In 1952 he applied to enter in the Register of Corrected Entries substitutions of his name and sex. This was granted, based on his oath and medical evidence. A few months later, he married Isabella Mitchell, his housekeeper.
In 1965 his elder brother died, and he was to assume the Baronetcy. His cousin, John Alexander Cumnock Forbes-Semphill, contested the inheritance on the grounds that Ewan was female. A two-year court battle ensued, first in the Scottish Court of Session where Dr Charles Armstrong gave evidence that Ewan was intersex, and then the case went to the Home Secretary (the future Prime Minister), James Callaghan. A letter from Ewan’s sister was produced to the effect that he was female, but Ewan’s wife testified that they had normal intercourse. The Session judge decided that Ewan was “predominately male”, though intersexed. The Right Honourable James Callaghan, after consulting with the Lord Advocate, directed that Sir Ewan Forbes (he had dropped the ‘Semphill’) should be entered in the Roll of Baronets as The 11th Baronet of Craigievar and The 20th Lord Semphill, Sir Ewan Forbes of Craigievar,
John Forbes-Semphill finally became the 21st Lord Semphill when Ewan died.
No public records of either the Court of Session or of the Lord Advocate's advice are available. This would appear to be an aristocratic privilege, but resulted in the precedent not being considered in April Ashley’s divorce (Corbett vs Corbett) in 1970.
- Z. J. Playdon. “The Case of Ewan Forbes”. The gender Centre. June 1996. Online.
- Kay Brown. “Dr. Ewan Forbes-Semphill’. Transsexual, Transgender, and Intersex History. www.transhistory.net/history/TH_ForbesSemphill.html. 1998. Archive.
- Tom Peterkin. “Sex-change baronet's estate is sold for £1m”. The Daily Telegraph 10/11/2003. www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/12/01/nest01.xml.
Stephen Wittle & Lewis Turner ''Sex Changes'? Paradigm Shifts in 'Sex' and 'Gender' Following the Gender Recognition Act?' Sociological Research Online, Volume 12, Issue 1,ReplyDelete
make the following comment:
The ‘real’ and crucial issues in the Sempill case were whether a respectable Scottish country gentleman (Ewan) rather than a dissolute Londoner (John) should look after what is one of the finest and oldest landed estates in Scotland. It is clear from the court transcript that the judge, Lord Hunter, had to find a way of making sure the ‘right’ decision was made, and the transcript is full of fantastic tales and premises.
There's no h in Sempill.ReplyDelete
Rachel Horsham, who researched the Forbes case as part of her appeal to the ECHR (www.dwarfempire.com) has written to me as follows:ReplyDelete
"What I read on your site is the same sort of information
that the public was led to believe at the time. It was untrue. Ewan
Forbes-Sempil was transsexual. If you read Lord Hunters judgment that was
presented to the ECHR in my case, you will read the findings of Prof Gooren
and he clearly states that in his view Ewan Forbes-Sempil was transsexual
based on the medical evidence given at the time. You should also read the
complete court presentation and you will know the reality of the case. But
it is much deeper as it concerns titles and the legal rights to particular
titles, in the case of Sempil a Baronetcy can only follow in the male line
and not female. Ewan was born female and named Elizabeth. Some titles can
follow male or female, eg a Baron can become a Baroness, Baron being male
and Baroness being female. It is because of this that the judgment of this
case was not allowed to be presented at the Corbett case."
But there is one in WhittleReplyDelete