Roll of Honour


David Lindsay Keir


David Lindsay Keir was born on 22nd May 1895 in Spennymoore, then in County Durham. The family came from Perthshire, where his father, William Keir was a United Free Church Minister. He and his wife, Elizabeth Craig had five children, of whom David was the eldest. David was educated at Wallasey Grammar School, Liskard and Glasgow Academy, before going on to the University of Glasgow in 1913 to study for the degree of MA. He took sixth place in the bursary competition and earned some financial support from that distinction. He lived at home, which at that time was Sighthill Manse, Broomfield Road, Springburn.

Memorial chapel at the University of Glasgow
The Memorial Chapel at the University of Glasgow

He was a student at Glasgow for only a short time, not long enough to graduate, but he was clearly a student on the road to academic success. In his first year he took classes in French, Latin and History, earning distinctions in several aspects of French. In second year he began the studies in history and the constitution which would eventually lead to publications and a distinguished career. In 1915, he won first prize in Scottish History in Professor Rait's class, first prize in William Mckenzie's class on Constitutional Law and History, and third prize in Dudley Julius Medley's class of History. It was no surprise that he was also in the OTC, since Professor Medley was the convener of the military education committee and was something of a one-man recruitment office. Meanwhile the war called young men away from their studies. At the end of term David signed up and took a commission as Lieutenant in the King's Own Borderers, rising to the rank of Captain. He saw active service on the Western Front and was wounded at both the Somme and Arras.

David Keir survived and took up the threads of his promising career after the war, at New College Oxford rather than Glasgow. In 1921 he graduated with an outstanding first in History and was elected as a Fellow. He was an exchange tutor at Harvard University from 1923-1924. From 1931 to 1939 he lectured on Constitutional History at Oxford, and produced important scholarly work, in particular The Constitutional History of Modern Britain. Many distinctions followed. As President and Vice-Chancellor he was instrumental in the expansion of Queen's University, Belfast, for which he was awarded a knighthood. He was Master of Balliol College, Oxford, from 1949 to 1965.

These were times of university expansion and change, and he contributed his administrative expertise to academic institutions in the developing world as well as at home, in addition to being chairman first of the Northern Ireland Hospitals Board and later the United Oxford Hospitals Trust. He retired in 1965, the recipient of a number of honorary degrees, including a DCL from Oxford. He was particularly pleased when the University of Glasgow conferred an LLD in 1945. In accepting the honour he wrote of his pleasant memories of the two years he spent there, regretting that the war had intervened before he was able to graduate. He died on 2nd October 1973. He was married to Anna Clunie, and had two children.


Comments and Citations

University of Glasgow Registry and Faculty Records

Biography: M H Keen, Keir, Sir David Lindsay (1895-1973), rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004