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Ian C Simpson

Former lawyer and current crime fiction writer Ian C Simpson experienced wide and varied activities during his time at Edinburgh and talks to us about how having the ‘gift of the gab’ benefited his career.


Ian C Simpson

Degree Course LLB Bachelor of Laws
Year of Graduation


ian c simpson

Your time at the University

With an ambition to become an actor, I started in the Arts Faculty. After acting in plays alongside Ian Charleson (actor, Chariots of Fire) I realized that I was considerably less talented than he was and got a free transfer to the Law Faculty.

I am glad that I took part in a variety of activities; golf, debating and university politics. It was a heady time to be a student; there were protests, sit-ins and general unrest. My own political views veered to the left, but I was a voice for moderation. On the executive of the Students’ Representative Council, I had responsibility for academic affairs and sat on the Senate committee on failure rates as well as the Court/Student committee. I headed the application of students to attend Law Faculty meetings. By not frightening the Faculty members with extreme attitudes we were the first to win this representation. Later, supported by Law Faculty friends, I stood for Rector on a half serious, half spoof platform (one of my policies was to turn staff car parks into sports pitches – a joke at the time but look at the Old Quad!). It was neither one thing nor the other and I was beaten into last place by the Apathy candidate, who, logically, urged no one to vote for him. I realized I could not take politics seriously enough and belatedly applied myself to my legal studies, representing Edinburgh in the inter-university moot.

All this activity was very good for me; I learned my strengths and weaknesses, made friends and met some interesting people, some of whom have gone on to most distinguished careers. I also met my wife, the long-suffering Annie.

I learned my strengths and weaknesses, made friends and met some interesting people, some of whom have gone on to most distinguished careers

and understanding people – an essential for my job.

Ian C Simpson

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

The ‘gift of the gab’ with which I had been blessed was honed and developed at university. At the bar I was drawn instinctively to crime. My tendency to favour under-dogs helped when my defence practice began to flourish. Today is an age of specialisation, but I was fortunate to be one of the last of the all-rounders. As well as criminal defence work, I acted in divorce, reparation and occasional contract cases as well as planning inquiries. I was thirty-nine when I was appointed to the shrieval bench (Scottish version of Court of Sessions). It was there I did my most important work, trying to make what was often the least bad decision for the children of divorcing parents and for youngsters who had gone off the rails. In 2004 and 2005 I sat in the High Court as a temporary judge but I developed muscular dystrophy, mercifully late in onset, and retired at the end of 2006.

After retiring, I indulged a long-held ambition to write. I found the practical application of the law far more interesting than the theory I was satisfied with facts and instead I began to write crime fiction. In 2008 I was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger by the Crime Writers’ Association. Murder on Page One came out in 2012 and was followed by Murder on the Second Tee and Murder in Court Three. The Andrean Project is my latest publication. It is a murder mystery set in 1930 against a golfing background. So far my writing has attracted mostly positive comments, but it is really only a hobby. I am lucky to have it.

Alumni wisdom

Carpe diem or, in modern parlance, go for it!