Sir Michael Joughin, former chairman of Hydro Electric and farmer; born April 26, 1926, died April 11, 1996

SIR MICHAEL JOUGHIN had a great gift for disarming people and persuading them they should be taking a fresh view of things. He was an accomplished communicator and articulator who used these gifts to try to achieve the targets he set, and he seldom failed.

He would tell people he had never sought any of the positions he held - like chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board or president of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, or chairman of the North of Scotland Milk Marketing Board - and had only been offered them because no-one else wanted them.

Perhaps he never sought them, but it was not a case of a lack of applicants: Sir Michael was much in demand because of his talents in whatever he turned his hand to.

He said he knew nothing about electricity when he became Hydro Electric chairman in 1983, but then he had said the same about farming when he became a farmer 34 years earlier.

The ex-Royal Marine lieutenant joined his father-in-law on his farm on the Moray coast after being invalided out after he ``bent an aircraft and bent a leg'' when he ditched off Malta in 1949.

He was very quickly left to run things on his own and his appointment to the NFU led him to become founder and presenter of Grampian Television's farming programme Country Focus, where he was given what he described as the best piece of advice he ever received: ``Remember that the chap you are talking to is trying to debone a kipper,'' he was told.

His ability to put up a convincing argument was such that he persuaded the Scottish Secretary of the day, Malcolm Rifkind, that the SSEB's wish for a single Scottish electricity company after privatisation was not the way ahead and that the identity of the organisation he headed should be preserved.

The plummy voiced ``white settler'', who was born in Devon but spent his life in Scotland and unsuccessfully stood as a Conservative Euro candidate for the Highlands and Islands, also turned the tables on an Energy Select Committee which was after blood about the escalating cost of nuclear power.

He silenced them by pointing out that much of the blame lay with that very committee for previous recommendations and left the meeting with Labour chairman Ted Leadbitter describing him, among other complimentary things, as ``genial'' and ``canny''.

Within a year of his appointment as chairman of Hydro Electric he was having to explain why 250,000 homes had lost power when one night of storms created two years' worth of faults. He told them how lucky they were not to be in France or Bavaria where things would have been even worse.

He may not have known as little about electricity as he would have had people believe when he became chairman but he certainly learned a lot.

He could calculate the weight of the ice which had gathered on electricity lines depending on its thickness and whether the lines were between poles or pylons.

He gleaned some of his information by listening into the linesman's two-way radio which he had installed in his car.

Sir Michael, who was knighted in 1991, had the call sign ``Hydro One'' and apparently when it was announced it was followed by an abnormal hush on the airwaves.

He was initially opposed to privatisation but grew to support it when he saw the opportunities it presented, and when controversy arose over the escalating salaries of the bosses of privatised industries he disarmed some of his critics by donating half of his post-privatisation increase to charity.

He lived with his wife Anne in their Findhorn home overlooking Findhorn Bay where his small boat was moored during the summer and although he had sailed to Scandinavia and North-west Europe in the past, in recent years his trips were shorter to ensure he enjoyed the comfort of his own home at night.

For the past three years he had been chairman of Findhorn and Kinloss Community Council and was an outspoken critic of the expansion plans of the New Age crusaders in the Findhorn Foundation who he feared were taking over the historic village in which he lived.

He was heading a campaign to have the expansion plans debated by the full Moray Council as a social issue rather that simply as a planning application and it is the only campaign he was not able to see through.