Captain William Donald Patrick

Biography of Captain William Donald Patrick

Born in Dalry, Ayrshire in 1889 and educated at the High School of Glasgow and the University of Glasgow, William Donald Patrick became both a war hero and a very successful judge. His father, also William, was Sheriff Clerk of Ayrshire and the family continued to live in Dalry for the duration of young William's education. When he went up to University at the age of 16 in the autumn of 1906 he enrolled in the Arts Faculty for classes in Latin, French and Mathematics.

Six years later he had two degrees, an MA in 1909 and an LLB in 1912. He was a good, though not an outstanding student. After stumbling over French in his first year, he was soon in his stride, passing exams comfortably and occasionally shining, as he did in his final year when he was the gold medallist in Professor John Glaister's class of Forensic Medicine and took second prize in A H Charteris's class of Public International Law.

In 1913 William was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates and began practice. War began the following year, however, and his career was interrupted. He joined the Royal Flying Corps, which later became the Royal Air Force, and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in July 1916. In the course of the war he was promoted to Captain and later Flight Commander. Seven victories in air battles with German planes are attributed to him between the 24th October 1917 and the 15th March 1918. On 10th April 1918, however, his plane was shot down at Messines while flying over enemy lines and he was taken prisoner and sent to Holzminden Camp.

After the war, William Patrick returned to the bar and earned a reputation for his sharp mind and forensic skills. It was clear that he was a rising star and destined for the bench. After serving two years as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates he was elevated to the College of Justice, at the age of 50. Lord Patrick was a distinguished judge, renowned for his mastery of complex cases and for clear prose.

At the end of the Second World War he was appointed as a British Judge on the tribunal which tried Tojo and other Japanese officers for war crimes. It was harrowing and sometimes unappreciated work that took a toll on his health and required him to take a long recuperative rest on his return to Scotland in 1948.

He returned to his duties at Parliament House, however, as a judge in the Second Division. Further honours followed. In 1949 he was appointed a Privy Councillor, a rare distinction for a judge who had not attained the Bench via the Crown Office. In 1950 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The Right Honourable Lord Patrick died in Edinburgh on 17th February, 1967.


Captain William Donald Patrick
Rank: Captain
Regiment: RAF
Degree: M.A. LL.B.
Awards: n/a
Comments: n/a
Note/Press Clipping: n/a
Photo ID: n/a


University of Glasgow Registry, Faculty and General Council Records

Obituary: The College Courant, 1967

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