Obituaries: Ian Balfour, Scottish lawyer, author, theologian and historian

Ian Balfour, lawyer. Born: 16 June 1932 in Edinburgh. Died: 11 June 2022 in Edinburgh, aged 89.

Ian Balfour was a big man in every respect. He was tall of stature, large of intellect and a polymath as a lawyer, an author, a theologian and a historian.

Ian was for many years the senior partner in his well-known family legal firm of Balfour & Manson. He was also, for many years, Secretary of Charlotte Baptist Chapel.

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Ian was born in Edinburgh in 1932, the elder son of Francis Balfour, then a partner of Balfour & Manson, and his wife Isabel Ingram.

Ian Balfour became senior partner in the family law firm (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
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Ian started his education at Edinburgh Academy in 1938, but was evacuated to Hamilton, Ontario, with his mother and his brother William where they lived with family, and attended Hillfield School until 1944. On his return he completed his education at Edinburgh Academy.

He went on to Edinburgh University, graduating with an MA in 1953 and LLB in 1955. In those days an apprenticeship was served alongside obtaining a law degree. So, Ian began his training in the family firm during the last year of his MA, qualifying as a lawyer in 1955.

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During his university years Ian enjoyed playing the bagpipes in the Edinburgh University Pipe Band and was a member and then Secretary of the Edinburgh Christian Union, as well as serving in the Territorial Army.

At the age of eight Ian was given a birthday party by his parents. It was attended, amongst others, by Joyce Pryde, a fellow worshipper at Bellevue Chapel. Ian invited Joyce, aged five, to accompany him for a look around the garden of his then home in Lomond Road. Joyce said she could only do that if her mother approved. Mrs Pryde did. From then on Joyce and Ian were treated always as a couple in the large group of young folk from their church.

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Ian and Joyce were married in Edinburgh in 1958, and had four children together.

During his army cadet days at university, he had undergone officer training, and in 1954 Ian qualified for a commission. He was called for National Service and was commissioned in the Royal Army Service Corps after his basic training. Then he passed out as top cadet at Aldershot; his mother and Joyce went to watch the passing out parade.

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On return from National Service in 1958, Ian joined Balfour & Manson. He was made partner in 1959 at the then good salary of £750 pa. He was later joined in the firm by his younger brother, William. Thereafter the firm expanded in size and ever larger sections of Frederick Street, where the firm is still located, were purchased to accommodate the increased requirement for accommodation.

During these years after University and the Army, Ian Balfour considered becoming a lay preacher, which was the usual style of ministry in Bellevue Chapel. He therefore took an external BD degree from the University of London, graduating in 1959.

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In 1963, Ian and Joyce moved from Bellevue Chapel to Charlotte Baptist Chapel, where Ian later became Secretary to the Chapel, at that time under the distinguished care of the late pastor, Derek Prime. Numbers attending the Chapel increased until it had one of the largest congregations in Edinburgh, regularly filling the chapel to its capacity of 1,000 on Sunday mornings.

In 1965, the law agent of the Baptist Union of Scotland died and Ian agreed to take up that office. This was a professional appointment, which took much of his time.

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He gave advice on all aspects of church life, including, constitutional issues of churches being public venues with free admission to all members of the public; planning issues; liquor licensing objections; and purchases of churches for the Baptist Union. The Baptist Union was expanding and many disused churches of other faiths were acquired during this time.

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Ian accepted an invitation to be president of the Baptist Union of Scotland for the year 1977-78. This again stimulated his academic interest in theology and he attended New College Edinburgh, where he obtained a PhD in Theology in 1980, after studying the life of one of the Christian Church’s fathers, Tertullian, who was a Roman convert to Christianity.

In the office, Ian was an innovative manager, streamlining many aspects of the firm’s business. He arranged the upskilling of staff so they could work with clients in different way. This included selling properties and a property finding service for clients, all before lawyers’ property centres were created.

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Ian was an early organiser of the firm into specialisations. He became the full-time Court of Session practitioner in the Court department. There were also Private Client and Commercial departments.

He fulfilled his obligation as the senior Court of Session practitioner, always to the best of his considerable ability, and with speed and determination, devoted to his grateful clients’ business.

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Ian put clients first both in his life in the law and in the firm. Having commenced his career in general practice, as was the habit in the 1950s, and having created specialisations, he further introduced a number of policies with regard to the conduct of business.

One of these was openness amongst partners and legal staff, both qualified and those under training, to seek help if they were having difficulties managing work. It was to Ian that those troubles were taken for problem-solving suggestions. Help was given willingly and promptly and resolutions found. Clients were always kept informed of matters of this sort, as often they themselves were at the coalface of interchanges of correspondence.

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As well as all that, the firm engaged four apprentices each year, and later trainees when the training system changed. A number of Court of Session Judges, Sheriffs, Procurators Fiscal and Defence Counsel were trainees in Balfour & Manson under Ian’s tutelage.

In his management role, Ian supervised the introduction of computers in 1983, which was early for a legal firm. Every member of staff learned keyboard skills and was trained in the use and purpose of the computer system, backed up by the firm’s internal instruction manual, entertainingly named “The Idiot’s Guide”. The electric word processor became extinct, with the firm’s first WP taken by the Royal Scottish Museum.

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In his professional life, Ian was also appointed a Fiscal to the Royal College of Nursing, which dealt with nursing discipline. He was also appointed Fiscal to the Law Society of Scotland on disciplinary matters, Secretary to the SSC Society and was a Tribunal Chairman for Child Support.

Ian retired from the firm in 1997. He remained Secretary of Charlotte Chapel until 2000. In 1993, he was appointed Joint Auditor of Edinburgh Sheriff Court and his duties were later extended to Livingston, Jedburgh and Duns. He retired from that appointment at the age of 89 when the first problems arose with his health, having always retained a room in the Frederick Street office and having remained a Consultant to the firm until then.

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Ian spent many years writing historical records of his family, a whole book about Charlotte Chapel, a history of Balfour & Manson and on many other topics which were of historical or entertaining interest to him. They can be found on his personal website, www.ianbalfour.co.uk.

Ian Balfour is survived by his wife of 64 years, Joyce Pryde, and their daughter and three sons, brother William, ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Lesley, his daughter, is a retired midwife, Robin is a doctor, Jeremy is an MSP and Sandy is a Chartered Surveyor.

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