Born: March 29, 1937; Died: December 9, 2012.
Bob Henderson QC was a unique spirit in the Scottish scene. I first encountered him 50 years ago in the two rooms known as The Juridical Library, an outpost of the Advocates' Library on the corner of George Street and Charlotte Square, where the Faculty of Advocates provided a quiet haven where advocates could sit all night researching the law and preparing for the next forensic encounter.
But it wasn't all work. The couple who acted as caretakers used to bring us coffee and biscuits and we would break off for irreverent gossip. And I must confess that at half past nine some of us would sneak out to Scotts bar in Rose Street to seek fresh inspiration.
Bob frequently came to the Juridical Library when he was "devilling" to Ian Stewart, later Lord Allanbridge. He was immediately impressive as a powerful personality with a mind of his own and no undue sense of subservience towards the establishment. So he had no hesitation in joining in the chat and the mocking of our elders and betters.
Bob was already an accomplished golfer and pianist, and he was well read. He had the qualities that would enable him to succeed as an advocate in the highest courts. He was self confident, fluent with a commanding speaking voice and a capacity that marked his career at the Bar for going straight to the heart of the matter in language that was clear, unambiguous and positive.
From my later perspective as a judge, particularly when sitting with a jury, it was a joy when Bob walked into court and announced he was appearing as counsel for the defence: the lights seemed to shine a little brighter. You knew there were going to be very few dull moments. He had a gift for recognising that a good point could be made in one clear short question. So you quickly learned to listen: he was not going to repeat and elaborate till you were sick of hearing it. Juries appreciated this was a lawyer who was not going to waste their time, a lawyer who would not treat them like dummies who needed to be given repeated glimpses of the obvious. So they listened.
And judges did the same: they knew from experience that Bob's forensic motto might have been borrowed from television's 'Allo, 'Allo!: "I shall say this only once." That, and his personal charm, gave him a popularity with his colleagues and with the Bench that stood him in good stead when, as happened occasionally, he blotted his copybook. Somehow Bob's blots were made with rainbow-coloured ink and he emerged from various scrapes perhaps a little wiser but not in the least diminished in spirit. The strengths of his character more than compensated for the faults.
It was a sad day when Bob announced his fortune was to be sought elsewhere and he went off to Dubai to seek it. He found it. On his return, well timed to avoid the depression, he bought a lovely mansion house in south-eest France with delightful grounds. There he built a first-class tennis court, an excellent swimming pool and a cellar of well-chosen wines. He also turned the older buildings into first-class accommodation for visitors.
The first purpose was to welcome and entertain his and Carolyn's friends. Bob, though living away from Edinburgh for some years, kept in touch with all the news. He loved Edinburgh and he had many happy years in Gullane and playing golf at Muirfield: he missed it all but he kept his memories alive. I remember sitting with him until the wee sma' hours, hearing his trenchant views about people, politics and events that he felt so strongly about. But, caustic or dismissive, he was free of malice.
His second purpose in developing his lovely French estate was to build a resort that could be easily managed and would provide some security for the years ahead. The tragedy is that those years were cut so suddenly and dramatically short.
Our thoughts go out to Carolyn. If the loss of Bob means so much to us, we can hardly imagine how empty these coming days must be for Carolyn; this is clear: we all, with Carolyn, continue to share and treasure the warmth and the excitement that Bob radiated so generously.
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