Appreciation: Sheriff Muir Russell CBE

Albert Muir Galloway Russell QC CBE, Sheriff. Born: 28 October, 1925. Died: 25 December, 2017, aged 92
Albert Galloway Muir Russell CBE, QC in paper 03/02/18Albert Galloway Muir Russell CBE, QC in paper 03/02/18
Albert Galloway Muir Russell CBE, QC in paper 03/02/18

In an excellent tribute to his gather at the private service at the Inverness Crematorium, Douglas, the eldest son, (there were two sons and two daughters) said that they were there to pay tribute to “a husband, a father, grandfather, uncle, godfather, soldier, sheriff, golfer, musician, volunteer, and perhaps a frustrated greenkeeper”. Muir Russell was all of these things, but first and foremost he was a family man. He was most happily married to Margie for 63 years and was rightly proud of Douglas, Anne, Graham and Jennifer.

The son of Lord Russell, a Senator of The College of Justice, Muir was educated at The Edinburgh Academy and at Wellington College. Joining the army in 1943 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in The Scots Guards, serving in North West Europe, not leaving the army until September 1947. He must be the only officer in the army to have captured a submarine. Just as the war was ending he was ordered to the docks at Cuxhaven and told to secure a submarine there, U.147. The Commander and crew gave up without a fight and were escorted to secure accommodation. The following night a German naval engineer scuttled the submarine, later being tried for war crimes before a British military court.

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After demobilisation he went up to Braesnose, Oxford and then to the University of Edinburgh to study law. He was called to the Bar, becoming a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1952. He was a busy Junior and in time became Standing Junior Council to the Board of Trade, the Department of Agriculture and the Forestry Commission. As a Junior he was central to what became known as the Harris Tweed Case which was in court for nearly 12 months and Muir and the other advocates, instructed effectively by the Harris Tweed Association established that tweed to be sold as Harris Tweed must conform to the “Orb” definition. Years later, on holiday in Harris, Muir and Margie visited a weaver and told of his role in the case, with Hebridean courtesy, the weaver, to Muir’s great satisfaction, said “thank you for what you did for us”.

Appointed as a QC in 1965 he became a Sheriff in Aberdeen in 1971 and was later the senior Sheriff there. The oil industry was in its infancy and the jurisdiction was challenging as the industry grew. He proved to be a popular appointment and those appearing before him often commented on his interest, courtesy and fairness. Visiting solicitors and advocates were always shown respect. He mentored new sheriffs arriving in Aberdeen, worked his court hard and over long hours. His judgments appeared fair because few ever reached the Sheriff Principal or beyond. He even seemed to earn the respect of some of his regular “visitors” in the Summary Criminal Court where on one occasion a repeat offender returned to Court with a bunch of flowers for him, shortly after being sentenced.

In time he was invited to join The Sheriff Court Rules Council and became its chairman. For his public service he was awarded the CBE.

Retiring in 1991 they purchased Tulloch House, Aultbea, near to Gairloch where the Russells had holidayed in Muir’s early years and where he had learned to play golf. He was a tidy player and continued to play at Gairloch well into his eighties.

Music was an important part of his long life, being a skilled pianist and how he loved to find and play his favourites, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole. He produced several pantomimes in Wester Ross, writing songs and playing at the performances.

As a volunteer he had first shown his willingness to help in Edinburgh, being vice chairman of the Southern Group of Hospitals in Edinburgh and serving as a governor of Moray House College of Education. In Aberdeen he was a governor of Albyn School for Girls. This willingness to help continued while at Aultbea, where for “Cardeus”, in his eighties, he drove less able folk to medical appointments.

Visitors to Tulloch House were expected to admire his perfect lawns. To achieve their level of perfection, lawn mower after lawn mower was purchased, but none ever reached the level of excellence his lawns required. He could have started a mower museum – was he a frustrated greenkeeper?

Douglas’s list of his father’s loves and achievements, missed out one characteristic. Muir Russell was a good and faithful friend to many, friendships based on his total honesty and a gentle sense of humour with genuine frequent laughter.