Obituary: Tom Lawrie, leading company lawyer

Tom Lawrie in the early Eighties
Tom Lawrie in the early Eighties
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Thomas Macpherson Lawrie, solicitor. Born: 17 June 1934. Died: 2 September 2018, aged 84

Tom Lawrie, who has died at the age of 84, was a leading company lawyer in Scotland.

As a partner in the law firm Maclay Murray & Spens he acted for many of Scotland’s largest corporations.

He played a significant role in the formulation of the nature of security to be taken over North Sea oil assets, no easy task given the uncertainty as to the law (Scottish or English) that would apply.

He advised House of Fraser in its successful defence against the protracted and unwelcome attempts by Tiny Rowland’s Lonrho to take over the company, with the jewel in the crown being its Harrods store. His role in this saga gained the admiration of many City experts.

Former colleagues remember the calm, unhurried approach and the analytical skills which he brought to bear on complex legal problems.

He was for many years a member of the Company Law committee of the Law Society of Scotland where his telling contributions carried great weight with his peers. For several years he represented Scotland at the bi-annual meeting of the European Notaries, and on one occasion he hosted its meeting in Scotland.

Outside the law he held non-executive directorships in Mid Wynd international Investments from 1985 to 2004 and in Edrington Group from his retirement to 2001.

He was a trustee of the Robertson Trust, the largest independent grant-making trust in Scotland, from 1990 to 2004.A partner in Maclays for more than 30 years, he was its Senior Partner from 1990 until his retirement in 1996.

Born in London in 1934, he was educated at Marlborough College, having won a scholarship there.

He was disappointed when a bout of pneumonia left him unfit for National Service, but took the opportunity to travel for a year, working in Ontario and then hitchhiking across America.

He gained an exhibition to King’s College, Cambridge, where he read Classics and Law, and after his father’s untimely death continued his legal studies, obtaining an LL.B at Edinburgh University while training as an apprentice with the Edinburgh firm, Dundas & Wilson.

Having decided on a career as a company lawyer he then headed south to London to work as an assistant at the City law firm, Allen & Overy, before returning to Scotland and Maclays in 1964.

He once described himself as “an engineer happily manqué” and away from his business commitments his varied skills at home and in the garden (including, but not limited to, weaving and dry stone wall building) showed what he might have achieved had he not followed the law.

The latter years of his retirement saw the onset of Parkinson’s, which he faced with typical fortitude and humour. His first wife, Susie Burnett, whom he married in 1963, died in 1993.

He is survived by their two daughters, Joanna and Kay, and by his second wife, Jill Penrose, whom he married in 1995.

BRUCE PATRICK