Appreciation: David Smith, sheriff

Although your obituary of Sheriff David Smith (18 December) touched on his passionate interest in curling, on which he published extensively, Smith himself listed the history of the laws and institutions of Scotland as his principal recreation.

Sheriff David Smith. Picture: Contributed

Your readers may be interested to know something about his work in that field. He published some 15 learned papers on such wide-ranging subjects as civil jury trials in Scotland and the medieval procedure for settling boundary disputes. He also gave generously of his time and of the results of his own research to fellow historians, notably on his work on the 16th century commissary courts of Edinburgh and the spiritual jurisdiction in Reformation Scotland, and he edited the maps on courts spiritual in the atlas of Scottish history to 1707, published in 1996. He was a contributor to the classic Stair Memorial Encyclopedia of the Laws of Scotland (writing the chapter on the Sheriff Court in volume 6, 1988) and also to the definitive Macphail: Sheriff Court Practice (2nd edition, 1998).

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Throughout his long career at the bar and on the shrieval bench, starting in the early 1960s and continuing beyond his retirement in 2001, Smith played an active and leading role in the Stair Society, Scotland’s principal legal history society. He served twice on its council (1963-1967 and 1992-1998) and he was vice-chairman of council from 1998 until the time of his death. Had it not been for his final illness he would have taken office as chairman in November. Two of his papers were published in the society’s Miscellany volumes (1992 and 2002). In 1991 he delivered the society’s annual lecture, his subject being The Spiritual Jurisdiction 1560-64.

Smith was a big man, with a big voice and a big and generous nature. Despite his serious studies in the field of legal history, it was surely when curling, when watching others curl, and when writing extensively on the sport he held so dear, that he came into his own. The lifetime achievement award presented to him in 2005 by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the national governing body of the sport, must have given him particular pleasure.