Master of the Universe

Robin White (LLB 1967) studied Law at the University’s Queen’s College, Dundee campus, graduating in the year that St Andrews and Dundee split. Robin opted to accept his degree from St Andrews, but has maintained close connections with both institutions ever since. Here is his story…

I took the LLB between the years of 1964 and 1967. The 1964 cohort comprised between 30 and 40 students, only a few of whom did not graduate. We came from a wide variety of places within the UK, and the proportion from England (like me) was something much discussed.

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Robin outside “the Terrapins” following his graduation in July 1967

Nearly all of us were straight from school (the gap-year not having been invented), but there were a couple of mature students and perhaps six women.

I have no idea where the great majority of that cohort are now. It is a safe bet that most are (possibly now retired) solicitors, but I do know one became Regional Procurator-Fiscal for Strathclyde, two became professors, and another went to jail.

The LLB dated from an 1894 Ordinance designed for part-time students, modified only in that it was now full-time. Thus, there was very little choice of subject, but it was considerably less challenging than it had originally been (and would shortly become). We had two or three lectures a day, generally in the traditional monologue form, and little by way of other work.

Half the staff were local practitioners, teaching part-time, as nearly all teaching in all Law Faculties always had been. Most memorable was Alistair MacDonald, part-time Professor of Conveyancing, and still with us. Full-timers were an innovation, but more obvious to students. Memorable ones included Arthur Matheson (Professor of Scots Law), Neil (later the famous Sir Neil) McCormick, Jim Robertson (both lecturers, very clubbable and known to attend student parties) and Ian Willock (Professor of Jurisprudence), all regrettably now deceased.

Social life was equally memorable. Gaudie Night, when Senior Women/Men took out their bejant/ines (yes, still called that) to get them drunk, flourished. Indeed, social life revolved around the Union Bar (then decorated by wonderful Breugelesque wall-paintings), the Tavern in Hawkhill, the Saturday Hop in New Dines, and parties in flats. There seemed to be a party somewhere every Saturday.

My other chief extra-curricular activities were the Folk Club (and I once heard Mary Brooksbank sing Coarse and Fine) and the Air Squadron (flying at Leuchars every Sunday) and, for a year, the Judo Club.

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A recent photo of Robin

Finance deserves a mention since it was no problem in those days. Like almost everybody, I got a grant, merely supplemented by holiday jobs, at the Post Office (Christmas), and a building site and a bakery (over the summer). Indeed I saved enough to buy a large BSA motorbike in Second Year, and a large Alvis car in Third.

I can remember, one summer’s evening, between the exam results coming out and the date of graduation, standing outside the Ship Inn in Broughty Ferry, watching the sun set over the hills upstream of the Tay, and thinking I was a Master of the Universe.

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Robin went on to forge a successful career in law, as a regularly-sitting Justice of the Peace, a member of the Judicial Council for Scotland and as part of the Advisory Committee of the Judicial Institute for Scotland. He is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Dundee where he previously held the posts of Senior Lecturer and Associate Dean of the former Faculty of Law and Accountancy. He was the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Lifetime Contribution to Teaching by the University of Dundee upon his retirement and is now writing a history of law teaching in Dundee. 

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