Atholl MacGregor

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Atholl MacGregor, Chief Justice of Hong Kong

Sir Alasdair Duncan Atholl MacGregor KC (1883-1945) was a British lawyer and judge. He served as Attorney General in a number of British colonies in the early 20th Century. He was Chief Justice of Hong Kong from 1933 to 1945.

MacGregor's first names[edit]

MacGregor went by the first name Atholl. In many sources this is spelt Athol. However, official announcements, such as his appointment as Chief Justice of Hong Kong, used "Atholl". Some sources also spell his first name Alisdair. Again, official announcements used Alasdair.

Early life[edit]

MacGregor was born in 1883. He attended Edinburgh University where he obtained an M.A. and Lincoln College Oxford where he obtained a B.A.[1] He was called to the bar of Lincoln's Inn in 1909.[2]


MacGregor served as assistant district commissioner of Southern Nigeria from 1912 to 1914.

In 1914 he was appointed a police magistrate at Lagos and served in that position for 8 years. In 1922, he was appointed as crown counsel and solicitor-general of Nigeria and served in that position until 1926. He was transferred to Trinidad in 1926 and then to Kenya in 1929.[3] In both places, he served as the Attorney-General. He was made a King's Counsel in 1927 while serving in Trinidad.[4]

MacGregor and Allan Mossop, Judge of the British Supreme Court for China, in Japan 1935

In 1933 he was appointed Chief Justice of Hong Kong[5] in succession to Joseph Horsford Kemp. As Chief Justice he was reported to "have won golden opinions on the bench where he has displayed abilities of a high order, whilst socially also he has shown himself to be a man of marked charm of personality."[6]

In his capacity as Chief Justice of Hong Kong, he also sat as a member of the Full Court of the British Supreme Court for China in Shanghai.[7]

MacGregor was knighted in 1935.[8] He was made a Commander of the Grand Priory in the British Realm of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in 1940.[9]

Internment by Japanese during World War II[edit]

MacGregor was interned by the Japanese in Stanley Internment Camp from 1941 to 1945. During the time he continued to act as Chief Justice for the internees, including granting a number of divorces.[10]

MacGregor survived the war, but contracted Beriberi in the camp.[11]

His last official act as Chief Justice was to swear in Franklin Charles Gimson as acting Governor of Hong Kong following the Japanese surrender.[12]


MacGregor was carried on to the first hospital ship leaving Hong Kong for England. He died on 17 November 1945 before reaching the Suez and was buried at sea.[13]

A letter to the Straits Times in 1937 when he was in Malaya as Chairman of a committee to study restoration of allowances to Malayan civil servants wrote of him, in what serves as a simple obituary:

"He has rendered fine service to the Empire in various Colonies and has won immense popularity wherever he has served."


  1. ^ The Weekly Notes, Volume 43, p336
  2. ^ The Straits Times, 22 June 1937, Page 17
  3. ^ Times, 17 November 1945
  4. ^ London Gazette, 11 November 1927, p7184
  5. ^ London Gazette, 6 October 1935, p6425
  6. ^ The Straits Times, 22 June 1937, Page 17
  7. ^'s-judicial-gunboats
  8. ^ London Gazette, 16 July 1935, p4601
  9. ^ London Gazette, 21 June 1940, 3777
  10. ^'s-judicial-gunboats
  11. ^ G Emerson, Hong Kong internment, 1942 to 1945: life in the Japanese civilian camp at Stanley, pp25-26
  12. ^ Steve Tsang, A Modern History of Hong Kong, p138
  13. ^ G Emerson, Hong Kong internment, 1942 to 1945: life in the Japanese civilian camp at Stanley, pp25-26