Sir John Brown, naval

architect; born May 6, 1901, died December 27, 2000.

He came with the century and went with the century, and will remain one of the most illustrious names in the history of shipbuilding. John Brown was not only an outstanding naval architect, but one of the industry's finest gentlemen.

His death on Wednesday, at his home in Glasgow, came just a few months short of his centenary, bringing an era of Clyde shipbuilding to close.

John Brown takes his place within that framework as the man who spanned the entire story of the Queens of Cunard, starting with the Queen Mary in the 1920s, ending 40 years later with the Queen Elizabeth II, and including many other well-known ships.

Though he will forever be associated with the shipyard at Clydebank, he was not the John Brown whose name identified that famous establishment. That John Brown was a Sheffield steelmaker who had left his own company before it bought the shipyard and never saw Clydebank in his life. There was another John Brown in the wings, a young Glasgow man. He was born in May 1901 at the house which is now 364 Clarkston Road, near the cinema at Muirend. After studying science and modern languages at Hutchesons' Grammar School, he started an apprenticeship at the John Brown yard in 1919 which ran parallel with his degree course at Glasgow University. The first ship he saw on entering the yard was HMS Hood, the biggest warship in the world, which would meet a tragic end in 1941 at the guns of the dreaded Bismarck.

In 1923 he graduated BSc with distinction in naval architecture. Back at Clydebank, he was spotted by his boss, Sir James McNeill, who one day asked him to begin to draw, very secretly, the biggest luxury liner the world had ever seen.

An order was expected from Cunard, which was planning a regular service between Southampton and New York. That order was delayed for several years but the planning continued for the ship known as No 534. John Brown was working on a legend of the high seas, the great Queen Mary.

Before it was launched in 1934, there had been financial problems and lay-offs at Cunard. The then Prince of Wales took a hand and persuaded the government to set up a loan for completion of the ship.

Under Sir James McNeill, John Brown was already in charge of the design team and working on the second great Cunarder, the Queen Elizabeth, which was launched in 1938. His designing hand was at work throughout the war and onward to the royal yacht Britannia, launched in 1953.

He succeeded Sir James as

managing director in 1959 and later became deputy chairman. In the 1960s, his final task was to gain the order completing the trio of great Queens, the ship which became the QE2.

The order secured (with some difficulty), he then retired, having been honoured with a doctorate from Glasgow University.

Surprisingly, a knighthood was not forthcoming. It took more than 30 years before that omission was put right in last year's new year honours list, when he was already approaching 99. But better late than never. The Princess Royal did him the honour of coming to Glasgow City Chambers, complete with sword, to save him a journey to the Palace.

If national recognition was delayed, Sir John did enjoy a late bout of public acclaim in his native city. In his nineties, he gave a memorable talk on his life at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and in 1993 his career was documented in a television film, John Brown - The Man Who Drew a Legend. In that connection he flew to California to renew his acquaintance with the Queen Mary, which is still a hotel and tourist attraction at Long Beach. It was an emotional re-union. On that day, he presented the owners with the box of instruments which was his prize as the outstanding student of his year. They were the instruments with which he drew those first lines of the Queen Mary 74 years ago.

Sir John retained his mental

faculties to the end and lived in his own home in Broomhill, Glasgow. He was twice a widower. His first wife, Elizabeth, died in 1953 and his second, Isobel, in 1988. There was no family.

Jack Webster

SIR John's family recall a modest and very private man who was unperturbed by what some regarded at the time as a lack of public recognition of his achievements.

Away from the world of shipbuilding he was an elder of Broomhill Church, where he used to help transport the elderly to services.

Along with his second wife, Isobel, he ran a joint club with the local Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches and the Jewish synagogue.

He was also a member of various church committees and honorary president of Broomhill Bowling Club.

Having no children of his own, he took a keen interest in the doings of his nephews and nieces and the children of his many friends.

In his retirement, he and Isobel travelled widely, including a trip to New York on the Queen Mary - incognito - and a world cruise several years later.

Sir John was a regular visitor to Bute, where, well into his eighties, he still went swimming with his great-niece

and nephew.

His wife insisted he learn to cook and bake in his retirement, and those skills stood him in good stead when Isobel's health faltered. He cared for her devotedly, despite his own poor health at the time, until her death in 1988.

He was the subject of a documentary to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen Mary but his response to the description of him as the ''man who built a legend'' was to quote a sermon by John Donne: ''No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.''

Sir John's last outing was on September 20, when he visited Clydebank and the shipyard to which he had contributed so much. The occasion was

the launch of Ian Johnston's book Ships for a Nation: the History of John Brown and Company, Clydebank.

Robert Ross