Roll of Honour


Walter Thomas Patrick Spens


Walter Thomas Patrick Spens was born on the 23rd October 1881 at Denton Cottage, Partick, Lanarkshire, the second son of Walter Cook Spens, an Advocate and Sheriff-Substitute, and Helen Spens (nee Gillespie), who had married on the 2nd August 1870 in Edinburgh. It was a large family, though several of the eleven children died in infancy. It was also a well-known family in Scottish legal circles. His sister, Janet Spens was the first woman to be awarded a DLitt by the University. Walter’s uncle John was one of the founders of Maclay, Murray and Spens, and his father, also called Walter, was a Sheriff, first in Hamilton and later in Glasgow. He was also a distinguished chess champion and the author of a number of legal texts. Like his father Walter attended Glasgow Academy and the University of Glasgow where he studied for both an MA and a BL.

Image of Walter Thomas Patrick Spens

Walter was just 16 in 1898 when he matriculated in the Arts Faculty, enrolling in the Ordinary class of Mathematics. In the following year he took Latin and Greek, and in the session 1900-01, just after his father died, he studied Political Economy, Roman Law and Philosophy. He graduated MA in 1901. Two years later he graduated in Law, though he came back to the University to take additional qualifications in Jurisprudence and Mercantile Law.

He served his apprenticeship in Maclay, Murray and Spens, after which he worked and became a partner in Hill and Hoggan. His legal and personal future was bright. He married Mabel Dennison Watson at St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, on the 25th February 1908. In 1910 he became a member of the Glasgow Faculty of Procurators. He was well known in Scottish political circles as an able speaker, an art acquired in the days when he was President of the Glasgow University Conservative Club.

And then the war came. Walter had trained with the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and he was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in March 1915 to the 9th Bn. Royal Scots and promoted to Lieutenant in 1916. He served with the Expeditionary Force in France from June 1915. Walter was wounded at Mametz Wood, and again in August 1916 and invalided home. He rejoined his Regiment in January 1917. Walter died of pneumonia at No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station on the 18th February 1917, contracted while on active service in one of the cruellest winters on record as the British Army remained dug in on the Western Front. He was buried at Autigny-en-Artois, fifteen kilometres northwest of Arras, France. He was 35. Among his siblings who survived was Janet Spens, founder of Laurelbank School. Lieutenant Walter Thomas Patrick Spens is remembered on the Honour Rolls of Glasgow Academy and the University of Glasgow.

Comments and Citations

University of Glasgow Registry and General Council records (GUAS Ref: R8/5/19/8-R8/5/24/8).

Biography: Additional information contributed by De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, 1914-1924, Vol 5, p156.

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