Lord Lieutenant, lawyer, swimmer and civic leader;
Born: November 20, 1927; Died: August 12, 2012.
James McPherson, who has died aged 84, epitomised everything that represented his beloved Banffshire. As Lord Lieutenant, he represented the Queen throughout his county; as a born stravaiger, he quartered his beloved Banffshire as a young man by bike, on foot and by car to the end of his life, from the top of Ben Macdui to the sandy shores of Cullen. He used his Banffshire tongue as everyday speech, and greeted all from royalty to next-door neighbour with the same Doric warmth.
All of which lay at odds in having been born a Fifer, thanks to his parents being from Wormit. No lang spune was required to sup at James McPherson's table. An educated and courteous man, upright in principle and stature, he proved a natural leader from the early 1950s when, as a national serviceman, he gained commission as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery.
Public service lay at the root of Mr McPherson's life. His day job was that of a solicitor in Macduff, but his life was wholly committed to the common weal. A local councillor by the age of 30, his first campaign was the retention of the railway to Macduff, essential in his view for local freight. The fact that he lost that fight proved the spur that drove him to serve on a simply astonishing list of public bodies, voluntary organisations and charitable groups.
He combined being the last provost of Macduff and final convenor of Banff County Council before regionalisation changed the face of Scotland in 1975, carrying forward his local government work into Grampian Regional Council until 1990.
His public service portfolio covered police, health, Territorial Army, Aberdeen University Court as well as honorary shrieval duties at Banff for Grampian, the Highlands and Islands.
The private life he shared with Helen, née Perks, his beloved wife of more than half-a-century, was also combined with contributions as a Scout leader, kirk elder, active local historian and chairman of Banffshire Field Club.
Two decades ago, when road widening threatened the octagonal toll house by the river Deveron outside Turriff, he rallied fellow members of North East Scotland Buildings Preservation Trust, and helped arrange funds for salvation of the historic building by expediently moving it 20 yards to one side.
James Alexander Strachan McPherson CBE MA BL LLB FSA Scot was educated at Banff Academy and graduated in law from Aberdeen University. His early interest in public work was encouraged by teaching youngsters to swim at Tarlair, a duty that might have challenged anyone who didn't have Jimmy McPherson's strapping six-foot stature – warmth has never been a feature of Tarlair.
If the natural rock pool of The Trinkie at Wick is ignored, north-facing Tarlair is the farthest-north open-air swimming pool in the UK, high tides providing brisk cleaning twice daily. Tarlair played a major part in Mr McPherson's life, as a training pool for his annual participation in the mile-long swim between Banff and Macduff, and in recent years as the focus of his campaign for the restoration of the pool to its former glory.
Among the finest art deco pools, the A-listed one at Tarlair was built in 1930, and in its heyday during the 1950s and early 1960s proved a mecca for locals and holidaymakers alike, with the young McPherson swimming club captain and in later years chairman.
James McPherson's appointment as Lord Lieutenant for Banffshire in 1987 brought fresh enthusiasm to an ancient post. Responsible for organising royal visits as well as welcoming members of the royal family, he proved a popular choice, greeting all he met with the same sincerity and ready smile. Never short of an illustrative anecdote, he used to introduce his office by explaining: "A Lord Lieutenant is like a bidet. Everybody wants one, but no-one quite knows what it's for."
He headed ceremonial duties when, in the late 1990s, there was a surge in community councils seeking coats of arms. Quietly, he would organise the prior letter to Buckingham Palace ensuring that on the day there was a letter from the Queen's private secretary thanking the local community for their message of loyal greetings. At ceremonies in Fordyce, Keith and Aberchirder, he was on hand to read out the message, impressively dressed in Lord Lieutenant uniform "to uphold the dignity of the Crown". The fact that schoolchildren were involved in these events came through his suggestion, ever keen to ensure that the next generation was involved.
He operated a light touch in planning royal visits, engaging trust by delegating responsibility for each aspect, then running through the masterplan some days before. It was a system which not only worked, but complemented his ability to think on his feet.
When the Princess Royal came to Banff in 1997, unforeseen circumstances saw the programme run ahead of schedule. With quiet aplomb, he caught the princess's ear: "There are some schoolchildren here who'd love to meet you, Ma'am." "And I would love to meet them too, Mr McPherson," came the instant response. The resultant pause brought the schedule back on track and created lifelong memories for the youngsters involved.
James McPherson remained active into his 80s, never losing the bulk of the outstanding swimmer and cricketer he once was. When in 2000 he was persuaded to record a coat of arms, the motto he chose, "Service Above Self", reflected his trademark modesty.
He is survived by his wife Helen, a son and daughter, and four grandchildren.
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