Obituary: William Anderson, solicitor and choral singer awarded OBE for services to child welfare

William Anderson has died at the age of 82
William Anderson has died at the age of 82
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William FT Anderson OBE. Born: 13 March, 1935. Died: 27 July, 2017 aged 82

William Anderson, usually known as Bill, who has died aged 82 after a short illness, was a respected family solicitor, a gifted amateur singer and a churchman of wide charitable commitments.

A prominent figure in Bridge of Allan, his reputation owed as much to his personal kindness as it did to his lawyerly rigour and breadth of knowledge.

As with his professional accomplishment, his dedication to various philanthropic causes was worn lightly and with unfailing good humour.

Educated at Cargilfield and Shrewsbury Bill Anderson read law at Christ Church, Oxford, where his formidable size and strength were put to use by the college third rowing eight.

After graduation he served for nine years in the Motherwell-based family firm of Anderson & Robertson, witnessing the twilight years of Scotland’s last remaining firm of silk “throwsters” – weavers – founded by his family in 1877.

The law rather than industry was his true calling, and when already in his 30s, he spent three years undergoing a legal apprenticeship, combining law classes at Glasgow University with practical experience in a solicitor’s office.

Once qualified, private client work proved the ideal fit for a gregarious nature combined with great tact and patience, added to a concern for the welfare of his clients that was far from universal, then or now.

Over a long career, first at McClure, Naismith, Brodie and Co and then for over thirty years at Russel and Aitken in Falkirk, latterly as partner, many private clients, colleagues, charities and institutions came to rely on Bill Anderson’s “rock-like” integrity and good judgement.

Attention to detail in his professional approach was complemented by a feel for the human dimensions of business life, best evidenced by his flair for mentoring younger colleagues in the intricacies of trust work and general chamber practice.

Former partners recall how knotty problems and sudden crises, when brought to his always-open door, would invariably be resolved, though always in Bill’s own good time.

His appointment in as an Honorary Sheriff of Stirling in 1999 marked his status among his legal peers.

He enjoyed presiding in court, and cheerfully put up with occasional late-night visits from police officers seeking urgent warrants.

As well as family, church and a demandingly large garden, the thread that ran most strongly throughout his private life was his passion for opera and choral music. This was the hobby that led him to meet his future wife Sheila (née Campbell) while they were both members of the Glasgow Orpheus Club.

Deeply knowledgeable about music and a versatile performer himself (tenor, baritone and eventually bass), Bill and Sheila travelled widely throughout the UK and beyond with family and friends, in pursuit of unmissable musical experiences.

For many years Bill Anderson was the bass bedrock of the choir at his beloved St Saviour’s, Bridge of Allan, where he was joined by Sheila and their younger son Robin.

Outside of sacred music – the medium through which he expressed his Christian faith – Bill Anderson joined choirs and singing clubs throughout his life, at various times serving as Vice President of the Glasgow Orpheus Club, and Chairman of the Rosenethe Singers. He was also Treasurer of the Stirling Branch of Friends of Scottish Opera whose chorus he joined on stage for a 1963 season that included Verdi’s Otello.

More informally, friends remember many happy evenings around the piano with Bill and Sheila, well-refreshed by Sheila’s cookery and Bill’s careful choice of pudding wines, singing Scots folk songs, Victorian parlour music and Gilbert and Sullivan favourites. Private Willis’s song from Iolanthe was played at his funeral.

The rector of St Saviour’s Bridge Rev Canon Dominic Ind spoke at that service about Bill Anderson’s love of singing Matins and Evensong in that church’s choir, rituals he was reluctant to give up, even when his health was failing. Throughout life he showed a deep commitment to the Scottish Episcopal Church, serving as Chancellor of the Diocese of Moray and the Diocese of St. Andrews, which contains St Saviour’s.

Canon Ind also spoke of the understated “saintly qualities” that Bill contained, while noting that he would have been embarrassed to hear that said out loud.

Not the least of these qualities was an ability to stick to sometimes thankless tasks for years on end, when others would have honourably excused themselves long before.

Bill’s lifetime’s experience in the minutiae of church affairs, proved invaluable to successive parishes, as did his easy-going presence and appetite for work. But the widest impact of his public service was in the field of child welfare, chairing the Stirling-based Aberlour Child Care Trust from 1981-1999, and it was for services to child welfare that he received the OBE in 1999.

He was also a trustee of the Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust, giving to a variety of charitable and arts causes, the Inistore and Anderson trusts and Preses of the Incorporated Glasgow, Stirlingshire and Sons of the Rock Society. He was chairman of the Bridge of Allan Civic Trust and Forth Valley Ambassador for the Girl Guides.

As well as his widow Sheila, Bill leaves a daughter, two sons and two granddaughters.

COLIN DONALD