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Lilian Carmichael

Solicitor, journalist and lecturer

Solicitor, journalist and lecturer

Born: April 8, 1924; Died: February 1, 2014.

Lilian Carmichael, who has died aged 89, was a lawyer, journalist and lecturer who was in the vanguard of practising women solicitors in Scotland. She trained in Glasgow and was a lecturer at Edinburgh College of Commerce, later Napier University. For a time, she was also a freelance journalist in Africa.

She was born in Dunoon, the only child of Duncan Campbell of Colonsay and Mary Macfarlane of South Uist, and was the grand-niece of Donald Macfarlane, author of The Second Disruption of 1893 and founder of the Free Presbyterian Church.

Her childhood home in Dunoon was a magnet for islanders and churchmen where she would eavesdrop on many a theological debate. It was also a place of music, laughter and lively conversation and it was where she learned to value hospitality and devotion above denomination.

From an early age, she demonstrated self-sufficiency and an adventurous spirit - search parties were mounted for her on more than one occasion. Absconding once from relatives in Greenock, she caused particular consternation on both sides of the Clyde - her host was governor of Greenock Prison.

She excelled at Dunoon Grammar School and was a gifted mezzo-soprano and later contemplated a professional singing career. Eventually, she pursued academic interests instead.

The war years were a rude awakening. In 1939, her home was requisitioned and she later watched the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders leave for France, witnessed the Clydebank blitz from her bedroom window, and glimpsed the secret departure of the Queen Elizabeth on her maiden dash for the safety of New York. She would lie awake at night listening for the boom defence between the Cloch Lighthouse and the Gantocks to close, the ships safely in. She bore the loss of close friends and waited anxiously for her father, delighting one Christmas in his return from an Arctic convoy and his demonstration of the Cossack dance.

She enrolled at Glasgow University in 1943 and studied zoology under the inspirational professor CM Yonge before graduating with an MA in moral philosophy and economics and then an LLB in 1949. She helped to run the university's Philosophical Society, Juridical Society and Christian Union and was the Scottish Women's Representative for the Inter Varsity Fellowship. Attractive and vivacious, her admirers included some who became prominent churchmen. She graciously side-tracked them, though, explaining later: "No way was I going to be a minister's wife!"

She completed her apprenticeship as a trainee solicitor with the Glasgow firms MacKinnon, Ballantyne & Hurll and Kidstons & Co Writers. In 1951, with a Carnegie Research Scholarship, she accepted an invitation to study international law at the University of Leiden, thereby reviving a centuries-old academic link with the Netherlands. Her subject was international legislation and drugs of addiction.

In 1952, she met her future husband at a Christian conference by Loch Lomond. William Carmichael was a conservationist in the Colonial Forest Service on study leave from East Africa. In 1955, they married and settled in Tanganyika, first in the foothills of Kilimanjaro and later on the shores of Lake Victoria. Life was enriched by friendships forged among strangers from all over the world.

She taught English in the country and became a freelance journalist, writing numerous articles on life in East Africa, photographing elephants alongside Iain Douglas Hamilton and covering Princess Margaret's royal visit in 1956. She also reported the Tanganyika Rifles mutiny of 1964. Her two children held firmly by the hand and a Rollieflex around her neck, she infiltrated Tabora airport to record the arrival of low-flying Sea Vixens and a rescue party of Royal Marines deployed from Aden.

In the late 1960s, the family relocated to Edinburgh, where she worked as a solicitor with Bryson & Davie. Her first legal patch had included the Gorbals and in Edinburgh she shocked her senior partner by climbing over walls, Glaswegian style, to do her surveys. In 1970, she was appointed a lecturer at Edinburgh College of Commerce, later Napier University, where she relished teaching and worked beyond retirement age.

In 1972, she finally became "the minister's wife", wholeheartedly supporting her husband in his new calling as minister of Restalrig Parish Church. She maintained her lifelong hospitality, keeping the manse doors open to all, while she juggled work, church and family.

In retirement, the couple spent time on Colonsay creating a garden and enjoying friends. As her husband's health failed, she devoted herself to his care and encouragement. After he died in 2000, and despite failing eyesight, she turned to editing his East African diaries and writing her own memoirs as a keepsake for the family.

Physical infirmity in no way diminished her spirit or her appreciation of friends, family and visitors. She was a great storyteller but she was also a great listener, patiently and persistently encouraging others. Her life was an adventure of faith marked by courage, contentment, grace and gratitude.

She died at home and is buried on the island of Colonsay. She is survived by her children Donald and Mary and her four grandchildren.

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