Author, soldier, horticulturalist and chairman of the Scottish Land Court; Born Septermber, 6 1922; Died August 9, 2008.

Lord Elliott, who has died aged 85, was the wise and generous law lord best known as chairman of the Scottish Land Court. His work in adjudication on land rights took him to some of the remotest parts of Scotland, and no matter that his court might convene in a church annexe or village hall, Lord Elliott would don his robes and maintain the dignity of his office and calling.

But Archie Elliott was primarily a communicator, and beneath the outward severity lay a human being at once sagacious, humorous and learned.

Walter Archibald Elliott was born in London, son of the physician Prof T R Elliott and his wife Martha McCosh (of the family behind the Coatbridge company of Lanarkshire Iron & Coal). The young Elliott might have had a comfortable enough upbringing but for the stern attention paid to education and self-improvement from his parents. By the time they had commissioned the tower house of Broughton Place in Peeblesshire from the young Basil Spence in 1938, their 16-year-old son's Eton education had been supplemented by such a thorough grounding in horticulture that he knew garden plants by their Latin names, gaining a lifelong love of gardening that made his final home in Fairmilehead, Edinburgh, such a floral delight.

He had a distinguished war, commissioned into the Scots Guards and seeing action in the Western Desert, Italy and France. He landed at Salerno three days after his 21st birthday, was captured, and escaped to take part in the fighting of Monte Cassino and the eventual push into north-west Europe, gaining a Military Cross for valorous leadership, ending the war as staff captain.

After completing his interrupted law degree at Cambridge, Elliott was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates and, as a member of the Bow Group, pursued Conservative politics seriously enough to stand for the party three times. His final effort, in Leith in 1970, failed by just 400 votes.

His grasp of the wider world saw him elevated to the presidency of the Edinburgh-based Scottish Lands Tribunal for two decades from 1971, where a principal task proved chairing a public inquiry into Edinburgh's then hotly disputed ring road. He succeeded the widely popular Lord Birsay (Harald Leslie QC) as chairman of the separate Scottish Land Court in 1978, with the confession that he might be "unable to match him for colourful experience" - a reference to the time Birsay, who habitually wore the kilt, stepped up to his waist in a bog, later recounting that he "looked for all the world like a stranded tartan water lily".

Elliott's war experiences deeply moved him and, more than half a century later, he produced Esprit de Corps, an account in which he explained how the realities of war change people. This journal led to Us and Them: A Study of Group Consciousness (1987) in which he promulgated the theory that group identity existed mainly through opposition to a rival group. It proved a book which illustrated his deeply held convictions of fairness and what is right, and reflected the spirit of decency which imbued his own life.

Lord Elliott is survived by his wife Susan (née Ross) and their sons Peter and Michael. BY GORDON CASELY