Gebbie & Wilson – Our History
“3rd September 1816. Here I am snug and safe. It was however longer than I intended before I could depart from Glasgow. There was a little difficulty occurred in my final settlement with Messrs. Grahame & Mitchell but I surmounted it and obtained an arrangement to my entire satisfaction.
“I have obtained an office in a central and pleasant situation of the town. As yet I have not taken up lodgings but stay with Alexander where I am welcome and happy. All my friends seem cordially to wish me success and as far as their influence extend will heartily contribute to aid my prosperity. I dare say I will be very comfortable and happy here…”
So wrote twenty-three year old William Gebbie to his widowed mother in Ayrshire following his departure from a secure position in the city and his arrival in Strathaven to set up his own lawyer’s business. Such was the start of a legal practice which later became Gebbie & Wilson and has continued without a break to the present day.
William Gebbie 1816 – 1865
William Gebbie was born at Middlethird Farm, Galston on 23rd October 1793 (a place which had been in the family since 1588). His father was John Gebbie and his mother Janet Vallance. It is known he had a brother Francis who predeceased him, but little is known of other brothers or sisters.
William’s father died in 1796 when William was aged three and arrangements to send him to an Uncle William, a Sugar Planter in Jamaica fell through with the uncle’s death. Probably an elder brother would take over the farm, since on 1st June 1807, William was apprenticed as a Lawyer to James Gregg, Writer and Town Clerk, Kilmarnock. After a five year apprenticeship, from which he was “honourably discharged” on 13th June 1812 (aged 18), he proceeded to Glasgow where he found congenial work at the University and in the office of Grahame & Mitchell, Writers.
For reasons not entirely clear, Strathaven was chosen as the place to set up his own practice and he arrived in September 1816. Interestingly, the original of the letter to his mother (from which the above extract is taken) is, together with copies of his first business correspondence dated 5th September 1816, still held in the archives of the firm. He was formally admitted as a Procurator before the Sheriff Court in Hamilton on 22nd November 1816 and continued to practice until his death on 11th April 1865 in his 72nd Year.
Within a very short time of his arrival, William Gebbie seems to have carried on quite a large volume of business, but it is a commentary of that era that as evidenced from his business records most of it was correspondence and litigation for debt recovery. Nevertheless he built up a fine practice and became one of the best known figures in Lanarkshire. He was known to be strict in business, a devout man but, it was said, feared by many. He was Chairman of the Avondale Parochial Board from 1848 until his death, founder Dean of the Society of Solicitors of Hamilton, Justice of Peace Clerk for the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire for many years and, as Secretary to the Hamilton and Strathaven Railway, he gave great assistance in promoting the Scheme and rendering it successful. At one time he came to act for the Duke of Hamilton -a connection he lost later through adhering to his political convictions as an ardent Liberal.
William married Helen Currie who survived him until her death on 7th July 1869. They had a large family of fourteen children of whom six sons: John, William, Francis, James, Thomas and Albert, and four daughters: Helen, Mary, Marion and Agnes survived him. Two of the sons followed their father into the legal profession, viz. Francis (1830-1908) who became an Advocate and later Sheriff Substitute of Dumbartonshire, and James (1834-1915) who was (with most of the family) resident at the family home at Netherfield House and who took over his father’s law practice after his father’s death.
It is to be noted that Mr. Gebbie’s third daughter, Mary, was the Authoress in 1880 of the excellent reference book on the history of Strathaven entitled “Sketches of Strathavon and Avondale”, This was dedicated “To the Memory of William Gebbie, a revered Father, in whom high intellectual powers and great energy of purpose were united to the warmest affections of the heart and of William Gebbie a dear Brother who, in the prime of life, met with a violent death in the Australian Bush.”
It is clear that William Gebbie’s success in his profession and in community affairs brought him deserved prosperity. As a landed proprietor he owned at his death not only Netherfield Mansion House and Policies but also at least eight tenanted Farms in Avondale and left also for his widow and family over £14000 worth of other assets. How he accumulated his wealth is not known since his business records show that income from professional fees was at a modest level. His office of Justice of Peace Clerkship was however known to have been lucrative.
As his daughter writes in her “Sketches”: “He settled in Strathaven, identifying with the place and people and there continued to practise for nearly half a century the profession of law, to which he was all his life ardently attached. In politics an ardent Liberal, he battled for the recognition and development of the representative principle contained in the several Reform Bills .He died leaving a widow and large family to mourn the loss of a kind husband, an affectionate father, and the Parish of Avondale a wise counsellor”.
James Gebbie- 1865-1896
James was born in 1834, the sixth child and fourth son of William Gebbie and Helen Currie and resided with his parents at the family home- Netherfield House. As noted above, he took over his father’s legal business and the Office Premises in Kirk Street after his father’s death in April 1865. He also later purchased from his father’s Trustees (or acquired as part of his share of the estate) Netherfield House and Policies and resided there until his death on 5thFebruary 1915.
James’s wife, Julia Norton, who was eighteen years his junior died on 11th August 1911 aged 59. They had four children: William, James, Julia and Thomas. None of the family followed in the legal profession. James predeceased his father, losing his life on military service in World War 1. The eldest son William was married on 29th June 1907 and with a six month old child emigrated to Southern Rhodesia to start a new life as a Farmer. He and his wife celebrated their Diamond Wedding in 1967 in the midst of a large family. It is interesting that communication at that time to a distant relative in Scotland would appear to have been the source of the last available information about the Gebbie family. Earlier, on 12th December 1956, the youngest of the family, Thomas, died at St. Mawes, Cornwall, without issue. The administration of his estate and division of this among relatives in Rhodesia and Australia was effected by Mr. Robert W. Park and this was probably the last contact with the family of the founder of the firm.
James Gebbie initially practised on his own behalf and also succeeded to his late father’s lucrative appointment as Justice of Peace Clerk for the County of Lanark. He, like his father before him, had employed various qualified Assistants from time to time but both seemed to have been reluctant to assume any profit-sharing partners. The business was not large and carried on more or less as before, but gone were the days of incessant litigation, and the trend was towards the more congenial practice of conveyancing and executry and estate work. By 1893 when Mr. Tom Taylor joined as Apprentice, the other employees were Mr. Andrew Wallace Lyon, the qualified Assistant, and one Clerk Mr. James S. Park. However, in 1896 Mr. John Brownlie Young joined Mr. Gebbie as a partner and so the first partnership under the name of Gebbie & Young came into being.
Gebbie & Young 1896 – 1898
Mr. John B. Young was born of a Strathaven family, his widowed mother being the landlord of the Avondale Inn, one of the established and respected meeting places in the town. He was a nephew of Mr. Andrew W. Lyon (Mr. Gebbie’s assistant) had served his apprenticeship with Mr. Gebbie and moved to Edinburgh to attend the Law Faculty there. On qualifying and being enrolled as a Solicitor before the Supreme Courts he accepted Mr. Gebbie’s invitation to join him as a partner in the practice. Sadly, in early 1898 he became ill and had to undergo a surgical operation in Glasgow from which he did not recover. He died leaving a young Widow, infant son James and an unborn child.
As a footnote, the daughter, Miss Johanna B. Young, born in July 1898, lived to be over ninety years of age having resided with and cared for her mother in modest circumstances all her life. Miss Young was fortunately able to be present as a guest at the firm’s 150th Anniversary Dinner in 1966 referred to later.
Gebbie & Wilson 1898 – 1918
Following Mr. Young’s death, Mr. James Gebbie appears to have taken immediate steps to seek a replacement. An approach to his colleague Mr. Alexander Ross, a partner of Messrs. T.J.&W.A. Dykes Solicitors, Hamilton (one of the longest established legal firms in the County) led to consent being given for their assistant Mr. John Wilson (then aged 32) to leave them and join Mr. Gebbie as a partner in his practice – an obvious early example of successful “head-hunting”. Their partnership commenced on 18th July 1898 from which time the name of Gebbie & Wilson has continued to the present day.
Mr.Wilson came with a first class reputation. He was a skilled and meticulous Conveyancer and was regarded in Hamilton as one of the finest pleaders of his day. There was a staff of three at the time of Mr. Wilson’s arrival, one of whom was Mr. John McFarlane Paterson serving his apprenticeship, and another Mr. Andrew Shearer who later became Town Clerk of Dunfermline and who had a son Ian H. Shearer, later Lord Avonside, a highly regarded Judge of the Court of Session.
Within a year of joining the firm, Mr. Wilson took the progressive step of introducing the first female member of staff- a rather unheard of event at the time. The lady was Miss Eliza Shearer, a sister of Mr. Andrew, and she commenced on 17th July 1899 as a Typist at a salary of 10/- (50p) per week. She was an extremely able and efficient employee who progressed to become Cashier and gave diligent and loyal service for over 50 years until her retiral on 30th September 1949. Her presence as an honoured guest and the reminiscences given by her at the firm’s Anniversary Dinner in 1966 added greatly to the occasion.
The firm at that early time did not seem to be financially rewarding since the records show that in his first year Mr. Wilson earned £125. The problem seems to have arisen from the fact that Mr. Gebbie did not seek to recover adequate, or indeed in many cases, any fees for legal work, being adequately and indeed well remunerated by the fees he personally received from his position as Justice of Peace Clerk. Income from this source would appear to have been in the region of £3000 per annum, and while Court Locums had to be paid from this, the net return represented an incredibly large amount.
James Gebbie formally retired from the partnership on 30th June 1913 but continued to receive a share of fee income until his death on 5th February 1915—99 years since his father started in business.
After Mr. Gebbie’s retiral and death, Mr. Wilson continued as sole partner carrying on the business during the years of World War I, which sadly claimed the life of his only son Jack. This was a grievous loss, not least as his son was probably destined to follow in the firm. However in 1918 Mr. J. McFarlane Paterson joined Mr. Wilson as a partner.
Gebbie & Wilson 1918 – 1929
Mr. John McFarlane Paterson was a “son of the Manse “born in 1879 and was the youngest of a large family of Rev. Robert Paterson, who was Minister at Glasford Parish Church for 50 years. He started his apprenticeship with Gebbie & Wilson in 1898 and was with the firm for eight years before proceeding in October 1906 to Edinburgh to complete his studies and qualify as a Solicitor. He then returned to Strathaven and commenced to practise on his own account having an office in Commongreen. In 1918 he accepted Mr. Wilson’s invitation to join him as a partner and so started his membership of the firm which was to last for 40 years until his death in 1958.
Mr. Paterson was a complete “gentleman“, always courteous and ready to be of assistance. Nothing was too much trouble to him and his thanks for anything done for him were ever forthcoming, even when undeserved. While not perhaps possessing the sharpness of mind and clarity of thought shown by Mr. Wilson (as demonstrated by the latter’s meticulous preparation of legal documents) nevertheless Mr. Paterson had a sound knowledge of the law and a great deal of common sense which he brought to bear in his dealings with clients. He lived for his profession and for his Church, giving to Avendale Old Parish Church a lifetime of commitment and service.
A notable event of the period of the partnership of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Paterson was the appointment in 1924 of both as Joint Agents of The Commercial Bank of Scotland Ltd. Banking was no new feature in the firm’s history as, indeed, Mr. William Gebbie had been Agent of the Union Bank of Scotland in Todshill for many years until his death. The firm continued with banking operations from the office in Kirk Street until the Bank purchased new premises. Interestingly, the Kirk Street Office which had belonged to Mr. Gebbie and for which he continued to receive Rent from Mr. Wilson until his death, was purchased by Mr. Wilson from the Executors of Mr. Gebbie in June 1915 at a price of £415 fixed by valuation, together with the Office Furniture and Law Library at a price of £105. The firm continued to practise from these premises until in 1926 the Commercial Bank purchased new premises at 18/22 Commongreen, where they equipped the ground floor main shop as a Bank and leased the upper floor as Offices for the firm.
With the more commodious premises and an increasing volume of business the partnership continued to thrive, and was ready to welcome the addition of Mr. Robert W. Park as a partner in 1929.
Gebbie & Wilson 1929 – 1951
Mr Robert W. Park has stated that when he was invited by Mr. Wilson to join the firm as a partner on 1st November 1929, “nothing pleased me more than to return to the old firm in their new premises in Commongreen”. So began his 50 years as a partner of the firm, which he had first joined as an Apprentice on leaving school age 15 and which he had left eight years previously on moving to Glasgow to further his career.
Mr Park was born on 29th May 1900 into a long established and well respected Strathaven family. Having completed his Junior Secondary education at Strathaven Academy, Mr. Park had gone as a Law Apprentice to Mr. Wilson on 21st July 1915, a decision made “as a result of a wet July and with no thought of such a move until the night before.” He has recorded that his early years in the Kirk Street office were happy ones-the other members of staff then being Mr. William Smith (the Qualified Assistant), Mr Robert Prentice (Clerk), Miss Eliza Shearer and Mr. Tom Prentice (Office Junior). While there was plenty to do and a morning tea break was unknown, the staff were able to enjoy a tea party on a Wednesday afternoon when Mr. Wilson was on his regular visit to Glasgow. Mr. Park has paid tribute to the excellent training given to him in these early days by Mr. Wilson and he valued the experience gained by following the high principles and integrity shown by Mr. Wilson.
Mr. Park’s period of apprenticeship was unavoidably interrupted by military service during World War 1. He was called up on 30th May 1918 on the day following his eighteenth birthday and served as a Private in the Highland Light Infantry until his demobilisation on 30th March 1919. However, fulfilment of his five-year apprenticeship was achieved with his formal Discharge on 25th January 1921. At Mr. Wilson’s request, he stayed on with the firm (in which Mr. Paterson by this time had become a partner) for most of the year. He then moved to Glasgow to enter Law Classes at Glasgow University, commencing employment on 3rd October 1921 with the long established and reputable firm: Bannatyne Kirkwood France & Co (Salary £130 p. a.). Successful study resulted in the grant on 26th April 1923 of his Certificate as an Enrolled Law Agent.
As stated, Mr. Park had no hesitation in returning to the rural scene after eight successful and fulfilling years in the city. He had continued to reside in Strathaven, where he had so many outside interests, and he was probably also influenced by the fact that in February 1929 he had married Barbara Watt. Interestingly, Barbara had joined Gebbie & Wilson one week after Mr. Park had left. She was employed for seven years; departing after her marriage. Remarkably, Mr. Park found that for six years after he had left in 1921 there had been no change of staff -the employees of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Paterson being: Eliza Shearer, Jeanie Fallow, Maggie Kyle, Barbara Paul and Barbara Watt. While mainly engaged as Typists – following the general acceptance in the profession after 1921 – of Wills and Conveyances, these ladies had also to demonstrate good handwriting skills, which is very much in evidence in the archives of the firm.
With the addition of Mr. Park to the firm, the pressure of conveyancing work arising from the provisions of the 1924 Conveyancing Act was greatly reduced. The firm seems to have achieved the necessary completion of the detailed work for redemption of feudal casualties for client’s properties before the expiry of the five years statutory time limit. The years thereafter during the 1930s were a period of consolidation – the foundation being laid for the support of a loyal clientele, particularly from the farming community. World War 2 arrived however, resulting in a very busy time with staff leaving on war service and Mr. Park himself being absent for a three hour rota each day for five years as a member of the Royal Observer Corps. The volume of work also increased during the war years caused by one notable factor- the imposition on farmers of taxation of profits. This necessitated farmers keeping audited Accounts where previously they were taxed on the basis of the Rateable Value of their property. Farming clients turned to solicitors for help and both Mr. Park and Mr. Paterson fulfilled such accountancy work, mainly done on Sundays or in the evening. Such work remained an important part of the firm’s services, resulting later in the employment of a full time Tax Accountant and assistants.
Following the end of World War 2, it had become clear to Mr. Park that although he was the Junior Partner he was in fact producing most of the output of work of the firm. His involvement in and membership of so many organisations in the community (including a lifetime’s membership of the East Parish Church – an Elder since 1935 and Session Clerk since 1945, the Royal British Legion, the Boy Scouts Association, Strathaven Bowling Club, Avondale War Relief Committee, and not least the Rotary Club of Strathaven, which he was a founder member in 1947) meant that he was a well known and respected figure in the area and attracted clients who valued his help.
Mr. Wilson was enjoying the privileges of his position as Senior Partner but, with advancing years, it was not to be expected that he could continue to produce the volume of work as he previously did. Help was needed and Mr. James Gavin arrived to be employed as Qualified Assistant on 1st October 1946 on his return from military service. However, after three months he decided to seek a more highly remunerated position as Assistant Solicitor to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Fortunately for the firm, he did not find that work in Edinburgh so congenial, and five years later his approach to rejoin the firm was accepted with alacrity. Subsequently, Mr. Gavin became a partner on 1st November 1951 after which Mr. Wilson, by this time house bound through frailty – but mentally alert, retired on 31st December 1951, thus ending 53 years with the firm bearing his name. His death followed on 16th February 1952 (age 86).
Gebbie & Wilson 1951 – 1958
The arrival of Mr. James Gavin as a partner provided a welcome and fresh momentum to the firm. A native of Uddingston, Mr. Gavin was a graduate in Arts and Law (MA. LLB.) of Glasgow University and in 1939 had completed his Law Apprenticeship with the established Hamilton firm of Hay Cassels & Frame. Like others his career was interrupted by the Second World War, and being a pre-war member of the Territorial Army he was immediately called up. Six years service in the Royal Artillary followed when he saw action in North Africa and Italy, and he was demobilised with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1946. His experience for five years in the legal department of the Scottish Office included spells in Parliament assisting in the drafting of legislation, but his decision to find a more fulfilling life as a country Solicitor was a gain for the firm.
Mr. Gavin quickly demonstrated his nature as a caring professional: a willingness to give sound help and advice with an approachable manner and a ready sense of humour. He rapidly became well known and popular in the community, becoming a member (and Elder) of East Parish Church, the Rotary Club, Royal British Legion and other organisations to which he gave his time and talents.
Although the workload of the firm increased at this time, the numbers of staff remained fairly constant at around ten to twelve. The long serving Jeanie Fallow had taken over as Cashier, succeeding Eliza Shearer who had retired in 1949 after fifty years’ service.
On the 16th April 1951, William W. Park – the second son of Mr. Robert W. Park – joined the staff at Gebbie and Wilson as Law Apprentice. Co-incidentally, like his father, William had not intended to have a career in Law, but a short spell as office junior in 1950 had made him decide to follow in the profession. He commenced his first year’s study at Glasgow University for Bachelor of Law degree (BL) in October 1951, combining this with office training in Strathaven. However, class times did not allow for this. Fortunately, he had his Apprenticeship Indenture assigned to the long established and reputable Glasgow firm of M’Clure, Naismith, Brodie & Co. William started there in September 1952 and went on to complete his apprenticeship in April 1954, qualifying as a Solicitor with a Bachelor of Law degree.
He enjoyed his further eighteen months as Legal Assistant with M’Clures and it was with some hesitation that he accepted the proposal to return to Strathaven, where more help was needed. Returning on the 1st October 1955, William soon adapted to the country scene and was pleased to be assumed as a partner on 1st April 1958. Sadly, senior partner Mr. Paterson died fairly suddenly on 29th December 1958 in his eightieth year, leaving Robert W. Park, James Gavin and William W. Park to lead the firm at the start of the next twenty years.
Gebbie & Wilson 1958 – 1979
The adjoining new town of East Kilbride was developing rapidly in the 1960s with the influx of high quality industries, such as Rolls Royce, thus bringing personnel who looked to reside in the country and commute to work. Strathaven benefited accordingly with a considerable increase in new residential areas of development on the edge of the town to meet the demands of employees who wished to stay locally. As a result , Gebbie & Wilson also benefited, with an upsurge of residential conveyancing work. Many of the new residents at this time came from south of the border and as well as adding greatly to the community and local organisations, also became loyal clients of the firm.
In 1964 Mr. Robert W. Park’s standing in the profession was recognised by his appointment as an Honorary Sheriff-Substitute at Hamilton. He had for many years been a Justice of the Peace, taking his share of duties in the J P. Court and quickly adapted to and diligently performed his duties on the Shrieval bench. He was also particularly interested in the wider image of the profession, and willingly was elected as a member of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland where, in Committee work in Edinburgh, he gave of his time and talents in a valued contribution to the Society’s work.
On 21st October 1966, Mr. Park was delighted to be in the Chair and host a celebration dinner held to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the firm. This was attended by the partners, past and present members of staff and guests. Remarkably Mr. Park was able, from his own personal experience, to give a graphic account of life in the firm; going back over more than fifty years. As one of those present at the dinner, the compiler of this history is indebted to the notes of Mr. Park’s speech for much of the information in these pages.
In this period, work was intensive for Mr. Gavin and Mr. William especially as they willingly encouraged Mr. Park to pursue other interests involving travel at home and abroad for Rotary International and holidays, and it became clear that new help was required. The firm was most fortunate in successfully “head-hunting” Mr. James A. Copeland, who accepted the invitation to join the firm as a partner on 1st January 1970. A native of Hamilton, Mr. Copeland was a graduate in Arts and Law (MA. LLB.) of Glasgow University, and after qualification had become junior partner in the Glasgow firm of McLeish, Thomson & Co. However, Academic life had attracted him, and he fulfilled several years as Assistant to Professor McRitchie of the Department of Conveyancing at Aberdeen University. When Strathclyde University opened a Law Faculty, Mr. Copeland was successful in being appointed Senior Lecturer there and took up residence in Strathaven. To the good fortune of the firm, he decided to leave University life and rejoin private practice. A very united firm welcomed him and he quickly adapted to the work of a chamber practice. Along with expert knowledge of conveyancing law and practice, he demonstrated an ability to communicate effectively with clients: giving advice with a caring and incisive approach.
As the 1970s drew to a close, Mr. Robert W. Park decided to cut back on his involvement in the firm, giving scope for younger members to join. He therefore retired as a partner formally on 31st December 1978 after holding the position for fifty years, but was happy to continue to make a contribution as Consultant for a further period. On 1st January 1979 Mr. Keith C. Jackson and Mr. Robert A. Flynn were assumed as partners.
Gebbie & Wilson 1979 – Present Day
Mr. Keith C. Jackson joined the firm in 1978 and was assumed as a partner on 1st January 1979 at the age of 28. A native of Airdrie, he graduated Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from Glasgow University in 1971, qualifying as a Solicitor in 1973. He had completed his period of traineeship with and subsequently became a partner in the firm of John Jackson & Dick, Hamilton, of which an uncle had been the founder. He welcomed a change however, and being resident in Strathaven, readily accepted the position in the firm.
Mr. Robert A. Flynn, (age 25) was also assumed as a partner on the same day, but was no newcomer to the firm. After graduating in Arts and Law at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, with the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws (BA. LLB) he joined the firm in 1976 to begin his required period of traineeship. Completing this and qualifying as a Solicitor in 1978, he was pleased to continue with the firm as Qualified Assistant. Developing and extending his proven ability to work well and with enthusiasm, he enjoyed the help and guidance of Mr. Robert W. Park as his former mentor.
After a year of the new partnership, Mr. Gavin also decided to relinquish his position and give way to youth, and formally retired as a partner on 31st December 1979. Like Mr. Park he continued as a Consultant for several years, regularly attending at the office when he wished. While Mr. Park was happy to finally sever an active connection in 1982, having family and other interests, it was clear that Mr. Gavin’s life centred on the firm and failing health alone prevented him finally from visiting the office.
With younger partners now at the helm, a fruitful weekend meeting was held in 1981 to plan for the years ahead. The expansion of the firm and increase in staff numbers meant that more accommodation was required. Typing staff had been in cramped quarters in the attic of the building for over fifteen years, and permission to occupy the shop at 22 Commongreen (vacated after the death of the long established tenant, Miss Riddell,) was refused by the Planning Authority. Accordingly in September 1980 a major extension and refurbishment project had been started. The former Bank Manager’s room at the rear of the front ground floor office was demolished and a two-storey extension giving extra accommodation of seven offices, kitchen, and toilets was erected. Electrical rewiring, installation of a new gas-fired central heating system, redecoration and recarpeting were effected in the existing upper floor offices, and a rather difficult time was experienced with trying to keep the office open for business in the midst of tradesmen. Finally, after continuous upheaval, this major improvement to working conditions was completed in December 1981 and the loyal staff were grateful for the more comfortable premises and improved facilities. Further expense was met to upgrade and re-install mechanical accounting equipment from time to time to keep abreast of continuing developments.
It is to be noted that at about this time the firm was faced with the retirement of some long serving employees. While the staff had almost doubled in a decade, there had been a consistent loyalty and very few changes among existing employees. Among these was Miss Jeanie Fallow, who retired as the longest serving staff member in 1982 after over 60 years of service. In 1989 retirement also overtook Miss Anne Rattray, typist to Mr. Park for over 42 years and five years later, Mrs. Mary Tennant, who had served as a typist for 39 years mainly to Mr. William Park. It is doubtful if such events would occur today with the general recognition of retiring age being 65.
Another noteworthy event at this time was a change in the firm’s appointment as a Building Society Agent. Since the mid 1930s, there had been a close association with Woolwich Equitable Building Society, whose products were marketed and from whom Commission Income was received. Then the decision was made to accept the offer of the rivalling Halifax Building Society to become their local agents; Mortgage and Investment business for them has continued to form part of our work in the cash department.
Reflecting the increased volume of business, the firm expanded to five partners with the assumption on 1st January 1991 of Mr. David C. Murray. Mr. Murray, a resident of Motherwell, qualified as a Solicitor in 1981 after graduating in Law at Glasgow University (LLB) and training in Motherwell. Before joining the firm on 7th July 1985 as a Qualified Assistant, he was in a similar position in Edinburgh. Quiet by nature and possessor of a keen legal mind, Mr. Murray soon demonstrated an ability to get to the root of problems for clients and a willingness to work for the general well being of the firm.
Four years later the firm reverted to four partners with the voluntary retiral, for personal reasons, of Mr. Copeland on 31st December 1994. This was accepted with great reluctance by the other partners, who recognised the loss to the firm by Mr. Copeland’s departure after 25 years as a partner. Nevertheless, he left with the gratitude and good wishes of the partners and staff.
The decade of the nineties was increasingly showing a general change in the attitude of the public to the legal and other professions in what had become a litigious age. There was also a perception of an adverse change of attitude within the profession itself. This contributed to Mr. William Park’s decision that, on reaching normal retirement age in 1997, he should formally retire as a partner. This he did with the reluctant agreement of his partners on 31st December 1997, although he was happy to continue on a consultancy basis. Understandably, with such a long standing service of over 40 years with the firm, many clients were unwilling to immediately entrust their business to another. They were therefore grateful that Mr. Park would be available for at least a short period to continue to assist them. He continued to enjoy what should have been semi-retirement, but was in fact still almost full time involvement, until 30th April 1999 when he met socially with partners and staff to formally end his consultancy period. At the time of this compilation he is fortunately still available to give help and information when called upon.
Fresh history was made when on 1st July 1999 Mrs. Jacqueline McDonach was assumed as a partner, the first female to be so appointed. The firm had frequently employed ladies as Trainees and Legal Assistants, and Mrs. McDonach had joined in January 1996 with her appointment as principal Court Assistant. As previously noted, the largest proportion of the firm’s fee income was derived from conveyancing work (residential and commercial) but at this time in an ever increasing competitive market for this work, a conscious decision had been made to develop Court work including divorce and matrimonial work. Mrs. McDonach’s experience and ability in this field has enabled her to lead a department within the office to provide a valuable service for clients in need of such help.
Gebbie & Wilson 2000 – 2016
So the firm has entered the 21st century with Messrs. Jackson, Flynn and Murray and Mrs. McDonach leading a team prepared to meet the problems and challenges in the years ahead, and it is hoped, successfully able to guide the firm to achieve its Bicentenary in 2016.
Thus wrote Willie Park, the author of above history, in 2000.