View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Sandy Fenton 1929-2012

28th May 2012

Professor Alexander Fenton CBE 1929-2012

The death last week of Professor Alexander ‘Sandy’ Fenton marks the loss of an intellectual of quite remarkable calibre, who had a lifelong involvement with the Scottish National Dictionary Association (SNDA) and latterly with Scottish Language Dictionaries (SLD). 

Professor Fenton’s relationship with SNDA began in the 1950s when, as a student, he had a part-time job working with David Murison on the Scottish National Dictionary (SND). This was such a success that on his graduation he became the Senior Assistant Editor on SND. He continued to work for David Murison until 1959. On leaving SNDA, he took up a position with the National Museum of Antiquities, where he applied the lexicographical methododology he had learned from Murison to his study of Ethnology, taking the it from examining words and applying it to the examination of things. 

Taking up his employment with the Museum did not stop him having a lifelong interest in SNDA. He continued to contribute his advice, especially on his own North East dialect, to David Murison. 

From the late 1970s he served, to great effect, on the Board of SNDA. He always offered wise counsel to members of staff and he was always ready to offer his own spark of lexicographic expertise when asked. He contributed widely to the Word Collection of SNDA and latterly to the National Word Collection of SLD. He took a very active part in the compilation of the Concise English-Scots Dictionary, being of invaluable help to the lexicographers then in post. 

After the amalgamation of A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the Scottish National Dictionary Association into Scottish Language Dictionaries, he continued to serve to good effect on its Advisory Board. 

During his latter years, when ill health and frailty would have stalled or stopped a lesser person, Sandy was always available to answer queries or offer advice on all aspects of SLD’s work, and was always especially helpful with questions relating to the National Word Collection. 

He will be greatly missed by his friends and colleagues at SLD. 

Pauline Cairns Speitel

Senior Editor, Scottish Language Dictionaries