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David Maxwell Walker

Teacher and author.

Born: April 9, 1920; Died: January 5, 2014.

PROFESSOR David Maxwell Walker, who has died aged 93, was one of Scotland's most-respected legal figures of the 20th Century, a teacher and author not only on Scots law but the law in general, as well as on legal education. For more than three decades, he was Regius (Royal) Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow, a chair founded by Queen Anne almost 300 years ago and considered one of the most important legal chairs in the UK. He remained Regius Emeritus Professor until his death.

Colleagues and students described him as a towering figure in Scottish legal education and an intellectual giant who was a major influence on both students and academics of several generations via his teaching and his numerous textbooks. During his early years as a professor at Glasgow, he was the first to introduce full-time law degrees in place of the traditional part-time degrees during which would-be lawyers had to combine their studies with legal practice.

David Maxwell Walker was born in Glasgow to James Walker, a branch manager of Union Bank of Scotland (later to merge with the Bank of Scotland), and Mary Colquhoun Irvine. He attended the High School of Glasgow, at the time on Elmbank Street near Charing Cross station, before going to the University of Glasgow to study classics. His father had died when he was 14.

His university studies were immediately interrupted by the outbreak of war, when he joined up as a non-commissioned officer in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) before being seconded as a Lieutenant to the Highland Light Infantry based in barracks in Maryhill, and eventually the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. He served in the North African campaign alongside Montgomery's Desert Rats and in the Italian campaign, including at the bloody battles for Monte Cassino.

Retiring with the rank of captain, he returned to Glasgow in 1946, seven years after he had interrupted his studies, and graduated MA. After switching from classics to the law, he gained an LLB with distinction from Glasgow in 1948, a PhD from Edinburgh University in 1952, and was called to the Scottish Bar as an advocate. He was called to Middle Temple in London in 1957 as a barrister in English law and was named Queen's Counsel the following year. He also spent a year studying at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies of the University of London.

Back at his old, beloved university, he became Professor of Jurisprudence, later Dean of the Faculty of Law and, in 1958, Regius Professor of Law, a chair he would hold until 1990, when he retired but remained Emeritus Professor. He was an awarded an honorary LLD (Doctor of Laws) degree from Edinburgh in 1974 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) in 1980.

During his career as an advocate, he was fascinated more by civil rather criminal court cases although for 16 years he often served in Glasgow as an honorary sheriff for Lanarkshire.

Having felt there was a shortage of material for students, Prof Walker became noted for his legal textbooks, mostly on Scots Law. He was particularly interested in damages cases and in 1955 wrote a definitive textbook The Law of Damages in Scotland, which became a must-read for students. Among his other most famous books were The Scottish Legal System (1959), Law of Delict in Scotland (1966), The Oxford Companion to Law (1980), Principles of Scottish Private Law (several editions from 1970), Law of Civil Remedies in Scotland (1974), Law of Prescription and Limitation in Scotland (1973), A Legal History of Scotland (seven volumes from 1988) and many other works now stacked on the shelves of students, academics and libraries in Scotland and far beyond.

A statement from Glasgow University said: "His knowledge of law was compendious and unequalled ... the debt owed to him by the Scottish legal profession is immense."

Prof Walker was appointed CBE in 1986. In retirement, he enjoyed reading about Scottish history, collecting rare books and motoring with his wife Margaret. He could also be seen strolling up University Avenue or down by the banks of the Kelvin, gazing up at the University tower while engaging in mind-clearing therapy he described, with his fine knowledge of Latin, as canis ambulatio. To those of us who have forgotten our O-level Latin, it means "walking the dog".

Prof Walker served from 1974 into the new millennium as a governor of his old school, the High School of Glasgow, now on Crow Road, Old Anniesland. Although retired, he also continued research and writing at Glasgow University, a short walk from his home, as an honorary senior research fellow.

He died in the Western infirmary, close to his home. He is survived by his wife Margaret (née Knox), OBE, originally from Brookfield, Renfrewshire, with whom he had hoped to celebrated 60 years of marriage this year.

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