Ian Robertson, Lord Robertson

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Ian MacDonald Robertson (30 October 1912 – 21 July 2005) was a High Court of Justiciary judge who contributed greatly to Scottish law.[1]

Early life[edit]

Robertson was the youngest of six children, born in Edinburgh when his father was already 66. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School between 1926 and 1931 and had an outstanding school career, being appointed a Senior Prefect in his final year. He was also a notable sportsman, captaining the 1st XV rugby union side, and playing for the 1st XI cricket team. He then attended Balliol College, Oxford, following in the footsteps of his older brother Sir James Robertson.

Returning to Scotland he graduated LLB at Edinburgh University in 1937 and served his apprenticeship as a Writer to the Signet with Shepherd and Wedderburn, but soon found his preferred field as an advocate. He regarded his life as having been transformed by meeting Anna Glen, daughter of Judge James Fulton Glen, of Tampa, Florida, United States, at her 21st birthday party at the Gleneagles Hotel. They had one son and two daughters, and shared 63 years of married life before Anna died in 2002.

When World War II broke out Robertson joined the 8th Battalion The Royal Scots, serving first as a weapons instructor. He was later commissioned and as captain and intelligence officer for the 44th Lowland Brigade (15th Scottish Division), he distinguished himself in Normandy and NW Europe and the campaign from D-Day to the end of the war, being mentioned in dispatches. He wrote an account of the action, "From Normandy to the Baltic", printed in Germany before he returned to Britain.


His career as an advocate was soon established. He took silk in 1954, later serving as Sheriff Principal of Ayr and Bute (1961–1966) and then of Perth and Angus (1966). In 1966 he was appointed to the High Court bench.

His friend James Mackay, Baron Mackay of Clashfern said: "He was a meticulous, courteous and diligent judge and a great believer in the reputation of Scots Law. He was sensitive to any interference by the Executive in the work of the Courts."

Notable cases[edit]

Robertson presided over the 1974 case of Jessie McTavish, a Glasgow nurse accused of the murder of one of her patients and the assault of four others. In summing up he neglected to mention her denial of a police claim that she had admitted to mercy killing during an interview. McTavish was convicted but Robertson's omission was used as the basis for an appeal the following year and McTavish's sentence was overturned.[2]

Further positions[edit]

Robertson was also chairman of the Scottish Joint Council for Teachers’ Salaries (1965–1981); an assessor on Edinburgh University Court (1967–1981); chairman of the Edinburgh Centre for Rural Economy (1967–1985); chairman of the Centre of Tropical Veterinary Medicine; and chairman of the Scottish Valuation Advisory Council (1977–1986). The first Scottish judge to be a member of the International Union of Judges, he served for 13 years (1974–1987). He was on the board of governors of Merchiston Castle School 1954-2005 and was chairman 1970-1996.

Robertson also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1988 [3]

He played golf into his eighties, particularly at Muirfield where he was captain from 1970 to 1972. He died on 21 July 2005 at the age of 92.


  1. ^ Peerage News Ian MacDonald Robertson
  2. ^ Nurse who inspired Colin Norris - Telegraph
  3. ^ webperson@hw.ac.uk. "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". www1.hw.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-04.