William Roy Sanderson

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Very Rev Dr William Roy Sanderson DD (1907–2008) was a Scottish minister who served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1967. In 1961 he had organised the first meeting between a moderator and the pope.[1] He was chaplain in ordinary to Queen Elizabeth ii in Scotland.


Barony Church, Glasgow
interior Barony Church

He was born on 23 September 1907 at Talbot House, 216 Ferry Road in Leith, the son of William Sanderson (killed in Gallipoli in 1916), a prominent local whisky distiller and founder of William Sanderson & Co., creators of VAT 69 whisky. Although initially known as William, he dropped this name to disassociate from the family association with whisky and in later life was known simply as Roy Sanderson. He was educated at Cargilfield Preparatory School, then Edinburgh Academy and Fettes College. He studied modern classics at Oxford University, graduating in 1929, but then returned to Edinburgh University (close to his home in Leith) to study divinity.[2]

In 1933 he was ordained as assistant at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. In 1935 he was given his first church: St Andrews Church in Lochgelly, Fife. In 1939 he was translated to Barony, Glasgow, replacing Rev John White. The church was second in rank in that city only to Glasgow Cathedral. In the Second World War he served as a chaplain in St Malo in France but had to be evacuated at Dunkirk. He served as an air raid warden in Kelvinside during the Clydebank Blitz. Glasgow University awarded him an honorary doctorate (DD) in 1959. In 1963, after 24 years in Glasgow, he moved to serve the combined parishes of Whittingehame and Stenton, in East Lothian.

From 1960 to 1965 he was convenor of the church panel on doctrine and served as both leader and convenor of the General Assembly from 1965 to 1970, technically pausing these duties for his period as Moderator 1967/8. He was influential in the ordination of female ministers and helped Mary Levison achieve her position as the Church of Scotland's first female minister. From 1961 to 1971 he advised both BBC Scotland and Scottish Television on religious affairs. He was a Governor of Fettes College 1967 to 1977.[3]

He retired to North Berwick and died in Dunbar on 19 June 2008, aged 100.

The Barony Church was deconsecrated and now forms part of Strathclyde University.


In 1941 he married Muriel Easton in Glasgow. They had three sons and two daughters.


Sanderson married Leo Blair to his first wife Hazel. They went on to be the parents of Tony Blair.[4]