Obituary: Kathleen HS Preston, prominent Edinburgh lawyer and advocate of organ transplantation

Kathleen HS Preston, lawyer. Born: 1 September, 1951. Died 29 June, 2021, aged 69

Kathleen HS Preston was highly thought of by all whom she worked for and with
Kathleen HS Preston was highly thought of by all whom she worked for and with

Kathleen Helen Simpson Hay was born on 1 September, 1951 in Aberdeen to Archie and Molly Hay. She excelled at school, and when she left Aberdeen High School for Girls in 1969 she did so as the School Dux in Art and the top girl in the Aberdeen University Bursary competition. She studied law at Aberdeen University, one of only 12 women in a class of 70, and graduated with a 1st Class honours degree in 1973. She moved to Edinburgh that year and went to work at Fyfe Ireland WS where she completed her legal traineeship.

She was the first female in the history of the firm to be legally qualified. She remained with the firm and in 1976 became a partner at the age of 25 in charge of the Litigation Department; one of the youngest partners in Edinburgh and one of the only females. She was also one of the founding members of the Scottish Young Lawyers Association. An early career highlight was representing clients at House of Lords appeals in London.

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Following the birth of her children, she moved to Lindsay’s WS specialising in commercial property. She remained at the firm until 2003 when she made a major career change and moved to the Scottish Government as a solicitor in the SG Legal Directorate. She served as the head of the unit advising ministers on NHS legal matters and in particular the regulation of health professionals in Scotland, and latterly was the head of the unit in the Scottish Government Legal Directorate which advised ministers on legal matters including regulation, courts and public inquiries.

She retired in 2013 from the Scottish Government and took up a voluntary position in the NHS Blood and Transplant Organ donation Advisory Group. Initially this was for livers, but latterly for kidneys. She was incredibly enthusiastic and travelled widely for both roles. Her contributions were incisive, to the point on unfailingly honest, even if it wasn’t what people wanted to hear. She was the chair for a major NHSBT review into the National Organ Retrieval Service published in May 2015. She also served as a non-executive board member of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, chairing the Executive Renumeration Committee and Staff Governance Committee.

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Across all of her professional endeavours and positions spanning five decades she was hugely well respected and highly thought of by all whom she worked for and with. She coupled this with a warmth and approachability which developed her team and nurtured their careers. She took part in amateur dramatics from a very early age, and was a huge fan of the pantomime where she loved to go on annual family outings.

In her own words she was an enthusiastic, but not very good golfer! She was a member at both Liberton and Kilspindie Golf Clubs. An avid traveller, she was a great Francophile and kept up her interest in France and its culture her whole life. Her knowledge of French transformed the family holiday experience. Her grasp of the language on more than one occasion stopped avoided getting taken advantage of by unscrupulous hire car companies or getting lost in the days before SATNAV!

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She was an inspiration to her boys, Stuart and Andrew, and she encouraged them to strive for success. She endured hours of standing on soggy, windswept playing fields watching them both play rugby, despite having very little interest in the sport.

Diagnosed with cancer in August 2018 she fought bravely and tenaciously, not once did she display an ounce of fear or bitterness. She looked her disease in the eye and took it on. Her family are immensely proud of how she fought it.

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Kathleen is survived by her husband of over 40 years John, sons Stuart and Andrew and four grandchildren, Thomas, Billy, Flora and Jack.



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