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Appreciation: Angus McLean

19 March 07

Obituary of one of the original members of the Law Society of Scotland's Council, a family solicitor in Dunoon

by James McLean

Angus McLean was brought up in Dunoon and educated at Dunoon Grammar School and Glasgow University, where he graduated BL. He completed his law apprenticeship and was admitted as a solicitor in 1934, returning to Dunoon as an assistant with Stewart and Bennet. In 1939 he joined the Royal Artillery. He rose through the ranks and was commissioned and posted to India. There he served as Staff Captain Legal and then Major, becoming a fluent Urdu speaker.

On demobilisation Angus returned to Dunoon. After a brief return to Stewart and Bennet he acquired a legal practice in 1949 and carried on business as Corrigall, Ritchie & McLean, initially on his own and later in partnership. He was an enthusiastic early adopter of new technology (such as, in the 1950s, the “dictating machine” and, in the 1960s, the electrostatic photocopier), and he streamlined document production with proforma styles of his own devising. He was appointed honorary sheriff-substitute in 1965.

His legal practice was that of the classic country town family solicitor of his era – ranging from defending alleged offenders, through “sheep deliveries” (on the transfer of farms), to counselling clients through the crises of life and taking steps to ensure their comfort and security in their later years. He was able to work closely with other local decision-makers (bank managers, accountants, doctors and clergy), all of whom had sufficient discretionary powers to enable them to co-operate in doing what needed to be done. The system of scale charging for conveyancing and executries (since abolished as not economically correct) ensured that the caring service obligations undertaken by this type of legal practice were adequately cross-subsidised.

On the establishment of the Law Society of Scotland in 1949, Angus was elected to represent Argyll on its first Council, remaining the representative until his retirement. He served on a number of committees, including that which reported on sheriff court practice in the period leading up to the Sheriff Courts Act 1971. Along with the late Jimmy Sutherland, he was delegated to be a Society observer to a training weekend held by the Institute of Chartered Accountants. The concept impressed them both, so the venue was booked for the Society for the following year. Council approved the initiative and this was followed by the establishment of Post-Qualifying Legal Education (now Update).

Outside interests were many and varied: civic life (including the Dunoon Swimming Bath fund which he co-founded), Rotary, gardening, motoring and family.

In 1977, Angus retired from practice and moved to Edinburgh. In retirement he was able to devote time to his interest in the local history of Cowal and Argyll, researching and writing a number of pamphlets and books including “Chronicles of Cowal”. His legal experience, together with his knowledge of local title documents and the landscape, enabled him to extract the maximum information from old documents and provide fresh insights.

Angus McLean is survived by his wife since 1946, Celia (Cis), his son, daughter and three grandchildren.