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Gloag, William Murraylocked


Gloag, William Murray (1865–1934), jurist, was born at 27 India Street, Edinburgh, on 15 March 1865, the eldest in the family of one son and three daughters of William Ellis Gloag, Lord Kincairney (1828–1909), judge, and his wife, Helen Stark, daughter of James Burn, writer to the signet, Edinburgh. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a first class in modern history in 1887. He attended law classes at Edinburgh University and became an advocate in 1889. Success as a pleader eluded him and, like many counsel in that position, Gloag became a law reporter. With J. M. Irvine he published Law of Rights in Security Heritable and Moveable Including Cautionary Obligations (1897) and the future direction of his career was set. Two years later Gloag became assistant in Scots law at Edinburgh University and in February 1905 he was appointed regius professor of law at Glasgow University. Gloag moved to Glasgow, where, with an unmarried sister, he set up home in the university. In 1909 he was made a KC.

A dedicated scholar, Gloag was an inspired teacher, even for students attending lectures at 8 a.m. He spoke without notes and sprinkled his trenchant remarks with a dry wit which some claim to glimpse in Carmina legis, or, Verses Illustrative of the Law of Scotland (1920). Though reserved, he was popular with his students. To the best among them he offered opulent breakfasts that ended with stronger drink than coffee. He was a founder of the student law society. During term Gloag's life centred on the university. He acted as dean of the law faculty and served on the court. Outside the university, in July 1915 he became a chairman of the Glasgow munitions tribunal, but he proved ill suited to handling its rowdy proceedings and was dismissed the following year. Spells as a subcommissioner under the national service scheme and as assessor to the Glasgow dean of guild court (from 1926) were successful. His leisure was spent at the Western Club and, on Saturday afternoons, at Prestwick Golf Club. Vacations found him at his estate at Murthly, Perthshire, or, after its sale in 1921, on Speyside and in St Andrews. Gloag was an assiduous golfer and bridge player. He achieved a hole in one at Troon in 1907.

In 1914 Gloag published The Law of Contract (2nd edn, 1929), the principal Scottish monograph on the subject and his lasting memorial. He assembled, organized, and analysed a mass of authorities, both Scottish and English. The resulting exposition is so authoritative that practitioners and the courts departed from it only rarely unless subsequent developments made this necessary. In 1917 he received the LLD degree from Edinburgh University. Ten years later, with Professor R. Candlish Henderson, he produced an Introduction to the Law of Scotland (10th edn, 1995), a succinct and accurate statement of the law.

Gloag had a deformity of the right arm and a somewhat high-pitched voice, but overall made a forceful impression. He was unmarried. Having become ill in Prestwick, he was admitted to Park Nursing Home, Glasgow, where he died two days later, on 5 February 1934.


  • D. M. Walker, The Scottish jurists (1985)
  • G. R. Rubin, War, law and labour: the Munitions Acts, state regulation and the unions, 1915–1921 (1987)

Wealth at Death

£1214 15s. 1d.: confirmation, 17 April 1934, CCI

sealed in London, 1934, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]