Obituary: Kenneth Dunbar WS, solicitor and Master of the Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh

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Born: 19 May, 1947, in Greenock. Died: 11 April, 2013, in Edinburgh, 
aged 65

KENNETH Dunbar was a much respected ­member of the legal community of Edinburgh who worked tirelessly for several long established charitable societies in the city.

Through his close association with the Merchant Company – of which he was master until his death – Dunbar gave of his time and wise counsel to maintain the high standard of education at the schools with which the company has historic ties. His even-handed manner and tact at chairing meetings is ­remembered with special ­delight: Dunbar had a way of diffusing awkward situations with civility and a smile.

Alistair Beattie, who was the secretary of the Merchant Company for many years, including during Dunbar’s mastership, told The Scotsman: “Kenneth was a man of much dignity and charm and was held in high esteem by everyone. He had a glorious sense of humour and could say things that others couldn’t or wouldn’t.”

Kenneth Watson Dunbar attended Greenock Academy and then read law at Edinburgh University. He trained with the distinguished Edinburgh firm of Morton, Fraser and Milligan before becoming a partner in Archibald Campbell & Harley where he remained until he ­retired.

Dunbar was a diligent and very professional solicitor who offered his clients prudent and balanced advice on matters small and large. He had a ­patient and compassionate nature which allowed even the most anxious client time to consider any major decision. Dunbar mostly concentrated on private client work but through his many acquaintances in the business community he brought to the firm many commercial ­contacts.

As Beattie said in his eulogy at the service in Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church: “It was Kenneth’s warmth and humour, his modesty and understated abilities, and just possibly his endearing quality of being a ‘grumpy old man’, that meant many of his clients became friends and many of his friends became clients. Business and social life were frequently ­intertwined.”

His detailed understanding of the law was recognised when he served on the Law Society committee which reviews complaints against solicitors.

Dunbar was keen to serve the community and was involved in many aspects of life in his adopted home.

The Society of High Constables of Edinburgh elected Dunbar a member in 1989. He became Captain of Ward V and from 1999–2001 he was a most active and conscientious moderator of the society. He was always keen to uphold its long-standing traditions, which he carried out with suitable decorum and style. He is also fondly remembered for his ability to remember all the members’ – and their partners’ – names.

Dunbar also made a major contribution to the Merchant Company of Edinburgh. He joined it in 2002 and served on the Master’s Court from 2005-8. He was much involved with the schools with which the company is connected. Dunbar also served on the governing council at George Watson’s College.

In 2009, Dunbar was ­appointed the company’s treasurer and was elected master in 2011. As treasurer, he was closely involved in the first major changes since 1960 to the constitution of the Merchant Company Education Board. During his time as master, Dunbar assiduously supported the work done by the education board and chaired many committees and boards with his customary charm and courtesy. Dunbar was keen to encourage the young – personally attending many school activities. He had a love of music and took particular pleasure in attending the various schools’ annual plays and operettas.

It was particularly appropriate that the assistant music master at Watson’s, Steven Griffin, who composed a Blessing for Dunbar’s Service of Kirking of the Master in 2011, was involved in his funeral service.

Throughout his life Dunbar was a keen sportsman. He was a life-long hillwalker and annually went with his family and friends at New Year to trek in the Lake District. Dunbar also made regular sailing trips to explore the Virgin Islands, the Seychelles and elsewhere.

He was an enthusiastic member of several curling clubs (Watsonians, Musselburgh etc) and had been a member of Mortonhall Golf Course since 1980. Last year he won, to his great joy, the Senior Summer Singles Championship at the club.

Dunbar also joined a group of friends every year for a golfing holiday in Spain or Portugal. Another ­personal pleasure was serving on the wine committee of the Merchant Company.

Dunbar is survived by wife Janet, whom he married at ­Yester Church in Gifford in 1974, their son and daughter and five grandchildren.