Sir Angus Farquharson

Prominent figure in forestry and the environment

Born: March 27, 1935;

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Died: January 10, 2018

SIR Angus Farquharson of Finzean, who has died aged 82, was a respected public figure throughout the Highlands and prominent in many environmental organisations, including The Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland, the Red Deer Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage. He was a distinguished Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire (1998-2010), Deputy Lieutenant in 1984 and Vice Lord-Lieutenant in 1987.

Sir Angus wrote Finzean: the Fair Place – his opening paragraph included, “High up in the Grampian hills, a lovely little river winds gently down through heather covered moors. It passes by an ancient pine wood, recognised today as one of the last remnants of the Old Caledonian Forest ….. All this richly diverse area is aptly called Finzean meaning in Gaelic the fair place.” The book reflected his love of the area that had been the home of the Farquharson family for 400 years.

He was a strong supporter of the Clan Farquharson and was the clan’s honorary vice-president often wearing its tartan with obvious pride. The clan society was founded in 2001 and Sir Angus and Lady Farquharson attended the first gathering and remained regulars at AGMs and annual dinners, including one at Finzean House.

Despite not being born a Farquharson, he was keen to maintain clan traditions and Alan Caig, the president of the clan society, told The Herald: “A few years ago when Captain Colin Farquharson of Whitehouse died I met Angus at our clan cairn, Cairn na Cuimhne, on the banks of the River Dee near Balmoral. He had come especially to lay a stone on the cairn in remembrance of Colin, as used to be the practice when highlanders went into battle: thus started the practice of laying a stone on the cairn in remembrance of clan members who pass away.

“We have maintained that tradition since and two of our young members laid a stone on the cairn in remembrance of Lady Farquharson and we shall doubtless lay a stone in August in remembrance of Angus.”

Angus Roderick Durie Miller was born in Northumberland but the family moved to Aberdeen as his father was a GP and, on the outbreak of war, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. Sir Angus attended Lathallan School and Glenalmond College where he became involved in the launch of a glider with Sir Angus as pilot. Unfortunately it crashed and he broke his back which made him unfit for military service – which he much regretted.

In 1953 Sir Angus went up to Downing College, Cambridge where he studied archaeology and anthropology. In 1961, he married Alison Mary Farquharson of Finzean, daughter of W. M. Farquharson-Lang CBE the 14th Laird of Finzean and adopted the surname of Farquharson. He also studied chartered surveying and land management.

Sir Angus began farming the land at Finzean in 1969 gradually and shrewdly expanding the farm over the years. When he handed it over to his son Andrew in 1993 he farmed a herd of 150 suckler cows and 200 acres of spring barley.

He remained active throughout the community and brought his wise council to numerous local institutions – notably the Kincardine/Deeside Scouts, the Peterhead Sea Cadets, the regional committee of the Forestry Commission and the Finzean School of Piping. Nationally he was a prominent figure in many environmental and nature concerns. Sir Angus served on The Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland for nine years and a year as its chairman and the North East Committee for Scottish Natural Heritage. In 1995, he was awarded an OBE for his services to forestry and the community.

He was a director of the Scottish Traditional Skills Training Centre and further involved with the countryside when he served on the Red Deer Commission (1986-92). Robbie Kernahan now of Scottish National Heritage worked with Sir Angus on the Deer Commission and told The Herald: “Angus’ knowledge and expertise was instrumental in helping develop the policies of the commission providing culling strategies for estates and improving the management of deer throughout Scotland.”

Sir Angus was a strong supporter of the kirk and had been an elder in his local church since 1969 and acted as a general trustee of the Church of Scotland. He furthered the Finzean community through his support for the Birse Community Trust which initiates schemes to make available low cost housing for young local families and the gifting of land for sheltered housing.

His devotion to the clan was total. As Mr Caig recalls, “Angus was a quietly spoken man and one of the kindest and most courteous people I have ever met. He cared deeply for the clan and its members and would show a personal interest in everybody. He supported us in all that we did and it was that personal concern that endeared him to everyone.”

Sir Angus was made a KCVO in 2010 at a ceremony at Holyrood Palace. He became a Commander of the Order of St John in 2009 and had been an officer since 2002. He was also a keen gardener, walked the hills with his dogs and furthered his interest in local history in his extensive library.

Lady Farquharson predeceased Sir Angus; their daughter, two sons and eight grandchildren survive him.

ALASDAIR STEVEN