Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Shand, Alexander (1828-1904)

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SHAND (afterwards Burns), ALEXANDER, Baron Shand of Woodhouse (1828–1904), Scottish judge and lord of appeal, born at Aberdeen on 13 Dec. 1828, was son of Alexander Shand, merchant in Aberdeen, by his wife Louisa, daughter of John Whyte, M.D., of Banff. His grand-father, John Shand, was parish minister of Kintore. Losing his father in early boyhood, he was taken to Glasgow by his mother, who there married William Burns, writer, in whose office her son worked as a clerk while attending lectures at Glasgow University (1842-8). He assumed the surname of Burns, and was a law student at Edinburgh University (1848-52), spending during the period a short time at Heidelberg University. He became a member of the Scots Law Society and of the Juridical Society (17 March 1852), and passed to the Scottish bar on 26 Nov. 1853. His progress was rapid, and he was soon in full practice. In 1860 he was appointed advocate depute, in 1862 sheriff of Kincardine, and in 1869 of Haddington and Berwick. In 1872 he was raised to the bench. After serving with great distinction as a judge for eighteen years, he retired, and settled in London in 1890.

On 21 Oct. 1890 he was sworn of the privy council, and on 11 November following took his seat at the board of the judicial committee (under the Appellate Jurisdictions Act, 1887, 50 & 51 Vict. c. 70, sect. 3) as a privy councillor who had held 'a high judicial position.' He was elected an honorary bencher of Gray's Inn on 23 March 1892. On 20 August of that year he was raised to the peerage as Baron Shand of Woodhouse, Dumfriesshire, and for twelve years sat in the House of Lords as a lord of appeal. Of these, one of the last, and by far the most important, was the appeal by the minority of the Free Church of Scotland against the judgment of the Court of Session which rejected the minority's claim to the whole property of the Free Church on union with the United Presbyterians. Six lords of appeal heard the arguments, which finished on 7 Dec. 1903. Judgment was reserved. Shand and two other lords were believed to uphold the judgment of the Court of Session; but on 6 March 1904 Shand died in London, and was buried at Kintore, Aberdeenshire. In consequence of his death the appeal was re-heard by seven judges, who, on 1 August 1904, by a majority of five to two, reversed the judgment under review, and gave the whole property of the Free Church to the small minority which had opposed the union. The unfortunate effects of this decision were afterwards partially remedied by a commission, appointed in 1905, under Mr. Balfour's administration, which distributed the property on an equitable basis (5 Edw. VII, c. 12).

In politics Shand was a liberal, but never prominent. He took a useful share in public business, was president of the Watt Institute and School of Arts at Edinburgh, an active member of the Educational Endowments Commission of 1882, and in Jan. 1894 was nominated by the speaker of the House of Commons chairman of the coal industry conciliation board. He wrote letters to 'The Times' on law reform, and frequently delivered lectures to public bodies on that subject, publishing addresses in favour of the appointment of a minister of justice for Great Britain (before the Scots Law Society, 1874); on 'the liability of employers: a system of insurance by the mutual contributions of masters and workmen the best provision for accidents' (before the Glasgow Juridical Society, 1879); and on technical education (before the Watt Institute and School of Arts, 1882). He was made honorary LL.D. of Glasgow in 1873, and D.C.L. of Oxford in 1895.

Shand married in 1857 Emily Merelina (d. 1911), daughter of John Clarke Meymott, but had no family. He was of unusually small stature. A portrait of him, by Sir George Reid, hangs in one of the committee rooms at Gray's Inn. A caricature by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1903.

[Scotsman, and The Times, 7 March 1904; Records of the Juridical Society; Roll of Faculty of Advocates; Law Reports, Appeals, 1904, pp. 515-764.]

G. W. T. O.