Celebrating women at the Bar

23 Jun

Ann Inglis, Emma Boffey, members of Margaret Kidd's family Helen Murley, Victoria Lea and Kate Lea, and Laura Dunlop KC.

TRIBUTES were paid to past and current female advocates at an event hosted by the Faculty of Advocates yesterday to celebrate Dame Margaret Kidd KC, the first female member of the Scottish Bar, and all those who have followed in her footsteps.

Margaret was admitted to Faculty on 13 July 1923, almost 100 years ago, after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 opened the legal profession to women for the first time.

In 1926, she was the first woman to appear in an appeal in the House of Lords. In 1948, she became the first woman in the United Kingdom to take silk. As Keeper of the Library from 1956 to 1969, she was also the Faculty’s first female office-bearer. She remained the only female member of Faculty for 26 years before two other female advocates, Isabel Sinclair and Margaret MacIntyre, were admitted to the Bar. She was also the only female office bearer until Valerie Stacey KC became Vice-Dean in 2004.

Welcoming everyone to the event, Treasure of Faculty Ruth Crawford KC said: “Equality is not just being invited to the party but also being invited to dance at the party.” She paid tribute to Margaret’s legacy and to other female advocates who had and continued to inspire women.

A new image of Margaret was unveiled in Parliament Hall by Ann Inglis, the thirteenth female member of Faculty, and Margaret’s great-granddaughter, Victoria Lea.


Speaking at the event, Ann Inglis, who was admitted to Faculty in 1975, remarked that “to date 255 women have followed in Margaret’s footsteps.

"Margaret Kidd was unfailingly kind and supportive. All of us from the early days were inspired by Margaret and I hope women at the Bar today are too,” she said.

She also spoke fondly of Lady Cosgrove, a friend of over 50 years. Hazel Cosgrove was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1968. She was the first woman appointed as a full-time sheriff at Glasgow and was later a sheriff at Edinburgh. Lady Cosgrove later became the first female Senator of the College of Justice in 1996.

“Hazel Cosgrove was the first woman to sit on the Court of Session bench as a temporary judge, then becoming a Lord Ordinary in 1996,” said Advocate Emma Boffey, who called to the Bar last year. “Today, there are now 56 women who sit on the Sheriff Court bench and nine on the Court of Session bench.”

“We’re moving in the right direction but still have a way to go,” said Laura Dunlop KC. “Diversity goes beyond the male/female metric. It extends to other underrepresented groups. 

“We, those of us who followed in the footsteps of others, recognise the need to pay it forward. That is why we’re raising money for LawScot Foundation and for Womankind Worldwide tonight, very different organisations but part of the equality and diversity landscape, in Scotland and globally.”

A copy of the presentation from the event is available here