Solicitor and Canadian Consul
Solicitor and Canadian Consul
Born: July 28, 1924; Died: November 30 2013
Loading article content
Duncan James McKichan, who has died aged 89, was an exemplary lawyer although he might have been a scientist had it not been for the interruption of war service.
Born in London of Scottish parents, his father was a regional director of the Post Office whose work took him to various locations. In 1942, he started working towards a biology degree at Downing College, Cambridge, but was called up and joined the RNVR. As a Lieutenant, he served as a navigating officer on motor launches and motor torpedo boats, based first in the English Channel and then in Trincomalee, Ceylon, as it then was. He participated in the landings at Rangoon, fortunately just as the Japanese surrendered. The members of his flotilla were possibly unique in the British services as they qualified for both the D-Day medal and the Burma Star.
Demobbed in 1946, he decided to switch from science to law and chose Scotland, where he had lived as a young boy at Garelochhead with four unmarried aunts, after the early death of his mother. He had also enjoyed summer holidays there, learning to sail with his father and younger brother Alasdair.
He enrolled in the Bachelor of Law course at the University of Glasgow while starting his apprenticeship with Maclay Murray & Spens in Glasgow. Graduating and being admitted as a solicitor in 1950, his promotion to partner in Maclay Murray & Spens followed quickly in 1952. Forty years later he retired in 1992, after unbroken service in one firm of solicitors, a rarity now, particularly in the legal profession.
He was one of the first solicitors in Scotland to specialise in all aspects of property law: from large commercial developments to house sales, from planning applications to estate feus. He co-authored Drafting and Negotiating Commercial Leases in Scotland (1985 and 1993) which became required reading for all involved in commercial property transactions.
DJM, as he was known in the office and beyond, allied a sharp brain to a calm and steady manner. He was punctilious in dealing with detail and achieving the goals set by clients and himself. His quiet courtesy was unfailing but determination was there as well as a welcoming smile. Integrity was paramount for him and valued by all who came into contact with him.
Between 1983 and 1986 he served as Dean of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow. Before and after those years he was an active member of the Conveyancing Committee of the Law Society of Scotland, contributing particularly to the introduction of registration of title to Scotland. He supported the International Bar Association, the largest international group of lawyers, by visiting many countries with his wife Leila and strengthening Scotland's contribution to its vital work. For his services to the legal profession, he was awarded the OBE in 1990.
For the last ten years of his career, he was the senior partner of Maclay Murray & Spens, which had by then expanded into Edinburgh, London and Brussels.
Away from the law, in 1983 he was appointed Honorary Consul for Canada in Glasgow with a territory that included the North of England and Northern Ireland as well as Scotland. For ten years his commitment and diplomacy were unfailing.
The Church of Scotland in Helensburgh was fortunate to benefit from his commercial acumen and patient consistency, as an elder for more than 50 years and as session clerk and chairman of the finance committee of the West Kirk, which was unified with St Columba's to form St Andrew's Kirk in 2011.
As a Governor of St Bride's Girls School in Helensburgh, he helped to create the larger Lomond School in 1977 through the amalgamation of St Bride's with Larchfield Boys Preparatory School. He continued to contribute to the management of the new school in its early years.
He was happiest at home in the house and garden which he and Leila, whom he married in 1959, planned and created in Helensburgh. For over fifty years there has always been a happy, welcoming air at their house, shared in earlier times by their two daughters, Susan and Alison.
Though small in stature, he was a strong swimmer, being in the school team at Solihull. He continued to enjoy swimming regularly in Helensburgh at the local pool until his last two years.
For many years with his love of sailing, the entire family cruised on the west coast of Scotland on the family yachts Tringa and Tiota and a year or so before his death, he achieved a long cherished ambition of setting foot on the island of St Kilda. It was fitting therefore that at his funeral service the congregation was invited to reflect on memories of him while Peter Maxwell Davies' Farewell to Stromness was played on the piano.
Perhaps surprisingly for such a quiet, modest man, he was fascinated by the theatre and enjoyed the limelight in local drama societies for many years. He was a loyal supporter with Leila of the Edinburgh Festival, attending performances there from its beginnings in 1947 right through until 2011.
Highly respected in his profession, his service, kindness and concern for others was truly exceptional.
He is survived by wife Leila, his daughters Sue and Ali and his brother Alasdair who lives in Canada.