Lord Justice-Clerk Macdonald’s number plate

The late Lord Justice-Clerk Macdonald, who held office from 1888 to 1915, came back into the news in September 2008, not for his contribution to Scots law, but as the former owner of the first car registration plate in Edinburgh, S1.

The car number-plate which he purchased in 1903 was put up for sale by his descendants and went for nearly £400,000 at an auction held on 19 September.  The purchaser, who is from the English Midlands, apparently intends to display the plate on an old red Skoda. 

Sir John Hay Athole Macdonald, Lord Kingsburgh, nicknamed ‘Jumbo’, is best known today for his contribution to criminal law and his memoirs, published on his retirement under the title Life Jottings of an Old Edinburgh Citizen.  The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography notes that “in the development of motor transport [Macdonald] was an enthusiastic pioneer, and … president of the Scottish Automobile Association.”  There is a good deal on the subject of motor vehicles (and much else) in his Life Jottings.  Macdonald was also an enthusiastic inventor, a brigadier-general in a volunteer infantry brigade, golfer, rifleman and President of the Cockburn Association.  But it was said of him that, apart from matters criminal, on law he was “superficial and perfunctory”. 
Macdonald’s descendants include Andrew Macdonald, a senior partner in Edinburgh solicitors Blair Cadell (information for which Scots Law News is indebted to Professor John Cairns).