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Bobby Younger

Former sheriff of Glasgow and Strathkelvin and member of the Younger brewing and political dynasty;

Born: September 25, 1940; Died: December 23, 2012.

Bobby Younger, who has died aged 72, was a greatly respected Scottish lawyer, both as an advocate, and then as a sheriff – of Glasgow and Strathkelvin from 1979 to 1982, and of Tayside Central and Fife from 1982 to 2004.

At the Bar, he acted chiefly for the defence in criminal cases, combining an acute grasp of the law with an instinctive, though never sentimental, sympathy for the underdog. Resourceful, resolute and fearless in advocacy, he afforded the best help available to those who had fallen foul of authority.

Similarly, as a sheriff, while never deceived, he was always courteous and patient, determined that the accused should receive every assistance that was due. If he sentenced a man to prison it was universally recognised that there could have been no alternative available. Indeed, the imprisoned were sometimes known, on release, to approach their erstwhile sentencer in Stirling in order to tell him how they were doing.

Mr Younger was equally conscientious in civil cases, taking immense pains to ensure that a just settlement was reached. On a point of principle he would never compromise, although there was always a captivating twinkle in his conversation. Deeply charming, he attracted a legion of friends, each of whom found in him a special response. His generosity, alike of purse and of spirit, knew no bounds.

Robert Edward Gilmour Younger was the youngest of four children of the 3rd Viscount Younger of Leckie, a member of the family that owned the brewers George Younger & Son that eventually became part of Caledonian Breweries. The family were also involved in politics: Bobby's uncle Kenneth Younger was a minister in Clement Attlee's Labour government and Bobby's eldest brother George served under Mrs Thatcher, successively as Secretary of State for Scotland and for Defence.

The family background, though never solemn, was distinctly puritan. Bobby Younger liked to recall that his father, a talented pianist, hardly ever sat down at the keyboard because he enjoyed it so much. Even for the youngest son, there could be no question of a frivolous existence.

He was educated at Winchester, where he showed great prowess as a cross-country runner. Early in 1958, however, he suffered a terrible accident when someone added methylated spirits to an already lighted Primus stove. The liquid exploded on to him, and he was left burning for a horrifically long time before the flames could be extinguished.

He very nearly died, and might well have done but for a woollen tie which proved curiously nonflammable, and saved a vital portion of skin around his neck. Subsequently he profited from the expertise of Sir Archibald McIndoe, who had treated pilots burnt in the Battle of Britain. Several operations were required, not least to restore his face.

After school, he spent a year in Australia and New Zealand. Particularly in the latter country, he continued to recover psychologically as he lost himself in another world, repairing manhole covers and working in a pea cannery. At a farm on South Island, the owner was so good to him that he almost did not return to Britain.

In 1960, he went up to New College, Oxford, where he read modern history. Rowing now took the place of cross-country running, and he was a member of a successful College VIII.

At this stage he was under the influence of his uncle Kenneth Younger, whose reaction against the general run of family Toryism he shared. Having decided for a career in the law he worked hard at his studies in Edinburgh and Glasgow, though at first without any overwhelming enthusiasm. He would continue with the law, he jested at the time, until he liked it, and then give it up.

Fortunately for everyone, including himself, he did not stick to this whimsical plan. He began practising as an advocate in 1968, and in a short time became a notable figure at the Scottish Bar. His appointment as sheriff in 1979, when he was 39, came unusually early in his career.

In 1972 he married Helen Hayes, and together they carried out a splendid restoration of Old Leckie, a derelict 16th-century tower house on the Younger estate, some seven miles west of Stirling. Subsequently they ran a livestock farm. They made a wonderful team and were always at the centre of each other's lives.

However pressed, Mr Younger was always ready to help charities with his legal advice. He served on the committee which distributed the funds raised after the Dunblane massacre in 1996, and for the charitable trust which maintains Gargunnock House near Stirling.

Amidst all his labours, though, he never failed to find time to entertain friends, who might have been forgiven for imagining he had not a care in the world, so relaxed and delightful was his company. He was also a ready, fluent and entertaining letter writer, whose communications perfectly reflected his quirky intelligence.

His bonhomie was not extinguished even in his last 18 months, when he was bent double by bone disease, and finally afflicted by myelodisplasia, which destroyed his blood cells. Nevertheless he was still able to walk his collies in the week before he died. He is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son.

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