Obituary: Ronald Kerr Will, lawyer

BORN: 22 March, 1918, in Edinburgh. Died: 11 September, 2014, in Gullane, East Lothian, aged 96.

Ronnie Will was one of the most distinguished lawyers of his generation. His early days were spent in Dumfriesshire, his father being a Writer to the Signet in Dumfries. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School which, incidentally, he was later to serve for 20 years as a governor.

Before he could embark on a career, war broke out and he joined up, being commissioned in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers with whom he saw action at Dunkirk. Having passed Staff College he became a major in a deception unit called R Force for which he was Mentioned in Despatches and ended the war in Headquarters in Berlin.

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So it was that in 1945 he began his legal career. Attending Edinburgh University, he qualified as a solicitor in record time in 1947, proving himself a student of such distinction that he was invited to undertake teaching for the university and for the Law 

In 1950 he was commissioned a WS and became a partner in the firm of Davidson & Syme, which later merged with Dundas & Wilson. In this firm he was eventually to become senior partner.

The high standing in which he was regarded in the profession was marked in 1975 when he was appointed Deputy Keeper of Her Majesty’s Signet, which office he held until 1983 when he retired from practice.

These days, in the larger legal practices, partners really have to specialise in some particular aspect of the law, but one of his colleagues has testified that Ronnie was capable of covering the broad spectrum of legal work, from acting for major insurance companies and banks to being the family lawyer to clients who included farmers, estate owners and many leading Scottish families.

In addition to his legal work, he held directorships in a number of companies, including The Scottish Investment Trust PLC and was chairman of Scottish Equitable Life Assurance Society.

He also served on the Council on Tribunals, acting as chairman of its Scottish Committee.

In 1953, Ronnie married Joyce Stevenson (of the family of lighthouse builders and RLS) and 61 years of happy married life began.

They had two sons (one of whom was to become the fifth generation of practising solicitors).

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A man of many interests, he knew and loved the hills of Scotland, was a keen gardener, and enjoyed fishing and shooting. Yet notwithstanding all these and his professional activities and directorships, for him family was all.

Although in his latter years, deafness and mobility problems were a real handicap, he took the greatest interest in his family and five grandchildren.

In his late eighties his life was transformed by the gift of an iPad.

Even at this advanced age, he mastered all its intricacies and with great enthusiasm began what was to prove to be an enormous collection of photographs and a tidal wave of e-mails to and from his grandchildren and many nephews and nieces.

He had only one problem with his iPad and that was remembering passwords. This he solved ingeniously, with one password for all activities, namely “amnesia”.

There was nothing pompous about Ronnie. He actually hated making speeches which, of course, was part and parcel of the duties of DKS, so, always a lover of poetry, he sometimes took refuge in rhyming verse.

Here, along with the hilarious e-mails to his family, is lasting evidence of his wit and impish sense of humour as well as his gift of self-

This great and charming man who contributed so much to the law, indeed Scotland, was thoughtful enough to leave what he called Funereal Contemplations.

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These included this passage: “My only message is one of profound gratitude – especially to my family – for such a long and lucky innings extending from a rather dodgy start in the days of Dunkirk to a preposterous old age.”