, with each region under the direction of a Sheriff Principal, who is primarily an appeal judge.  This is a very senior position in Scotland and during Bob's term as Commissioner of Clan Hay, it was a source of some amusement that, as Sheriff Principal, he outranked the Lord High Constable, his Chief!}

Bob Hay's interests outside his professional career were wide ranging.  He was a keen sailor, touring the coastline and islands of the west in the yacht he kept on Loch Long (although, like most yachtsmen, he seemed to spend more time tinkering with his boat than sailing it....)  He was for many years a Commissioner of the Northern Lighthouse Board, chairing that august body from 1992-93.  He retained his academic interest in the law, writing on those aspects of it that he knew particularly well and he was one of the contributors to the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, that ultimate repository of all that is known of Scots law.  He was very authoritative on matters of history and heritage and was a most effective Commissioner of Clan Hay from 1995 to 2002.  During that time, he comprehensively re-ordered the Clan Hay Society to bring it into the new century and it is to him that we owe the current Clan Hay Journal, which he edited himself, taking it from a basic newsletter to the splendid publication we know today.

He is survived by Olive, his wife of 61 years, and by their two sons and two daughters, to whom we send our deepest sympathy.

NB: Please would those who knew Bob note that the family has specifically asked that no letters or cards be sent.