William Ridley Morton Murdoch MA, LLB, CBE,

DSC and Bar, VRD, OstJ, RNR 1939-45, Capt RNVR 1959; born May 17, 1917, died July 31, 2000

MORTON - to his many friends, and in Gairloch ''the Sheriff'', made signal contributions to Scotland in many spheres.

Born in Glasgow, educated at Kelvinside Academy and Glasgow University, he followed the law, the fourth generation of his family to do so. The Second World War showed his courage, daring, leadership, and administrative ability. He served on the destroyer Paladin, mostly in

the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. Morton had a

distinguished and adventurous naval record.

In December 1941, as lieutenant on watch, alerted by the newly installed radar he gave the order full astern in the nick of time to prevent Paladin running on to the treacherous rocks of Sule Skerry off Orkney.

In 1942 he acted as anaesthetist - after one hour's training - in operations on survivors of the cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall, sunk by Japanese bombers off the coast of Ceylon.

In summer 1942 Malta was close to starvation. Paladin, continuously bombed and threatened by the Italian fleet, took part in an abortive attempt to run in food; later it was successful. On February 17, 1943, Paladin depth-charged U-boat 205, which was boarded although it was sinking, and the confidential codes and wireless set, with vital information for the Allies, were removed from the commander's safe.

Post-war life in the family law firm in Glasgow could have been dull, but others knew his worth; he served as a director of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce (1955-71) and as Dean of the Faculty of Procurators (1968-71), all while raising a family and finding time to serve the Church of Scotland, an abiding commitment, as an elder and as Session Clerk of the Baldernock Parish Church. Later in Gairloch, where he was a benefactor of the local church, he was to research and write up its history on its bicentenary. In 1971 he was invited to be Sheriff of Ross and Cromarty, a post he held until 1978.

On moving to Gairloch, Morton and Sylvia embarked on a long held ambition: a cultural museum for the parish. The Gairloch Heritage Society was founded, a museum under its control in 1977, with Morton as chairman.

They, with a band of volunteers, formed the museum just in time. Old schools, shops, and oral history were vanishing, and the museum became the natural repository for the best artefacts. But he did not only organise: the beautiful working models in the museum now were made in winters on his desk at home.

Years of sailing the west coast of Scotland and his years on

the bench, based in Dingwall from 1971, gave Morton a deep understanding of northern Scotland, used to good account as a member of the Council and then of the Executive of the National Trust for Scotland.

He believed in the highest standards. When he spoke it was from an impeccable brief: he did not go to meetings to lose his case, and rarely did. To attend an AGM of the Gairloch Heritage Society conducted by him was to experience a distinct whiff of the rigour of the quarterdeck or of the bench.

By the mid-nineties Aird House and its garden became difficult to manage, so Morton and Sylvia moved to a delightful seaside cottage in Gairloch, bought many years before with wise foresight. Leaving a charming, extensive garden, they fashioned a jewel of a small intensive one.

Morton Murdoch, sailor, man of the law, and innovator, was also a very private person, devoted to his family. His wife Sylvia, children William and Morven, and two grandsons survive him.

Douglas Henderson