Ian Inglis, lawyer

Born: 21 July, 1934, in Bridgewater, Somerset. Died: 7 October, 2009, in Biggar, aged 75.

IAN Inglis, whilst eminent amongst litigation lawyers in Scotland, could never have been mistaken for an archetypal Edinburgh solicitor.

Although often to be found in the Court of Session, Sheriff Court, or the House of Lords, he was equally at home clambering aboard an oil tanker in the North Sea gathering evidence, in an engineering workshop in Rotterdam getting to the heart of a patent case, discussing Scots law at an international legal conference or, perhaps above all other occupations, tending the magnificent fruit and vegetable garden at his home near Biggar.

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His shrewd counsel was, however, most clearly evident when explaining the implications of a case to clients, in Scotland or across the world. Spotting the essentials of the most complex commercial dispute is a rare gift, and one that was on display throughout his stint as a partner of Maclay Murray & Spens from 1961-96. Indeed, his gift for incisive analysis was visited upon the unprepared when, after retiring from private practice, he brought his intellect to the role of a floating sheriff while delighting in the opportunity to preside in sheriff courts throughout Scotland.

His reputation rested on an uncanny ability to spot the route to a swift and satisfactory solution. Many of the advocates he instructed were apt to mistake him for a frustrated practitioner at the Bar, so fully considered were the instructions he would prepare. But this would be to miss his most formidable talent. For him the fascination was in assimilating the facts behind a problem, understanding the origin of the dispute, using the law with creativity and applying his acute tactical instinct to the task of identifying a means to achieve resolution.

The various courts were, of course, among the weapons in his armoury – but ones to be used sparingly and with ingenuity.

Inglis was born in Bridgewater, Somerset. His family background was in Scotland, with the Glasgow shipbuilders A&J Inglis. After schooling at Shrewsbury House in Surrey and Wellington College, he studied law at Queen's College, Oxford. Family history has it that his legal knowledge must have been acquired by study during vacations at the family home – by this time in Ayr. Term time was devoted to rowing and other activities. The overnight relocation of a bus stop is one tale. In the best traditions of PG Wodehouse, the reasons for this are lost to time but the names of his co-conspirators require even now to be withheld to protect otherwise distinguished reputations.

Inglis was selected to row for Scotland at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Wales in 1958. A fellow crew member made the introduction that led to his marriage to Rosemary in 1961. Their first home was a rented lodge near Biggar in Lanarkshire. Within weeks they had begun the relentless and eventually successful pursuit of what was to become their family home, Cambuswallace.

Fatherhood followed, with Arabella, Lucy, Jake and Willy enjoying an upbringing at Cambuswallace, the house which, together with the shooting and fishing that was to hand, remained at the heart of Ian's life until his sudden death at home last month.

Indeed, it was the demands of parenthood that brought his first notoriety as a junior partner at Maclay Murray & Spens. The Daily Record emblazoned his success in achieving a dismissal of one of the first parking prosecutions in Scotland. Rosemary and Lucy, of course, were the alleged wrongdoers. The point of principle successfully established was that "loading" included drawing up in George Street, Edinburgh, to collect a carrycot – even if the item in question proved not yet ready for collection.

His early years in the firm coincided with the heyday of commercial litigation in Glasgow Sheriff Court, with much activity arising from the still thriving shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries in the west of Scotland. In 1971 he was instrumental in establishing the Edinburgh office – a revolutionary move at that time for a Glasgow firm, even one of such prominence. His focus shifted east and to more international work, intellectual property litigation and maritime law.

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The exploitation of North Sea oil resulted in many of his most notable cases: the largest patent case the Scottish Courts have handled; the first serious challenge to the marine pollution provisions in Shetland; the leading case even now on the arrest of ships in Scotland; several cases concerning activities at the Hound Point Terminal on the Forth.

He brought a determined, but down-to-earth approach to all that he did. When one advocate proposed to refuse instructions unless a helicopter was provided to collect and return him to his holiday home, the gauntlet was picked up and a small helicopter was dispatched. When the collapse of a giant crane at Ardersier necessitated a consultation with clients and counsel over a weekend, a Biggar Sunday lunch was miraculously conjured up by Rosemary in the office kitchen. Needless to say, the meagre office wine supplies were forsaken in favour of the infinitely superior Cambuswallace cellar.

His standing in the profession resulted in his appointment as the sole solicitor on the Phillimore Committee on Contempt of Court – which led to the Contempt of Court Act 1981. He was invited by Lloyds of London to contribute the Scots law section of its international compendium on ship arrestments throughout the world.

His contribution to the firm was no less singular. His tendency to derail recruitment interviews with accounts of his Biggar murder case was the stuff of office folklore. In truth, this was less a reference to a hitherto unknown Maclay Murray & Spens parallel to Rumpole's Penge Bungalow Murder and more an indication of the support that colleagues, friends and neighbours could rely upon in times of difficulty.

His pipe was an integral part of his thinking process. His support for the firm's pioneering move in 1988 to restrict smoking to a smoke room took the form of a decision to designate his own room as another legitimate refuge for him and his pipe. Problems arose, however, when the firm moved to offices in Glenfinlas Street. By 1990 smoke detectors had become compulsory. The triggering of the fire alarms and the arrival of the fire brigade around 5pm on the first Friday after the move was greeted by an only very slightly sheepish wave of the battered Inglis trilby as he headed for the car park, and for the altogether more civilised haven of his home at Biggar.