Sheriff Principal; Born November 30, 1934; Died April 28, 2007. Sheriff Principal John Maguire, who has died in Perth, sat with distinction on the shrieval bench in Scotland for slightly more than 30 years. He believed deeply in contributing broadly to society and did notable voluntary work for disabled children.

He was chairman of the Northern Lighthouse Board and led the Scottish section of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. He was Sheriff at Airdrie from 1968 to 1973, Sheriff at Glasgow from 1973 to 1990 and Sheriff Principal of Tayside Central & Fife from 1990 to 1998.

John Maguire was born in 1934 in Kirkintilloch. He was the youngest of nine children and his father was a partner in the well-known Glasgow firm of solicitors Maguire Cook. He was educated at St Ninian's, Kirkintilloch, and St Mary's College, Blairs.

During the Second World War he remembered watching from his bedroom window the pink glow of the sky over Clydebank as it burned from a bomb attack. The front lawn of the family house was converted into a potato field and hens were kept to supplement the rations.

He studied for the priesthood in Rome, but decided against ordination and returned to Scotland to study law at Edinburgh University. He credited his time in Rome with teaching him how to think. His Catholic faith, although lightly worn, was deeply important to him. He became the Lieutenant of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in Scotland, and his leadership is credited with reviving the Order, which funds churches and schools in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

As a Sheriff, he had a reputation as a fair and courteous judge. He was a constant source of support and advice for newly appointed Sheriffs. I remember he said to me on appointment: "Welcome aboard; I am sure you will enjoy the work, but remember, it is a great privilege to be a Sheriff - don't abuse it - and always treat others as you would wish to be treated."

John Maguire brought a deep sense of duty to the administration of justice. He was widely respected by his professional colleagues and known for his dry sense of humour. He was popular, not only with his peers, but also with members of the bar and the court staff. He gently chided a junior colleague who, in one view, was getting too big for his boots: "No-one's indispensable - there are always other injuns' coming over the hill".

In the Sheriff's common-room in Glasgow, he was regularly sought out for advice, which he never volunteered but gave freely and wisely when asked. He was a shrewd judge who did not parade his learning, but had a sure and instinctive grasp of the law.

He delivered thoughtful and, on some occasions, slightly unexpected solutions to problems, betraying an inner kindness that refused to be conquered by cynicism when faced with persistent criminality. In Glasgow he involved himself particularly with social work issues and dealing with adoptions. He found dealing with adoption applications to be the most agonising and challenging part of his judicial work.

He was also known for a disarming frankness and a ready wit. When court officers could not produce a prisoner for a hearing at the time of prison disturbances in Glasgow, he suggested they try the roof.

Promotion to Sheriff Principal brought him to Perth. He made with ease the difficult transition from a busy urban court to the 10 smaller courts over which he presided in his new Sheriffdom. He was a born administrator and a fine appellate judge.

He was never formidable but, with his Sheriffs, ran a tight ship, ensuring high morale among the 20 Sheriffs in the Sheriffdom.

He presided over three Fatal Accident Inquiries involving the emotive subject of death in custody at Cornton Vale Prison. His criticisms of poor training and inadequate procedures led to a reform of the way women prisoners were treated in Scotland.

As a Sheriff Principal, he became a commissioner of the Northern Lighthouse Board, which administers Scotland's lighthouses. Such was the esteem in which he was held by his colleagues that he was appointed chairman of the board from 1995 to 1997.

This was one of his proudest achievements, and he greatly enjoyed the voyages to inspect remote facilities.

Although he had to retire as Sheriff Principal in 1998 owing to ill-health, he was subsequently fit enough to become a part-time member of the Parole Board for Scotland, where he continued to give sound and sage advice.

John Maguire found great satisfaction in his career on the bench. His sense of duty and obligation to society moved him to give much of his free time to those less fortunate than himself. He spent many hours in voluntary work, particularly with the disabled.

With his wife Eva he co-founded Phew, a respite care service and he was chairman of the advisory committee for Dundee's White Top Foundation, a research and care centre. He served on the Board of St Philip's Approved School and chaired his district Boy Scouts movement.

When they moved to Perth, John Maguire and his wife Eva were much missed by their Glasgow friends, particularly at the Sheriffs' Tennis Club, where play could be described as enthusiastic rather than skillful. Memories are still vivid of John playing in long white flannels, and of his rendition of Danny Boy which he sang each year with the late Sheriff Archie Mackay at the Tennis Club Dinner.

While reading and gardening were his hobbies, his passion in later life was long-distance train journeys. He travelled across America and criss-crossed Europe by rail, visiting his son in Poland and reaching Greece. Much of the entertainment for him was in plotting routes through the study of timetables and rail schedules. He is survived by Eva, to whom he was devoted, four children and four grandchildren. The words of Simon Grellet come to mind when reflecting on John Maguire: I expect to pass through this world but once Any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to a fellow being Let me do it now Let me not defer or neglect it - I may not pass this way again That, to my mind, sums up John Maguire.

Brian A Lockhart