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Duncan MacLean

Architect

Architect

Born: May 20, 1924; Died: May 16, 2014

Duncan MacLean, who has died aged 89, was one of Scotland's leading municipal architects who played a key role in the planning and construction of the award-winning high-rise council headquarters in Hamilton, Lanarkshire.

The building, which celebrated its 50th birthday last month, is an iconic Central Scotland landmark and home to South Lanarkshire Council. It was also one of Mr MacLean's proudest achievements.

A Skye man, he spent his professional career in the public sector, designing and creating everything from houses and schools to libraries and town halls. He was later appointed head of estates and buildings at the then burgeoning Strathclyde University campus.

He was born in Portree, the third of five children to James and Annie MacLean, and was educated at Portree High School. Unsure what path to take after leaving school, he took a job as a postal and telegraph officer on the island. Then, when war broke out in 1939, he enlisted in the Royal Corps of Signals where his work experience in the Post Office held him in good stead.

For much of the war he was stationed at Southwick near Portsmouth, the base where much of the planning for the D-Day landings took place. Though Mr MacLean was not involved in the initial Normandy invasion, he was later dispatched to serve in France.

After his spell with the Armed Forces he decided to pursue a career in architecture. To this end he enrolled in Aberdeen College of Building, graduating in 1950. By then he had met the woman who was to become his wife and lifetime companion. It was during an eightsome reel at a ceilidh in the Skye Gathering Hall in 1948 that the young trainee architect, home for a break, first encountered Violet Corless.

Violet, a pharmacy student from Kendal in Cumbria, was on holiday in Portree with her family. The couple's courtship lasted almost six years. They were married in 1954.

Mr MacLean's architectural career began in Dingwall with a job at the local authority in Ross-shire. He then moved to Edinburgh where, for a brief period, he took up a post with the National Coal Board. In 1955 the couple moved to Belfast when Mr MacLean was appointed to a more senior position in the architects' department of the Northern Ireland Housing Trust which was responsible for much of the province's social housing.

They spent five years in Belfast during which time Mrs MacLean gave birth to their two children, Allyson in 1955 and Roderick (Rory) in 1958. Rory died in 2010. The family returned to Scotland in 1961 and Mr MacLean worked briefly for Stirling County Council before taking the top position in Lanarkshire County Council's Public Buildings Department.

He arrived there as work was about to begin on a new headquarters for the local authority. Though the design of the building was primarily the work of David Bannerman, Mr MacLean led the project's team of architects. The impressive 200ft-high, 17-storey structure, inspired by the UN headquarters in New York, was opened by the Queen Mother on April 14, 1964. He took great pride in the building and, until just a few weeks before his death, he would drive past it to make sure that all was in order.

Mr MacLean continued to work for Lanarkshire Council until he moved to a new post with East Kilbride Development Corporation. Anxious to extend his professional knowledge, he took night classes at the then Glasgow Royal College of Science and Technology and gained a Diploma in Town Planning.

After the college became Strathclyde University, he was appointed its depute bursar with responsibility for estates and buildings, a post he held until his retirement at the age of 62 in 1985. He played a key role in developing the campus, overseeing the creation of new university buildings and halls of residence. On retirement, though he ­continued to work on a consultancy basis from time to time, Mr MacLean made good use of his new-found leisure time. A first-rate golfer with a single-figure handicap, he played an active role at Riccarton Golf Club, Hamilton. He was also a keen fisherman and member of the Phoenix Angling Club.

He was a member of Hamilton Old Parish Church and served as an elder and session clerk. He also took up painting in his sixties and did a watercolour of the church which he presented to the parish.

Prints of the painting were sold and the proceeds were used to pay for the gold leaf on the organ pipes. The original watercolour hangs in the church vestry.

Mr MacLean, who died just four days before his 90th birthday, is survived by his wife, his daughter, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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