The Keeper(s)

FOLLOWING THE BANK holiday on Monday, the WS Society hit the ground running on Tuesday with an Admissions Ceremony and the Society’s AGM in the evening. Family and friends of the new Writers to the Signet assembled in the Upper Library to see 20 new Writers to the Signet and 10 associate WS sworn in by the Keeper of the Signet, Lord Mackay of Clashfern KT. Following the ceremony, Lord Mackay gave a short address where he spoke about the history of the WS Society, the meaning of the office of Writer to the Signet, the incredible resources and collections of the Signet Library and the sense of optimism for the future. Opening the lower library to the public, Lord Mackay said, signals the Society’s desire to engage and share the beauty and treasures of the Signet Library with wider audiences. He went on to say that the Signet Library is associated with the values of the Enlightenment such as tolerance of opposing opinions and the rule of law.

LORD MACKAY AND guests then left the Upper Library, for a drinks reception in the Lower Library, whilst the new Writers to the Signet remained with their fellow WS for the Annual General Meeting. The meeting was well attended and fully supportive of the continuing progress reported by Deputy Keeper with the Society’s vision and strategy. Caroline Docherty said this had laid the foundations for the Society’s New Enlightenment project to raise statutory and third party funding to complete the transformation of the Signet Library to become an inspiring destination of law, literature. The Deputy Keeper said that, certainly since the Enlightenment, if not before, the Writers to the Signet are lawyers who appreciate the importance within society of culture, literature, rationality, tolerance and diversity under the rule of law. This is our very own Enlightenment legacy and we’re reconnecting with it.

THE AGM THEN elected seven new members to the Society’s Council, re-elected office bearers. After the formalities, everyone then moved downstairs to join Lord Mackay and guests at the drinks reception, giving new and old WS a chance to get to know each other. It was evident to all that this was a successful occasion and one that captured the mood of optimism and possibility that pervades the Society at this point in its history. It goes without saying that the chance to hear Lord Mackay, one of the most inspiring and engaging legal figures in Britain, was the highlight of the evening.

A MORE RECENT annual tradition will be observed on Friday, with the 20th anniversary of the Agricultural Law Conference, the leading event of its type in the country. Around 100 of the country’s leading lawyers, land surveyors and other will assemble to hear a panel of experts discuss current issues. The WS is delighted, in association with the UK-wide Agricultural Law Association, to have established such a well regarded event an looks forward to continuing for many years to come.

IT WAS A Writer to the Signet, William Roughead (1870-1952) who is generally regarded as having introduced the “true-crime” genre to the world. Undoubtedly, he would have whole-heartedly approved of the current crop of true-crime documentaries that are dominating so much of the new programming on streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix. Last week saw a new Netflix sensation The Keepers, a seven part American series delving into an unsolved murder in Baltimore in 1969. The victim, Sister Catherine Cesnick, was a 26 year old nun and teacher at the Catholic girls school Archbishop Keough and to this day, both the identity of her murderer and the motive for her death are a mystery. The radiant and kind young teacher was much loved by her pupils, and two former students, Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub, now grandmothers in their late 60s, have embarked upon the daunting task of trying to solve the case. The story that unfolds seems almost too horrific to believe, yet amongst the dreadful crimes that the women uncover is a truly inspiring subplot of victims uniting against unspeakable establishment corruption. Along the way, many unsung heroes finally receive a little of the recognition they deserve.

SINCE THE SERIES appeared just over a week ago the Facebook page set up by the two amateur detectives has been unable to cope with traffic generated and Netflix has stepped in to help. As with Making a Murderer, the case has a new momentum thanks to a huge public outcry over a lack of justice from both the police and the legal establishment. Undoubtedly there are still some twists and turns to come. From a legal point of view, the impression made by former state’s attorney Sharon May lives long in the memory, though for all the wrong reasons. The Keepers is available on Netflix now.

— “Writer”

Writer's Week is not intended to represent the views of the WS Society or its members.