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Appreciation: William Denys Cathcart Andrews

19 August 19

Obituary of a former President of the Law Society of Scotland and partner in Shepherd & Wedderburn

by Tom Drysdale

Denys Andrews, who died on 1 July at the age of 88, was one of the leading conveyancing practitioners of his generation. He played an important part in the introduction of registration of title and was a member of the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. He was also a respected President of the Law Society of Scotland.

Denys was born in Girvan, Ayrshire, on 3 June 1931, the fourth son of Eugene Andrews, a Girvan solicitor, and his wife Agnes Armstrong. He was educated at Girvan Academy, Worksop College in Nottinghamshire and the University of Edinburgh, graduating as a Bachelor of Law in 1950. After National Service he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by serving his apprenticeship in Shepherd & Wedderburn. He stayed with the firm and was assumed as a partner in 1962. He quickly built up a wide general practice, specialising in conveyancing and property law. He was admitted as a Writer to the Signet in 1964, and in 1987 he was elected to the office-bearing post of fiscal of the WS Society, which he held until his retiral from practice in 1991.

Denys joined the Council of the Law Society of Scotland in 1972 and rapidly made his mark. Kenneth Pritchard, secretary of the Society at the time, recalls: “Denys was anxious to get things done. He became convener of the Conveyancing Committee, of the Advisory Committee on Registration of Title and of the Guarantee Fund Committee. In the latter role he was responsible for introducing new and tougher accounts rules for solicitors.” He was elected Vice President of the Society in 1977 and President for 1978-79. He was appointed a CBE in 1980.

It was after he stepped down as President that Denys made perhaps his greatest contribution to the law, working on behalf of the profession in close liaison with Registers of Scotland in preparing for the introduction of registration of title. A joint committee of the Registers and the Society published a comprehensive practice book on the subject in 1981. In the foreword, David Williamson, Keeper of the Registers at the time, commented: “Matters of procedure have been elaborated in a spirit of amity and co-operation and this practice book… is the fruit of our joint labours... The work of editing, a task of considerable magnitude, has been undertaken by Mr W.D.C. Andrews and the Registers members of the committee. All members of the committee wish to pay special tribute to Mr Andrews, for on him has fallen a great deal of the labour of re-arranging, adjusting, rewriting and questioning, to all of which he has brought his admirable qualities of mind and application.”

In 1980, Denys was appointed a part time legal member of the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. Alistair MacLeary, a longstanding surveyor member of the tribunal, said: “Denys was quite a character. I remember particularly his fund of stories about his career in law. More significantly, his knowledge of property law was remarkable and his intelligence and considerable experience enabled him to analyse the subject and lead him unerringly to the answer.”

Despite all these external commitments, Denys continued to make a significant contribution to Shepherd & Wedderburn’s practice. During the 1980s, he and his team acted in a number of major property transactions, such as the development of the
St Enoch Centre in Glasgow.

He was the client partner for SSEB (South of Scotland Electricity Board), and played a key role in the privatisation of the electricity industry in Scotland, with input to the enabling legislation and leading to the establishment of Scottish Power. Nick Ryden, who worked closely with Denys and was until recently a senior Shepherd & Wedderburn partner, remembers him with affection. “He was my mentor and I was privileged to have benefited from his legal knowledge. His approach to the law was thorough but blessed with an element of fun.”

Although Denys’s professional career was based in Edinburgh, throughout his life he retained ties with Ayrshire, with a house at Lendalfoot and retiring to Auchairne, near Ballantrae, where he and his beloved wife May restored the walled garden with great care and devotion. He is survived by May, their four children Caroline, Patrick, Martin and Alison, and 13 grandchildren.  

Tom Drysdale 

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