Last autumn saw 11 graduates from the Class of 1955 Law make a special return to Old College as the group gathered to mark their 60th anniversary since graduation.
With alumni coming together from all over the UK, from Orkney to Cornwall, the occasion affirmed the lasting bonds first forged during student days, as well as reunion organiser David Buchanan’s planning and organisation.
The class of 1955 has celebrated four milestone reunions, in 1980 after 25 years, in 1995 after 40 years, in 2005 after 50 years, and in 2015 after 60 years. Each event has been held in Old College and presided over by alumnus The Rt Hon Lord Mackay of Clashfern KT, James Peter Hymers Mackay.
Everything was just about perfect – the venue, the meal, the talks from some of today’s professors and, crucially, the informality and easy conversation.
The 60th reunion was held in the Raeburn Room and the group was joined by Head of School, Professor Richard Sparks, Professor John Cairns, and Professor Hector MacQueen.
Professor Richard Sparks welcomed the group back to Old College and spoke about what life is like today at the Law School. Alumni then enjoyed a talk from Professor Cairns on the origins and evolution of Old College. Back in 1789, the year that the foundation stone for Old College was laid, the needs of the Law School were very simple, just two small rooms –
one for Scotch Law and one for Civil Law. Today, the Law School is undertaking a major refurbishment to provide accommodation fit for the 21st century.
The group spend time reflecting on the changes in legal education and legal practice which have taken place over the last sixty years. In the 1950s, all Law students who planned to go into legal practice had to complete their apprenticeships (now traineeships) during their degree.
Reunion organiser David Buchanan remembered:
A typical day began with a lecture at 9am. After that we had just enough time to grab a cup of coffee before walking down the Mound to be in our offices before 10.30am, ready for a day’s work. We left our offices to return for lectures at 4pm and at 5pm. There were also tutorials to attend and practical work to be completed. Suffice to say we were hard at work from the time we left our lodgings at about 8.30am until we returned at about 6.30pm.
We had to sit class exams in every course both half-way through the term and at the end of the term, followed by the degree exams at the end of the academic year. We seemed to be forever sitting exams. I calculated I had sat 73 exam papers over the 5 years of my MA, LLB before my final graduation.
Talking of today’s Law students he commented:
I wish them all success in their studies and their careers. I recently spoke to a second year student who told me about the work of the University’s Free Legal Advice Service in which he was involved. I was heartened by his enthusiasm and idealism. He had a real sense of vocation which is what I had when I decided on a career in law.
As they shared memories, the close fellowship of the class was clear. There was much reminiscing, and the group took time to remember classmates who could not attend, and those who have passed away.
Looking round the table, I realised that my oldest and most loyal friends, now of at least sixty-three years standing, were there. At the same time, there was the awareness of all those who were no longer with us or who had not been well enough to attend. As we dispersed, I was overcome by a feeling of poignancy - the enjoyment of our meeting and the uncertainty of us all ever gathering together again.