A tribute to Professor Robert Rennie

Published: 13 January 2021

On 6th January 2021, Robert Rennie, Professor Emeritus of the School of Law, died in hospital after a short illness.

On 6th January 2021, Robert Rennie, Professor Emeritus of the School of Law, died in hospital after a short illness. The news has been received with incredible sadness amongst colleagues and former students in Glasgow and far beyond. As a scholar, a mentor, a proud member of the University community, a teacher, a colleague, and most of all as a friend, his loss will be keenly felt.

Robert had a lifelong connection with the University beginning with his undergraduate studies in the late 1960s and culminating in his appointment as Professor of Conveyancing in 1994, a post in which he remained for 20 years. His distinguished career as both an academic and a practising lawyer is summarised with warmth and wit by Robert’s contemporary and friend Lord Bonomy in the opening chapter of the collection of essays published in celebration of Robert’s retirement in 2014. Even after “retirement,” Robert continued to publish scholarly work and to teach occasional classes for students in the School of Law. It will be strange not to see his face (and waistcoats) around the building, even if those sightings had become less frequent in recent years.

I was lucky enough to have Robert as my PhD supervisor from 2005 – 2010. It is impossible to overstate how rich my studies were as a result. That he was an excellent academic role model goes without saying. However, his quiet confidence in my ability and his genuine delight when things went well for me had, if anything, an even greater influence on me as a person. One memory that sums it up – and which still makes me laugh – is emailing Robert to apologise for missing a deadline for submitting a draft thesis chapter for his review. My long-term relationship had come to an end, and I was all over the place. Within five minutes of my sending the email, Robert phoned me. Not only did he obliterate any concerns I had about missing deadlines and provide emotional balm for my broken heart, he also swiftly ensured my legal position – post break-up – was adequately protected with just three extremely pertinent questions. Even at the time I laughed with him for being such a lawyer about it, but if all lawyers – and all academics – could be so effective while simultaneously being so kind the world would be a much better place.

His work will continue to influence legal academia and practice for a long time to come, but he leaves other legacies. The one I like to think of is the smile that so often appears on the face of a Scottish solicitor when they read the name “Mrs McGlumphy”. That poor woman had no end of troubles!

There are so many other things that could be said. With that in mind, we have opened a book of condolences where we invite you to share your memories of Professor Rennie as a teacher, a colleague or a friend. He will be greatly missed.

Frances* McCarthy

(*Robert never could get used to calling me Frankie)

Professor of Private Law


We invite you to visit our online book of condolences.

If you would like to contribute your own message to the book please email ruth.odonnell@glasgow.ac.uk 

First published: 13 January 2021