Obituaries: Norman Robertson, lawyer and proud Dundonian appointed MBE for services to city

​Norman James Alexander Robertson DL, MBE. Born: 28 June, 1929 in Perth. Died Dundee, 16 February, 2024 in Dundee, aged 94

Dundee’s Citizen of the Year 2003, retired senior partner of Blackadders Solicitors and charitable trustee Norman “Norrie” Robertson has died peacefully, aged 94.

Brought up in the Maryfield district of the city, Norman Robertson attended Morgan Academy, then Morrisons Academy, Crieff before studying for legal qualification at Queen’s College, Dundee, then part of the University of St Andrews.

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After completing his national service in the army legal service Mr Robertson joined his father’s law firm Blackadder, Gilchrist & Robertson at 9 Ward Road, Dundee.

Norman Robertson retired as a senior partner in 2002 after 50 years of serviceNorman Robertson retired as a senior partner in 2002 after 50 years of service
Norman Robertson retired as a senior partner in 2002 after 50 years of service

In the post-war housing boom, Mr Robertson’s access to mortgage funds and his industrious, approachable style allowed him to quickly build a large and loyal following of private clients.

With the vision of the longer-term need for diversity in practice, economies of scale and the burden of increased regulation, he merged his firm with Reid, Johnston, Bell & Henderson in 1985.

After further merger activity Blackadders LLP became a significant national law firm. Mr Robertson retired in 2002 as a senior partner, after 50 years of service, yet remained a loyal client and supporter, attending his last firm function in November 2023, at the time of the firm’s recent rebrand.

While Mr Robertson’s main legal focus was his busy practice, he served a term as Dean of the Faculty of Solicitors & Procurators in Dundee and as an honorary sheriff.

For some years, he also served on the Law Society of Scotland’s conference committee, where he specialised in booking high-end entertainments for delegates, often drawing on his musical and theatrical connections. For many years Mr Robertson acted for the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association in Scotland.

He combined business with pleasure, attending his first of many International Bar Association Conferences in Monaco in the early 1970s, where he made enduring friendships. A lifelong Americanophile, having been captivated by the Hollywood movies of the 1930s, he chaired the Dundee/Alexandria twinning committee.

Mr Robertson’s community service began with Dundee Old People’s Welfare Committee (now Dundee Age Concern) in the 1950s, when he was invited to assist those concerned about living conditions and social isolation of the elderly in the city at that time.

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Amongst the long list of other charitable interests with which he was associated were Whitehall Theatre Trust, Downfield Musical Society and the medical fundraising charity, Tenovus.

With a longstanding connection to the Highlands, he spoke conversational Gaelic, was a decades-long trustee of The Gaelic Language Promotion Trust, regularly attended and competed at the Mod and although a lifelong teetotaller found himself, as he put it, by accident, as a hotel proprietor on Islay.

Back in Dundee, he and his Barbershop Quartet chums were in popular demand across the local community.

In retirement, he acted as lead trustee for two major charitable trusts in the city, personally visiting applicants and projects which had been funded.

Although he occasionally supported large capital projects which were for the good of the city, his preference was for locally-managed charities where relatively small, but regular revenue donations made a difference.

His staff knew without being told that donations to national charities carried the invariable condition “for work in Dundee”.

School connections were maintained through the Morgan Academy Former Pupils Association, of which he was a stalwart for more than 75 years.

Following in his own father’s footsteps, he served as an Elder at Stobswell Parish Church for many years and he remained a Dundee FC fan all his life.

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Mr Robertson was appointed MBE in the New Year’s Honours List, 2006 for services to the Dundee community, received at Holyrood, from HM Queen Elizabeth II. In 2007, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Dundee.

In 1953, Mr. Robertson married Muriel Pennycook at Gilfillan Memorial Church in Dundee, where latterly he was a member of the congregation.

After their sons Fraser and Duncan were born, the family home was a sunny villa in Broughty Ferry.

This became a hub of social activity throughout the Robertsons’ long and happy marriage, as well as a holiday destination for their Los Angeles-based grandchildren, Daisy and Jamie.

Mrs Robertson died in 2010. Mr Robertson is survived by his sons and grandchildren.


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