Obituary: Ivor Reginald Guild CBE, lawyer

RESPECTED lawyer and arts patron known to many as the ‘Duke of Princes Street’

Ivor Reginald Guild CBE, lawyer. Picture: Contributed
Ivor Reginald Guild CBE, lawyer. Picture: Contributed

Ivor Reginald Guild CBE, lawyer.

Born: 2 April, 1924, in Dundee.

Died: 3 January, 2015, in Berlin, aged 90.

Ivor Guild was the second son of a stockbroker with a distinguished First World War record. He was related, through his mother, to the Cox family of textile manufacturers. He went to prep school at Cargilfield, Cramond, where we were exact contemporaries. From there he moved to Rugby with a major scholarship.

In 1942, having been medically failed for call-up service, he went with an exhibition to New College, Oxford. I joined him there after demob in 1946, shortly before he graduated. With a law degree from Edinburgh University he became a Writer to the Signet.

His business life was as a partner in the well-known legal firm of Shepherd and Wedderburn, for 43 years.

Through that he became a director of several investment trusts and was honoured with a CBE in 1985. As a lawyer he was highly efficient, conscientious and hard working; though, surprisingly, he was often not averse to gossiping with friends about client affairs.

Ivor’s interests outside business were manifold. He continued a strong attachment to New College, Oxford, assisting its fund raising and becoming an honorary fellow. He was a devoted supporter of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral and became Registrar of the Episcopal Synod of the Episcopal Church in Scotland and Chancellor of the Dioceses of Edinburgh and St Andrews.

He became a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1991 and served as councillor and meetings secretary. I kept up my friendship with Ivor after settling in Edinburgh in 1951. We played golf occasionally at Barton of which, as well as Muirfield, he was a member. His then golf was at least as bad as mine!

He generally introduced me to the Speculative Society of Edinburgh, the admirable essay reading and debating body, which we both attended regularly for several years. He edited a bicentenary history in 1968.

A further public activity in Edinburgh was as a Baillie of Holyrood House with responsibility for Queen’s House. That lasted for 15 years, ending on the setting up of the Queen’s Gallery.

His interest in genealogy found outlet at the Lyon Court of Arms, where he became procurator fiscal. He became chairman of the Museum of Antiquities for four years before it was brought into the National Museum.

Ivor was very sociable and had very many friends. He enjoyed their company without intimacy. Emotionally he was fully self-sufficient, evidently feeling no need for close relationships in either side. But he could be awkward with women. He would affect a jocular or “gallant” stance with them, not recognising that they could have similar interests to men.

Early on Ivor became a permanent resident of the Edinburgh New Club. He had his own suite there and rarely left it except for its holiday closures and his occasional travels and visits.

Ivor’s siblings, Nigel and Valerie, both settled abroad, Nigel in Kenya and Valerie in South Africa. Nigel died many years ago; Valerie lives on in Cape Town and Ivor travelled out several times to visit her.

He never drove, but walked everywhere with a brisk, fast step. He could frequently be met in the centre of Edinburgh on the way to or from one of his regular engagements.

We shall remember him with affection.


ivor was four years older than me but not having done military service he was six years ahead of me in the legal profession. Army doctors had deemed him unfit but as he lived a healthy 90 years they surely got that wrong.

When I first met him he was the junior of six partners in the well known firm of Shepherd and Wedderburn. I too was the junior of seven in a neighbouring firm. Both these firms were deemed sizeable at the time. Today they both have countless partners – evidence of how legal practice has dramatically changed in the last 60 years.

Today all partners are specialists. We were expected to be able to advise on every problem. And Ivor Guild could do just that. He was kindly and attentive to a large private client practice for whom he always had time, and the Court of Session would regularly appoint him as an expert in corporate law to report on a company’s documentation when the approval of the Court was required for that company’s restructuring.

Lawyers today work long hours but none ever worked harder and longer than Ivor. I suspect that faithfully time recording the hours he spent on private clients’ affairs was not Ivor’s way.

One day at lunch in the New Club I was conscious that having spoken to the person on my left I had yet to speak to Ivor on my right, but he had gone after one hurried course and was doubtless striding back to Charlotte Square seeking to break his seven-minute record. He was once dubbed “the Duke of Princes Street” and while that is good fun and no doubt amused him it is misleading. Dukes have possessions. Ivor had none. He didn’t own a house, had no car, and walked everywhere. He had no paintings but he did buy a lot of books. These were given away as soon as read.

He was helpful to me in so many ways. As I have said, he always had time. He enjoyed meaningful conversation, was well read, and well informed. He had an open mind. Above all, he had a superb sense of humour and a quick turn of phrase.

In a quiet way he was generous to countless causes and as a patron was committed to supporting many Edinburgh institutions such as the National Galleries of Scotland and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

His generosity seemed to deny him the duty of replenishing his wardrobe and it was said in jest that his raincoat was the one he had worn when a law apprentice.

He regularly attended international law conferences and told me that attendees for some exotic location were to take their tuxedos and their beach wear. I wonder what Ivor packed.

He became a member of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in 1954. His swing, with an open stance, was reminiscent of the beginnings of golf and his clubs probably pre-dated the first rules of the game. He played in a Tweed jacket and wore the same black city shoes that daily pounded his route to Charlotte Square.

Ivor was most active in the affairs of the Episcopal Church of Scotland where he was greatly respected and will be much missed, as he will be by a huge circle of friends.

He faithfully attended the funerals of those who predeceased him and it is ironic that his instructions were that there was to be no funeral.

I guess it would have pleased him that by dying abroad and not in his home in the New Club he had thus avoided being a nuisance to the staff there, all of whom loved him dearly.

And so we cannot say goodbye to Ivor Guild in the usual way. There is, however, a portrait of him by the well-known artist Harry More Gordon in the club which had been his home for 60 years. But a portrait is not needed for us or to remember a kind, modest friend.

As I mentioned, he was a patron of the Royal Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. I shall be sending a wee cheque to the patrons in his memory. Others may choose to do so.