Tribute to the former senior partner of Thorntons, Dundee

After attending Perth Academy and graduating MA from St Andrews University in 1952 and LLB from Edinburgh University in 1956, Stuart spent a short time in legal practice in Edinburgh. In 1958 he went to Dundee, first as an assistant and two years later as a partner in W B Dickie & Sons. It was the decisive step of his career. He was to be a key figure in the highly successful process of development and amalgamation from which the firm emerged, under the name of Thorntons, to occupy a leading position among the legal firms of Dundee and the east of Scotland. From 1984 to 1991 he was senior partner of Thorntons. Among his clients were some of the most important commercial undertakings in Dundee, and his advice and expertise lay behind much of the improvement which took place in Dundee’s commercial prosperity.

Stuart saw the University of Dundee as playing a vital role in the regeneration of Dundee after the decline of its traditional industries. He had for long been much involved in university business and from 1988 to 1993 was chairman of the University Court. His firm but fair handling of business and his implicit understanding of the ethos and workings of a university lay behind much of the progress which the university made at that time. When in 1993 he became chairman of the Dundee Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust he was able to harmonise developments at Ninewells Hospital and in the university medical school to the advantage of both, and his expertise in charitable funding contributed greatly to the support of medical charities and of research in the medical and life sciences in which the university was rapidly gaining an outstanding and international reputation.

The chairmanship of the Teaching Hospitals Trust was a peculiarly challenging task. In 1993 NHS trusts were a controversial innovation. Government support which should have been forthcoming proved to be unreliable. Public opinion was divided and often hostile. There were hard decisions to be made, but Stuart addressed the problems and, in circumstances of great difficulty, planned effectively and put the finances of the trust on a sound basis. Perhaps most important of all from the standpoint of public concern and impact, he ensured that the delicate task of the closing of Dundee Royal Infirmary and its transfer to Ninewells was carried out efficiently and as smoothly as possible.

Stuart’s services to the university were recognised by the conferment of an honorary LLD in 1994 – an honour which beyond all others gave him satisfaction. In 1997 he was appointed CBE. He was Dean of the Faculty of Procurators and Solicitors in Dundee from 1977 to 1979, president of the Dundee and Tayside Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 1980 to 1981, and from 1992 to 1996 chairman of the Dundee Port Authority. From 1999 to 2002 he was a member of the development advisory board of the National Museums of Scotland, and from 2000 to 2003 a trustee of the Dundee Heritage Trust. Studies to which he was drawn by his experience as a temporary sheriff from 1988 to 1998, and as chairman of the review committee for Perth Prison, led to the degree of MSc in Criminal Justice from Napier University in 2000.

Despite the calls of a busy life, Stuart always found time for his family, to whom he was devoted, for his friends and for the enjoyment of his many interests. The high standards of integrity which he held to be at the core of professional life marked all his dealings, and both his dedication to work and his public service were part of a strongly held ethical perspective. The material fruits of professional success he regarded as something to be shared. The hospitality which his wife, Lesley, and he offered in their home in Dundee was legendary. To his friends and to those in need he was generous beyond measure. He had a sensitive appreciation of the visual arts and a deep love of music. He enjoyed the good things of life and, above all, good company. In his travels – for he was an inveterate traveller with a keen interest in the places and peoples he visited – making new and renewing old acquaintances was a particular pleasure.

Stuart lived a full life, full in achievement and enjoyment and full too in dedication to the welfare of others, and his qualities of mind and heart enriched all whose lives he touched. In 1957 he married Anne Lesley Cameron. She was his constant support in all he did. After she died in 2003 life was never to be the same again but, although much hampered by illness, he sought to rebuild it as best he could. He is survived by two sons, a daughter and five grandchildren.

Share this article
Add To Favorites