Obituary: Jennifer Hamilton, Church of Scotland Depute Solicitor and Girl Guide leader

Jennifer Hamilton, in paper, 13/11/2019
Jennifer Hamilton, in paper, 13/11/2019
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Jennifer Hamilton, Church of Scotland Depute Solicitor and Girl Guide leader. Born: 2 March 1962 in Edinburgh. Died: 23 October 2019, aged 57

All of her many friends and colleagues across the Church of Scotland were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jennifer Hamilton, Depute Solicitor of the Church, on 23 October.

Born and raised in Edinburgh, Jennifer was educated at the Royal High School and then at Heriot -Watt and Edinburgh Universities, where she completed a BA honours degree in Business Law prior to qualifying as a solicitor.

She excelled in her studies and in her Diploma year received the Law Society of Scotland Prize for Wills, Trusts and Executries. A fellow student at university recalled with awe some years later that she had achieved a score of 100 per cent in an accountancy exam.

Those same forensic skills were subsequently brought to bear in her scrutiny of accounts and other complex material on behalf of her grateful clients.

In 1986 she met Lindsay, who was to become her husband and life partner for more than 32 years. She knew her mind, and made good choices from the start: she and Lindsay became engaged within four months of their first meeting.

Jennifer began work as an assistant solicitor in the Law Department on 1 January 1994 after several years in private practice and a career break following the births of her two children. From the outset her primary areas of expertise were trust and charity law but she was also a highly skilled (and unusually numerate) property lawyer.

Following the creation of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) in 2005, Jennifer became the principal point of contact between OSCR and the Church and the main source of advice for congregations and Presbyteries in this area. From 1995, she also served as the Secretary to the Church of Scotland Trust. Successive Chairs, Vice-Chairs and members of the Trust came to appreciate not only her administrative competence but her inexhaustible knowledge of the property-related activities of the Church abroad. She also sat on the Law Society of Scotland’s Charity Law Sub-Committee, and was for the past six years the Secretary and Treasurer of the Iona Cathedral Trust.

In that capacity she undertook a huge amount of work to support the Trust’s successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for its library renovation project.

She became Depute Solicitor of the Church in 2016 and in that role provided support and assistance to many across the Church in a wide variety of areas, on top of her many other commitments. It was possible to discern her stress levels from time to time by the volume of the singing which could be heard coming from her room as yet another e-mail arrived. She had absolute personal integrity and – that most elusive skill – good judgement.

As a lawyer she was conscientious, meticulous and incisive. Advice received from Jennifer was definitive in its scope, well thought out, prompt and robust; occasionally a little too robust for some, though her heart was always kind. She devoted considerable personal time and energy to representing the interests of the centrally employed staff of the Church during her period of service on the Employee Council Committee. A colleague said: “She was so efficient and strong and really helpful while being a wee bit scary sometimes, but then you knew she was right too”.

She was a born leader, with a natural authority. Her skills of organisation were formidable and were employed widely for the benefit of her colleagues in the Law Department.

She was never happier than when planning social events, or getting into her jeans and brandishing a clipboard to direct the occasional reorganisation of the basement safes housing title deeds held on behalf of congregations across the country.

Jennifer was devoted to her two children, Fiona and Andrew. She was proud of their career accomplishments and derived huge happiness from their recent marriages.

She also found an outlet for her organisational skills, and a practical expression of her heart for others, via her enduring involvement with the Girl Guides. She gave unstintingly of herself in her leadership within the Guides at local and national level and relished her regular camping trips both within Scotland and internationally. Her colleagues became adept at weather forecasting by the simple device of establishing whether a Guide camp was in the offing – if so, rain could confidently be predicted.

Having been treated for breast cancer in 2017/18, Jennifer was diagnosed in August 2019 with secondary liver cancer. On each occasion she faced the diagnosis, and the consequent treatment with its many difficult side effects, with the resilience and no-nonsense approach which were her hallmarks. She never complained but simply got on with whatever each day brought, and continued to mentor and assist colleagues throughout her absence from the office. She will be greatly missed by all who were privileged to know her.

Jennifer is survived by Lindsay, Fiona and Andrew, siblings Kirsty and Kenny and parents Ken and Margaret Ramsay.

Mary Macleod