Obituary: Archibald Cameron Macpherson, FSA solicitor, lecturer and Gaelic enthusiast

Born: 23 October, 1927, in Edinburgh. Died: 23 June, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 87

Archy Macpherson KGCT, FSA Scot: Law lecturer whose enthusiasm for the Gaelic language inspired generations

Archy Macpherson was the very definition of enthusiasm: a man who effervesced with a passion for everything he did.

His great love was the law but he was also a dedicated supporter of the Gaelic language and a loyal clansman, editing the Clan Macpherson Association annual magazine, to which he contributed an entertaining column “Let’s Learn Gaelic” for more than 30 years, and becoming a valued association vice-president.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“He had 200 per cent enthusiasm for everything. Nothing could hold him back,” a friend summed up.

Yet he had not been without his challenges in life – from the death of his only child to the demise of his business and the loss of his second wife. Somehow he embraced and overcame problems, his cheerful approach and compassionate outlook easily engaging those around him. And in his early eighties he tied the knot for a third time, sharing his love of creative writing with his wife Janice, whom he mentored as she became a published author.

Though born in Edinburgh he was a son of the manse in Perthshire, where his father Lachlan was a minister in Blairgowrie. His mother was an agricultural consultant. After being schooled locally he studied history and economics at St Andrews University but following graduation he joined the army and served for a time in Egypt.

However, his real interest was in the law and, after leaving the army, he returned to Scotland and embarked on a law degree at the University of Edinburgh, doing his apprenticeship at a firm in Great King Street in the heart of the capital’s New Town.

His great ambition was to have his own legal practice, a dream he achieved when, along with a friend, he established the firm of Macpherson & Black. They practised from premises in Comely Bank and to supplement business, which was not always brisk, he took on part-time work as Clerk to the Burgh Court. But he was to suffer two significant blows in his professional life, the first of which was the death of his business partner. After that Macpherson struggled on alone for a while before taking on an assistant. The new employee was a former solicitor who had been struck off after being convicted of dishonesty.

Macpherson knew his background but gave him a job as an act of humanity. Tragically his faith was not repaid and he was hit hard a second time when, unknown to Macpherson, the employee re-offended. The practice was liable for a financial shortfall and could not be sustained. The Law Society acknowledged that Macpherson was not at fault but his practising certificate was suspended in 1975 and the affair spelled the end of his business.

Ever practical, Macpherson, who also had a teaching qualification to his name, turned his hand to an alternative career. The lawyer, who also taught in a number of Edinburgh schools including Stockbridge Primary, took a job as a part-time lecturer at a college in Paisley. Macpherson, who taught building law, also lectured for many years at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, giving his last lecture at the age of 79.

Aside from the law, Gaelic formed a major part of his life’s interest. Divorced from his first wife, a Polish nurse with whom he had endured the tragedy of losing their baby in a cot death, he married his second wife Christina, or Chrissie, who, like him, was a Gaelic speaker.

In the late 1960s he had been persuaded, reluctantly, to take over as editor of Creag Dhubh, the Clan Macpherson Association’s magazine. Along with two friends, who formed the editorial committee, he would hold regular meetings at his and Chrissie’s flat where his never-ending stock of jokes, puns and stories provided hilarious entertainment. Eventually he took complete responsibility for the magazine, retaining the committee in name only and continuing to craft his articles on the language for 36 years.

Encouraging readers, no matter where they were in the world, to learn the language, he explained it would not be easy but they could achieve it, albeit with doggedness, and as a result be able to “sip at its wells of culture”. Displaying his enthusiasm he wrote: “No one expects to learn a musical instrument or stitch a tapestry or turn a wilderness into a marvellous garden without unremitting toil over several years; but such persistence has the very real rewards, joys and satisfactions that all hard won gains and triumphs bestow on the determined.”

He then went on to advise on a correspondence course, detail the best dictionaries and explain how to find lists of all Gaelic books published in the last 400 years.

With Chrissie he enjoyed a huge rapport through their shared love of the language and their marriage lasted 40 years until her death. Subsequently, his close friendship with divorcee Janice Cairns, who had supported him through his wife’s illness, turned to romance and they married in 2011. It was a third marriage for both and they shared a love of books and literature. He had an extensive library and encouraged her in her desire to write. With his mentoring she produced a romance novel which was shortlisted for an award for its opening chapter and she is now writing a sequel.

His other interests included longstanding support of the Scottish National Party – he had insisted, despite failing health, on casting his vote at the last General Election – and the Royal Celtic Society, of which he was chairman. He was also a member of the Knights Templar and of the Gaelic Congregation of Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Church, where he worshipped every Sunday.

A studious yet gregarious man, his irrepressible sense of fun and mild eccentricity endeared him to all he encountered in a life so full of spirit. He is survived by his wife Janice.