David Sellar, Lord Lyon King of Arms

(1941 - 2019)

 David Sellar, Lord Lyon King of Arms. Born: 27 February 1941 in Glasgow. Died: 26 January 2019 in Edinburgh, aged 78. David Sellar was the gently urbane academic and author who as Lord Lyon became Scotland’s greatest officer of state. Clad in tabard of office, he cut a majestic figure: tall, impassive, pale eyes above a fine beard. If appearances matter – and in the post of Lord Lyon they surely do – then the holder of this ancient office brought credit and dignity to one of our nation’s most historic roles. As Lord Lyon, he held reins like no other in the world, with personal charge of heraldry, and as a judge on genealogical questions relating to family representation and pedigrees. Through his post in jurisprudence at Edinburgh University, he brought to the office the force of the law. But his lifelong study, his “passion” as he termed it, was the study of genealogy – and thus he was possibly the first genealogist appointed to the office. William David Hamilton Sellar MVO MA LLB FRHistS FSAScot was hailed as the most influential Scottish legal historian of his generation. Born and raised in Glasgow, educated at Kelvinside Academy and Fettes College, he read history at Oxford and law at Edinburgh, and after qualifying as a solicitor, worked briefly at the Scottish Land Court, before joining the law faculty at Edinburgh University. That was in 1969, and he remained there for his entire academic career.

Keenly interested in promotion of Scots law, history and culture, he founded the Centre for Legal History in 1992, now one of the leaders of its kind anywhere in the world, serving Scottish legal history as an academic discipline. In his research and in a prodigious published output, he raised questions around the nature and identity of Scots law, querying how far back the history of it can be traced. He demonstrated how our distinctive common law acted as a pillar of national identity from the wars of independence of King Robert Bruce onwards, and he examined whether this operated the same way across the Highlands as the Lowlands. He examined how much Scots law contained influences of Celtic, Roman, canon, and English law, and queried what effect the Reformation had. His answers formed an essential framework for the interpretation of Scottish legal history, emphasising both the antiquity and the continuity of our legal system, as well as aiding the establishment of an innovative course in Scots Law and the Western Legal Tradition at Edinburgh.
His deep knowledge of sources written in Latin, Scots and Gaelic shone through when he wrote his magisterial paper on the origins of the Lordship of the Isles, the title to which now held by Prince Charles. Mr Sellar wrote on the origins of a clutch of Highland families, including Campbells, MacDonalds, MacDougalls, MacLeods, Lamonts, MacNeills and Nicolsons. His output also included a treatise on Galloway genealogies, besides writings on the history of various branches of Scots law including marriage, divorce, incest, homicide and unjust enrichment. Appointed Lord Lyon in March 2008 in succession to Robin Blair, Lyon Sellar knew that he was 36th in succession to Lyon Henry Greve of 1399. His keener eye soon fell upon the genealogical blanks, that he was 37th in succession to an unnamed Lyon inaugurated in the rank of knight by King Robert Bruce at Arbroath Abbey in 1318. In a major lecture to the Heraldry Society of Scotland a decade ago, he not only demonstrated his expertise in Scots law, genealogy, clan history, and heraldry, but via the research of Dr Adrian Ailes, managed to put a name to a Lyon of 1290, one Jack Caupeny.

His research made clear however that such a pedigree is only a beginning, for his office descends from the Seannachie of Celtic times, someone who may have participated in the inauguration of kings back at least to King Kenneth MacAlpin in 843.

Renowned for mixing wisdom and humour, he was asked of the difference between the Land Court and Lyon Court: “Each is a court of extraordinary jurisdiction. One deals with crofters, and the other with chiefs”. Lyon Sellar and I happened on each other in the heraldic section of the National Library of Scotland. “Fishing from the same pool?” was his greeting. He once turned up for a meeting of Edinburgh University Heraldry Society at which the distinguished heraldist Sir Iain Moncrieffe of that Ilk was due to speak. But only Sir Iain, Mr Sellar and the society president turned up. So all three adjourned to a pub, where, he reported, “We spent a better evening than the meeting might have been”. Mr Sellar was O’Donnell Lecturer in Celtic Studies at Edinburgh in 1985, Stair Lecturer in 1997 and Rhind Lecturer in 2000. He has been a member of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland, Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, literary director of the Stair Society, chairman of the council of the Scottish History Society, and chairman of the conference of Scottish Mediaevalists. He has served on the council of the Scottish Genealogy Society, and of the Heraldry Society of Scotland. His formal entry into heraldic practice came with his appointment as Bute Pursuivant of Arms in 2001.
Lyon Sellar possessed his own fine sense of belonging. Great-grandson of William Sellar born in 1837 in Mortlach, Banffshire, and descendant of “400 years of blacksmiths” in the neighbouring parish of Botriphnie, His own arms recall his ancestral origins by the inclusion of a blacksmith’s hammer. Married and a keen “walker and island hopper”, Mr Sellar once confessed “I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t interested in genealogy”, recalling “I must have been very young – possibly six or seven – when I first started pestering great-aunts and elderly relatives”. In adulthood, this led to researches into consanguinity, from which emerged the fact that in pre-Reformation Scotland, the prohibited degrees of marriage included descendants of the same great-great-grandparent: in simple terms, even third cousins could not marry. Mr Sellar died after a short illness, and is survived by his wife Susan; step-son Andrew, and sons Duncan, Niall and Gavin and five grandchildren.

Scotsman Obituary February 11 2019



Ivor Guild, C.B.E.
(2 April 1924 – 3 January 2015)

The Society was advised at the beginning of January of the death of one of its most distinguished members and Vice-Presidents, Ivor Reginald Guild, C.B.E. (2003), a Fellow of the Royal Society, Edinburgh (1990) and Registrar (from 1967) of the Synod of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, having also been Chancellor of the diocese of Edinburgh 1985-95. Ivor was born in Dundee, the second son of Colonel Arthur Marjoribanks Guild, DSO., TD. ,DL., by his wife Phyllis Eliza Cox. He attended prep school at Cargilfield, Cramond, and gained a major scholarship to Rugby. In 1942 Ivor failed the medical for call-up and went up to New College, Oxford where he gained a M.A. Thereafter he studied further at Edinburgh University gaining a law degree, becoming a Writer of Her Majesty’s Signet in 1950, becoming the youngest of six partners in the Edinburgh law firm of Shepherd and Wedderburn and was with them for 43 years. He was well read, well informed, had an open mind and a good sense of humour.

Ivor was a keen genealogist and one of the earliest members of the Scottish Genealogy Society, founded in 1953, and apart from the first couple of years, edited its journal, The Scottish Genealogist, until March 1994; and from 1960 to 1994 was Procurator Fiscal of the Lyon Court.  He took an active role in the Society’s affairs, and before the move to Victoria Terrace our Council held its regular meetings in his law firm’s offices. Ivor was responsible for the careful consideration of the conveyancing when the Society purchased its present Library. In addition to being the editor for decades, he became a Vice-President in 1997, and throughout his membership was a popular regular at Council meetings until he died.

Ivor Guild never married and lived at the New Club in Edinburgh, where he was affectionately known as the ‘Duke of Princes Street. One of the chapters in the Club’s history was penned by Ivor. He was exceptionally well-travelled and went several times to visit his sister in South Africa. On his very last holiday in Berlin he became unwell and suddenly died. An obituary appeared in The Scotsman.

Gregory Lauder-Frost, FSA Scot.

Joan Primrose Scott Ferguson, MBE, FRCPE, MA, ALA

Joan Primrose Scott Ferguson was born on 15th September 1929. Her parents William Ferguson and Janet Mclntosh Scott lived at Clarebank Crescent by Leith Links, close to William Ferguson's work in the Baltic grain trade.
William Feguson was an elder in the Glasite church and the Ferguson family attended services in the Glasite Meeting Hall in Barony Street.   Joan was an only child and the long Sunday services (which included a communal meal) played a big part in her life. She attended school at George Watson's Ladies' College and she remembered the school moving from George Square to Colinton Road during the Second World War.  After school Joan studied for an MA degree in Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh.
After graduating in 1951 Joan went on to take a secretarial course.     In 1952 she became the secretary to the Librarian of the Scottish Central Library, situated in the Lawnmarket building.   In the 1950s and 1960s the Scottish Central Library (now part of the National Library of Scotland) hosted the Scottish Union Catalogue and acted as Scotland's main inter-library lending resource. This was a vital information transfer link in pre-internet days.
While at the Scottish Central Library Joan studied for a library qualification and in 1954 she passed the Library Association professional   exams   becoming   an Associate of the Library Association. Professional qualification led to promotion and Joan became the Chief Assistant in the Lawnmarket building.     Her duties included updating and compiling the card list of Scottish family histories and in 1960 her first book (Scottish Family Histories held in Scottish Libraries) was published.   This book was important to genealogists and thus Joan was an obvious choice when a Scottish Central Library representative at the Scottish Genealogy Society was needed. This was the start of a long association.
In 1966 Joan became the Librarian of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. In the 1960s the RCPE Library was a modern medical library and its core business was supplying up-to-date information to the fellows and members of the College. It was central to College activities. "Miss F" quickly became invaluable, which was not easy in (what was then) a very male environment, and especially difficult when following on from two influential male librarians who later took up major positions in Australia and Canada.
There were many RCPE achievements (Joan had a real customer service ethos), but she might have singled out her contribution to Professor W.S. Craig's monumental 1100-page History of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Without Joan's knowledge of the primary material and her impressive editing abilities, this invaluable work of scholarship might never have been completed, particularly as Professor Craig died before its publication. What is also remarkable is that despite Professors Craig's unexpected death, the book was actually published early, rather than as scheduled to coincide with the College's Tercentenary celebrations. Joan played a major role in planning and organising the 1981 Tercentenary.
Joan had a knack of getting on with people and she was especially friendly with another influential member of the RCPE staff, the College Cashier Maisie Lownie. Miss Lownie was in charge of seating plans at the College dinners Joan loved to attend, so she was always assured of entertaining dinner companions! Joan was also very friendly with her counterpart at the Librarian of Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Dorothy Wardell, whom she regularly met for Thursday night suppers at the University of Edinburgh Staff Club.
Joan's interest in history ensured that she planned for the needs of future historians and she did an immense amount of behind-the-scenes conservation work which has greatly extended the life of the College's collection. Shortly before her retiral in 1994 the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh showed their appreciation of her hard work by making her a Fellow of the College: there are few non-medical fellows.
In the 1980s Joan also found time to publish more books: in 1984 the Directory of Scottish Newspapers and in 1986 the revised, expanded edition of Scottish Family Histories. She was also a contributor to the Companion to Scottish Culture and a member of the Scottish Records Advisory Council from 1987 to 1993.
She became a pivotal member of the Scottish Genealogy Society. As Hon. Secretary for many years she hosted council meetings in her home before the Society had premises. She acted also as Membership Secretary and Syllabus Secretary. She was influential in the set-up of the SGS library and viewed many premises before Victoria Terrace was selected - then assisted in the conversion work undertaken. Joan would drive distances and stay overnight, all at her own expense, to represent the SGS at fairs and conferences around the country. And when the SGS celebrated its 50th anniversary, she played a significant role in organising the event at the Assembly rooms, Edinburgh. Many members remember with fondness her humour and her story-telling abilities - and the caramels she provided for our Library's Wednesday evening opening.
The Society was very grateful for the time and resources she freely gave and her M.B.E. (which was awarded in 1997) was for services to genealogy. She had significant genealogical research talent herself and traced her own Scott ancestry back to 1775, which, as many with Scott ancestry will know, can be quite a challenge.
Joan had many friends outside work and the SGS. She played a big role in passing on the historic Glasite Meeting Hall to the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust; she attended concerts at the Usher Hall; she was keen on gardening and took annual holidays in lona. Joan didn't really fit into the computer age. She was from an analogue era and her large office was a celebration of paper-based research. It could appear surprisingly disorganised with books and archives piled everywhere but Joan knew where everything was, thanks to her remarkably good memory which sadly deserted quite quickly her in her later years. The last period of her life spent as a resident at the excellent Laverockbank Care home in Trinity. When Joan removed to Laverockbank, some of her personal library was donated to the Society.
Joan never married, and since the 1950s had lived in Howard Place with her parents. Her father died in 1985, aged 88 and her mother died in 1994, aged 91. Her father is interred in Comely Bank Cemetery and her mother in Rosebank Cemetery, where Joan has now joined her.

Contributed by Barbara Revolta and lain Milne, Sibbald Librarian, FRCPE.


Jack Ritchie 1929 – 2011
(John Winter Ritchie)

The Society is very sorry to announce the death of Jack Ritchie, one of its volunteers, on 17th October 2011, after a few years of poor health.
  Jack was born in Aberdeen on 4th September 1929, the third child of Alexander Farquharson Ritchie and Agnes Jane Bremner.  His parents were keen to educate their children to their full potential, and although family resources became more straitened, all three eventually attended university.  Jack’s older brother Murdoch became an outstanding micro-biologist in the USA and his sister Stella became a maths teacher.
  Jack attended Aberdeen University after National Service in the RAF.  During his National Service, he had two particular close friends, one of average height and the other very tall.  Jack, of course, was neither of these, and he was fond of relating that, before marching into a pub, the three would align themselves in ascending order so that the barman would see one body and three heads!

  After University Jack entered the electronic communications industry and worked for a while in Basildon and then East Kilbride.  He took up a position as a Mathematics Lecturer at Napier College (later University), Edinburgh, in the latter 1960s, where he was considered by his students to be encouraging and inspirational; in fact, at one point he was lecturing his own son during his own university education.  He retained throughout his life a deep love of pure mathematics.  Another volunteer recalls that he and the late Prof. Gordon Nicoll suddenly one day began a long discussion about Infinity, leaving everyone else behind from around halfway through the first sentence.
  He joined the SGS in the early 1990s and was soon recruited as a volunteer, and many visitors benefited from his enthusiasm and willingness to help.  What some of them didn’t realise was that he had the ability to keep a straight face too.  Also, some members may not know that for a couple of years, Jack single-handedly applied stamps to envelopes and posted out the Journals, as well as being Joint Sales Secretary with John Stevenson.
  Another voluntary activity was with the Seagull Trust at Ratho, taking people with learning difficulties on its canal cruises, despite his own fear of water.  He enjoyed this immensely for about 12 years, and he would also devise arithmetical puzzles for them.

  The Society extends its sympathies to Jack’s son Ewan, daughter-in-law Lori and grandsons Daniel and Cameron.



DONALD WHYTE, JP, FHG, FSG(Hon.)  1924 - 2010

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of our Vice-President Donald Whyte, JP, FHG, FSG (Hon.), peacefully, on April 23rd, 2010.  Donald was one of the founding members of the Scottish Genealogy Society and devoted much of his life to the study and development of Scottish Family History.  He would readily recount, in the traditional manner, “I am Donald, son of John, son of Donald, son of John, son of...”

Donald held many posts within the Society: Librarian 1964-1966; Deputy Chairman 1960-1962; Chairman 1974-1983; Vice-President 1983-2010.  In addition to these posts, he was willing to travel the country promoting the Society and lecturing on family history to many interested parties.  One instance of his work for the Society was when Matthew Stirling left his substantial library of Scottish books to the Society.  Donald, at a day’s notice, hired a van, drove to London, loaded up the books and brought them to our premises then in Union Street.  The Stirling Collection forms an important part of the Society’s Library and we are indebted to the generosity of both Donald and Matthew.

As part of his work to promote Family History in Scotland, Donald wrote one of the first books on how to undertake family history research in Scotland: Introducing … Scottish Genealogical Research.  This book was relatively inexpensive and a great success, running to 5 editions.  Donald financed this book himself but generously gave the profits to the Society.

Donald also undertook a great deal of research over many years to produce other works of outstanding use to the family historian:  Dictionary of Emigrants to the U.S.A. in two volumes; Dictionary of emigrants to Canada before Confederation in three volumes; Clock and Watchmakers of Scotland 1453-1900, and a subject close to his heart, Scottish gypsies and other travellers: a short history.  A glance at his oeuvre in the catalogue of the National Library of Scotland shows no fewer than 71 publications listed.  In addition to these works he wrote many articles for the burgeoning number of family history journals and other learned journals.  A collection of his papers is also deposited at the National Library.

One of his lasting monuments was being the catalyst in the formation of another six Scottish Family History Societies:  Glasgow & West of Scotland F.H.S. (1977); Aberdeen & North-East Scotland F.H.S. (1978); Tay Valley F.H.S. (1980); Highland F.H.S. (1981); Borders F.H.S. (1985) and Dumfries & Galloway F.H.S. (1987). At the time of his death he was President or Honorary Vice-President of several of these societies.

Donald was born at Newtongrange on 13th March 1924.  Due to family illness, he left school early and followed his family’s footsteps into farming.  He worked hard and well, winning trophies for his ploughing prowess.  The family moved to Kirkliston, where he married, settled down and raised a family.  (Obviously no family outing was complete without an exploration of a kirkyard!)  Later he worked as a coalman and as a lorry-driver before becoming a professional family history researcher, which resulted in his helping to found A.S.G.R.A. in 1981.  Latterly he worked as a security officer at Edinburgh Airport, where the shift patterns allowed him to continue his research and to communicate with thousands of correspondents world-wide.  He was always willing to help and support those interested in Scottish family history and to give them the benefits of his experience.

He devoted energy into local matters also, writing Kirkliston: a parish history, published 1991.  He served as an Independent local Councillor and helped to reinstate the Kirkliston Gala Day in 1950.

At the funeral service in Kirkliston Parish Church, after an affectionate address by his grandson Christopher remembering the value of times shared and favourite poems (such as the famous line from To A Louse), the Rev. Maggie Lane spoke warmly of Donald’s life, his devotion to his family which formed the heart of his life, his hard work, his passion for history, his community involvement, his sense of fairness and justice and his giving attitude, concluding that his was “a good story”.  As the coffin left the kirk for committal into the neighbouring cemetery, the organist played a delicate rendition of Mull of Kintyre, to reflect Donald’s links to that area. 

Ay! Lay me in Kirkliston

For it’s there I was God’s guest...

An’ I’ll rest by the folk I used to ken

In the streets o’ the Templar’s Toon.

(From Temple Liston by Dr Isobel Wylie Hutchison.)

Predeceased by his wife Mary (in 1997), Donald is survived by his 3 daughters, 8 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren, to whom the Society extends its sincere condolences.

Contributed by several members



Marjorie A. Stewart, F.S.A. Scot.

Members will be saddened to hear that we received news of the death of Marjorie A. Stewart on Friday 23 October 2009.

 Marjorie was a keen family historian, and when she settled in Aberdour she quickly discovered the Scottish Genealogy Society.  In February 1989 Marjorie was elected a member of the Council and was immediately included in the team that sought out new premises for the Society Library when we had to leave Union Street later that year.  In February 1992 Marjorie was elected the Society’s Librarian.  She organised the rapidly expanding library in a very efficient way and oversaw a great expansion in the library holdings.  She was instrumental in extending the opening hours of the library, always willing to travel from Fife and spend the whole day on duty until a team of volunteers came forward and were able to run the library on that day by themselves.  However, Marjory was always on the end of a telephone if any help or advice was required.

In the year 2000 Marjorie stepped down as Librarian, but kept up a correspondence with many family historians she had helped over the years.

A fellow volunteer, John Stevenson, remembers –

                It didn't take me long to find a common bond with Marjorie as we had both served in the Merchant Navy.

                She worked for Union Castle Line that operated a fleet of passenger liners and freighters between Europe and South Africa and was employed in various capacities looking after the welfare of passenger's children while on a voyage.

                In the best traditions of the Merchant Navy she enjoyed "swinging the lamp" by recalling her experiences at sea and always maintained she never drank a gin & tonic until "the sun was over the yard arm"!

                I will remember her with some affection

Although many current members of the Scottish Genealogy Society did not have the pleasure of meeting or corresponding with Marjorie Stewart, they owe her a great debt of gratitude as she was a hard-working and faithful servant of the Scottish Genealogy Society and helped to build the wonderful Library and Family History Centre we now possess.

D. Richard Torrance

Marjorie asked her brother John to invite the SGS to accept any books from her personal library which might fill gaps in its own.  Thus a Library Team visited her home a couple of days after the funeral and selected some volumes which will be accessioned in due course.  The Society extends both its condolences to her brother on his loss and its thanks for taking time to fulfil Marjorie’s wishes for the benefit of our collective knowledge.



Ainslie Sanderson Crawford, M.B., Ch.B., D.P.H, M.D., F.R.C.A.

We are sorry to report the death on 31st July 2009 of one of the well-known figures at the Society, Dr. Ainslie Crawford, aged 95 years.  After retirement from his medical career Ainslie took a great interest in his family history, researching the Crawford, Ainslie, Sanderson and Buchanan families.  He was a helper at the Library each Wednesday morning and his quiet, efficient manner endeared him to the Wednesday team of helpers, as well as to the members he was always so willing to help.

Ainslie was born on 24th June 1914 just before the outbreak of the First World War.  He was educated at George Watson’s College and Edinburgh University, graduating as a Doctor of Medicine at the age of 22.  He went on to gain his Diploma in Public Health before being called up for military service.  He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to the Gloucestershire Hussars.  By the time he left the army he had attained the rank of Major.  During his army service he met Jack Buchanan, who introduced him to his sister Kathleen.  Ainslie and Kathleen were married in 1944.

After the war he worked at the Rush Green Hospital in Essex where he specialised in anaesthetics.  After a number of posts in the south he returned to Edinburgh as Consultant Anaesthetist at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.  He was responsible, with his team, for developing the Chest Injuries Intensive Care Unit.  This work was responsible for a dramatic improvement in the number of patients recovering from serious chest injuries.  He retired in May 1979 and, as he said, was the last anaesthetist to put patients to sleep by dropping chloroform on a face mask.

 Ainslie had a long and eventful life and he will be missed by his many friends.  His wife Kathleen, after a long period of ill health, died in 1987.  He leaves two sons and three grandsons.

Contributed by Peter Worling

Other members have added that Ainslie was responsible for a vast amount of unsung work for the Society, especially in the organisation of the Library.  For example, he drew diagrams and sorted out – and maintained – the correct order of our very many microfiches.  He took particular pleasure in the tuition of new volunteers in the wealth of our holdings and also in listening to the family histories of members and visitors, offering advice where he could.  When he could no longer manage to travel by bus, he refused to retire from volunteering, but would take a taxi to and from the Library, to be welcomed by everyone who enjoyed his company, his conversation, his humour, his sharp mind and memory and his interest in almost everything.  He had an exhaustive knowledge of Edinburgh, often consulted, and enjoyed attending concerts.  Many of us feel that he died far too young!