RICHARD Telfer, ``or Uncle Dick'' as many of us came to call him, was one of Scotland's operatic pioneers. As conductor of the Edinburgh Opera Company after the Second World War, he enabled people to keep in touch with favourite operas at a time when Scotland had no professional company to perform them. But it was when he persuaded the young Alexander Gibson to conduct a production of Verdi's Nabucco at the Usher Hall, with David Ward in the title role, that he set in motion a process that led to the foundation of Scottish Opera in 1962.

To an extent Telfer was Gibson's soft-spoken Svengali, quietly planting suggestions in his head that might materialise years later as fully-fledged performances. It was Telfer who famously proposed the Debussy centenary production of Pelleas et Melisande with which Scottish Opera, in its first season, would make musical history. (``I think I have an idea for you,'' he characteristically murmured in the conductor's ear after a concert in the St Andrew's Hall.)

French opera, indeed, was very much Telfer's scene, even if his own aspirations rose no higher than Gounod's Faust in performances by his own plucky amateur forces. For a while he worked as a tourist guide in Paris, one of the more mysterious episodes in a varied career that incorporated periods as a cinema organist (no Wurlitzer was too mighty for this dapper little man, who, in appearance, could easily have been thought to be French), as manager of the Assembly Hall during the Edinburgh Festival, and as a music teacher at George Watson's College, where he taught for almost quarter of a century.

It was Scottish Opera, however, that meant most to him, and to which he devoted so much of his enthusiasm. First as a member of the board, later as company manager, and finally as archivist, he possessed a detailed knowledge both of how the company functioned and of how it ought to function.

Despite his devotion, he could be sharply critical of the company and its practitioners, even of Gibson himself, if they failed to rise to what he considered to be their capabilities. But when, in the 1980s, Gibson's position came under threat, Telfer - without telling him - worked quietly behind the scenes on his behalf.

Telfer was not only Scottish Opera's archivist, he was also Gibson's. When, three years ago, I was at work on my biography of the conductor, Telfer's huge, meticulously annotated volumes of press cuttings proved invaluable to me. But the man in every way was a mine of helpful information, about opera and its performers, about music and how it matters.