Arnold McNair, 1st Baron McNair

European Court of Human Rights International Court of Justice Paisley, Renfrewshire
The Lord McNair
Born4 March 1885
Died22 May 1975(1975-05-22) (aged 90)
OccupationJudge of the International Court of Justice (1946-1955, president 1952-1955), President of the European Court of Human Rights (1959-1965)
EmployerUniversity of Cambridge
TitleWhewell Professor of International Law (1935-1937)

Arnold Duncan McNair, 1st Baron McNair CBE KC FBA (4 March 1885 – 22 May 1975), was a British legal scholar, university teacher, judge of the International Court of Justice and later the first president of the European Court of Human Rights.

Life and work

Early life and education

The eldest son of John McNair of Dulwich (but originally of Paisley, Scotland) and Jeannie Ballantyne, McNair was educated at Aldenham School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he read law. From 1907 to 1908 he was Secretary of Cambridge University Liberal Club,[1] and in 1909 he was President of the Cambridge Union.

Academic career

After practising as a solicitor in London, McNair returned to Cambridge in 1912 to become a fellow of his old college. He later became senior tutor. In 1917 he was called to the Bar, Gray’s Inn. McNair had taken an interest in international law from an early age, and in 1935 he was appointed Whewell Professor of International Law at Cambridge. However, he left this chair already in 1937 to become Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool University. He remained in Liverpool until 1945, when he returned to Cambridge to take up the position of professor of comparative law.

International court appointments

The following year McNair was elected a judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, a post he held until 1955, and was also president of the Court from 1952 to 1955. He later served as the first President of the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg from 1959 to 1965.


McNair was created a CBE in 1918 and knighted and made a King's Counsel in 1943. In 1955 he was raised to the peerage as Baron McNair, of Gleniffer in the County of Renfrew.

Coat of arms of Arnold McNair, 1st Baron McNair
Coronet of a British Baron.svg
McNair Escutcheon.png
On a wreath of the liveries an ancient ship under full sail flagged Azure the sail emblazoned of ensigns armorial as on the escutcheon.
Gules three barrulets wavy Argent surmounted by a lion rampant Or armed and langued Azure between two thistleheads stalked and leaved paleways of the third.
Two Bedlington terriers Proper
Danger in Delay [2]

Personal life

Lord McNair married Marjorie Bailhache, daughter of Sir Clement Meacher Bailhache, in 1912. They had four children, one son and three daughters. Lord McNair died in May 1975, aged 90. He was succeeded in the barony by his only son Clement John McNair.


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  2. ^ Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage. 1985.