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(William) Roy Sanderson studied at Oxford and trained for the ministry at New College in Edinburgh. After two years as an assistant at St Giles' Cathedral, he spent four years as minister of the parish of Lochgelly in Fife. In 1939, he was called to the Barony parish in Glasgow, where he remained as minister until 1963. Upon leaving the Barony, he became minister of the linked parishes of Stenton and Whittinghame in East Lothian.
During his long and distinguished career, Sanderson was Convenor of the business committee of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (effectively Leader of the House) from 1965-1972, and served as Moderator of the General Assembly in 1972. He was also a prominent figure in the Presbytery of Glasgow, of which he was Moderator in 1958. In 1959, the University of Glasgow awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. Sanderson also served for ten years as chairman of BBC Scotland's religious advisory committee. He formally retired from the ministry in 1973, but continued to serve as interim moderator and locum in a number of parishes.