George Frederick Barclay Houston, economist and academic; born October 26, 1920, died October 21, 1996

GEORGE Houston, retired professor of agriculture and economics at Glasgow University, died in hospital in Glasgow on October 21, five days before his 76th birthday.

A pupil of Heriot's school, Edinburgh, his university education, like that of his contemporaries, was interrupted by the war years. He completed his MA degree at Edinburgh University in 1949 and went on to Baliol where he gained his B Litt.

He joined the staff of the political economy department at Glasgow University in 1951, where he remained for the rest of his career, specialising in agricultural economics and in close contact with the College of Agriculture. He became a titular professor in 1970.

In 1984 he volunteered for what was to become the first of many early retirement schemes. For the next three years he continued to work part-time in the department. Subsequently, as a senior research fellow, he maintained his contacts both within and outwith the department. Even in hospital during his final illness he was completing an article.

His special interests throughout his professional life and work concerned agricultural policy, particularly marketing and Scottish agrarian history. These interests were reflected in his research and writing and in his many appointments as adviser or consultant to national and international bodies including the Scottish Office, the Highlands and Islands Development Board, the British Wool Marketing Board, the OECD, EEC, and FAO.

The theme of marketing and marketing margins runs through his many reports, particularly with reference to the meat and livestock industry. His contacts with the farming community were extensive and he frequently fulfilled the role of guest speaker at their meetings. He was a regular contributor to The Herald's agriculture review.

His work on the Highlands and Islands reflected a personal as well as a professional interest. His holiday home was a former croft near Badachro. As well as his consulting work for the HIDB, he served in various NEDC working parties, including one on the hill and uplands agricultural problem. His main publication on the subject was Agrarian Change in the Scottish Highlands, written with Professor John Bryden.

Although the Highlands and Islands occupied a special place, his interest in Scottish history was wider. Evidence of this may be found in the Dumfries-shire volume of The Third Statistical Account, for which he was editor.

It was as a student that he first joined the Communist Party to which he remained loyal for a lifetime. Arriving in Glasgow in 1951, he was an early member of the revived Scottish Economic Society and a regular participant in the society's annual conference at the Burn in Edzell.

George is survived by his second wife, Jean, his son, his two daughters and step-daughter.