Sheriff A B (Sandy) Wilkinson KC

Born: February 2, 1932

Died: January 17, 2023

Alexander Birrell Wilkinson (known to his friends and colleagues as Sandy) was born in 1932. After education at Perth Academy he won a scholarship to study at St Andrews University, graduating with a first class honours degree in Classics. After national service he studied law at Edinburgh University with a view to being called to the Bar. He passed advocate in 1959.

In 1969 he changed his career by becoming a sheriff, sitting in Stirling and Alloa. But having already been a part-time lecturer in Scots law at Edinburgh University he went on to take the unusual course of moving between judicial office and academic work. In 1972 he took up the chair of Private Law at Dundee University.

He provided not only academic strength and leadership, but was able to handle challenges with tact and consideration for others. He served for two periods as Dean of the Faculty of Law. In 1986 he returned to the sheriff court, sitting successively at Falkirk, Glasgow and Edinburgh until 2001. During that time he was Vice-President, and then President, of the Sheriffs’ Association. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1993, and sat as a Temporary Judge in the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary until 2003.

Alongside this work Sandy made a significant contribution to legal literature in Scotland, in particular as co-author, along with Kenneth McKenzie Norrie, of The Law relating to Parent and Child in Scotland. His interest in the welfare of children and families extended to his chairmanship of the Central Scotland Marriage Council, and later the Scottish Marriage Guidance Council. He was for some years a director of the Scottish Child Law Centre and a director of Birthlink, a charity promoting the welfare of persons affected by adoption.

Sandy had a deep ecumenical faith. He became increasingly interested in the liturgy and the form of service in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and was confirmed in that Church. He was a very committed member and held in high regard. He held office as Chancellor of the Diocese of Brechin, and later that of Argyll and the Isles.

He had a very enquiring mind. His interests extended to world affairs, world faiths and philosophy. He became very interested in the writings of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst and philosopher. For many years he took part enthusiastically in discussions and reading groups devoted to them. All this he achieved despite increasing deafness which became profound in his later years.

Sandy was a very private man. Whatever he said had been deeply thought through. Throughout his life he was loved and admired for his wisdom, patience and quiet humanity. Many were grateful to him for his wise and helpful advice in times of trouble.

In 1965 he married Wendy Barrett, from Northern Ireland, who had come to Edinburgh to train as a social worker. He died on 17 January 2023, survived by Wendy, and their married children Jenni and Alan.