Born: December 25, 1939;

Died June 23, 2019

Noel McPartlin, who has died aged 79 was Scotland’s longest serving Sheriff when he retired from Elgin Sheriff Court in 2011 following 28 years in office. Initially a temporary Sheriff, he received a permanent appointment at Peterhead and Banff in 1983, thereafter sitting in Elgin, Edinburgh and Elgin again. After retirement he continued part time till 2014 when he had to retire compulsorily aged 75 despite being keen to continue.

Such was the high regard in which he was held by officialdom that it was jokingly suggested to him ‘to doctor’ his birth certificate to allow him do so. Everyone connected with the court system held him in the highest regard, including prosecutors, defence lawyers, police officers, litigants, office staff and often those sentenced by him.

In a position seldom linked with popularity for obvious reasons, Noel was an exception to the rule. He treated everyone with respect, courtesy and patience, wearing his considerable learning lightly. His pleasant, non intimidatory manner made court appearances less of an ordeal and encouraged the constructive articulation of competing interests. With his astute legal brain, sense of fairness, compassion and occasional dash of humour, he achieved the difficult balance of dispensing justice effectively while retaining goodwill and respect. He was an exemplar of the ideal holder of judicial office, an excellent role model whose attributes merit incorporation in training manual modules.

Having graduated M.A., LL.B. from Edinburgh University, he completed a solicitor apprenticeship with the Edinburgh firm of Morton, Fraser and Milligan W.S. before taking up an appointment with Stirling Town Council and thereafter joining practices in Linlithgow, Glasgow and Stirling, latterly setting up his own firm. Initially he covered a wide range of work but increasingly became more involved in litigation, both criminal and civil, in which he demonstrated particular ability.

In 1976 he was admitted as a member of The Faculty of Advocates after a period of ‘devilling’, principally to Robin MacEwan and also to John Wheatley, later both Judges. For the next seven years he undertook civil and criminal cases in the Court of Session and High Court respectively, building up a successful practice and reputation throughout Scotland which led to appointment as a temporary Sheriff. He was involved in several high profile cases including the appeal by Raymond Gilmour against his conviction for the rape and murder of a girl in Johnstone on the grounds of a dubious confession to police. Although that was then unsuccessful, continuing disquiet over the conviction led to its being overturned twenty years later on similar grounds.

During his shrieval career he was most closely associated with Elgin where he sat between 1985 and 2001 and then 2008 till 2011, after which he served part time, sitting regularly in Aberdeen, Fort William, and Stornoway among other venues. One of his Elgin judgments which attracted worldwide interest was the case where a golfer struck by an errant shot off a nearby tee successfully sued for damages, Noel deciding that in the particular circumstances the golfer on the tee owed a duty of care to the injured party before playing. For many years afterwards, copies of his judgment were regularly sought from courts abroad.

A Francophile, he was past chair of the Franco/British Lawyers’ Association, in which capacity he was honoured to sit as ‘guest’ alongside French judges in courts in Bordeaux and Paris.

Noel McPartlin was born and brought up in Galashiels where he attended St.Margaret’s primary school and Galashiels Academy. He was the youngest of four children, Patrick, Leona and Joseph the others, to parents Michael and Anne, both millworkers. A bright pupil who won the school Latin prize, he also developed his love of sport there and even formed his own football team, grandly naming it ‘Juventus.’ Throughout his life he participated in most sports including rugby, football, swimming, cricket, hockey, running, golf and cycling. He completed many marathons and was a member of the Moray Wheelers cycling club with whom in 2012 aged 73 he completed the 400 mile Hebridean Challenge, raising funds for Cancer Research.

In 1965 in Dunblane he married June Whitehead, a teacher from Stirling whom he met in Edinburgh at a student dance and the couple went on to enjoy 54 happy and fulfilling years together. They had six children-Alison, Diana, Simon, Guy, Julia and Donald.

He was a devoted family man who doted on his eight grandchildren, his ‘pride and joy’.

Despite the nature of his position, he interacted on an equal footing with everyone and integrated well into community life in Elgin where he was a member of the golf club, honorary member of the Burns Club and had recently been appointed President of the Moray branch of the University of the Third Age. Apart from sporting pursuits, he was very interested in literature and poetry. He and his wife enjoyed cruises and visits to their property in Confolens in France where a mass was celebrated in his honour and a message from friends there was read at his funeral.

Elgin Sheriff Court closed as a mark of respect on the day of his funeral which attracted a massive attendance as befitted a universally popular and much loved figure. He is survived by his wife, children, sister and grandchildren, Samuel, James, Gemma, Martin, Gracie, Elsa, Elliot and Helena.