Scion of a famous engineering company; Born May 4, 1928; Died April 26, 2009.

Douglas Hume, who has died aged 80, was the last of four generations of his family to run the international Glasgow engineering firm of James Howden & Co, where he was managing director for almost 25 years.

James Douglas Howden Hume was born in Melbourne, Australia, where his father, Jimmy Hume, had been installing Howden fans and other equipment in Munmorah power station.

The boy was named after his mother's middle name, his father and his great-great-uncle James Howden, the Glasgow engineer and inventor who founded the family firm in 1854. On returning to Scotland in 1930, the family settled in Helensburgh, within easy reach of the Scotland Street office. Hume was to make his home in Helensburgh for the rest of his life.

Serving his apprenticeship at Howden from 1947, Hume qualified as an engineer in 1955. During this period he did his national service as a subaltern in the Royal Artillery, crewed on his father's six-metre yacht in the 1948 Olympic Games at Torbay (carrying the flag for Great Britain at the head of the procession) and in 1950 he married June Spriggs, younger daughter of Sir Frank Spriggs, managing director of the Hawker Siddeley Group.

Adding to all this by studying mechanical engineering, Hume graduated with a BSc honours degree in 1953 from Glasgow University. This was followed by a three-year spell with David Nicholson's Production Engineering and on returning to Howden, his first task was to modernise production methods.

The result was that Howden was able to announce a no-redundancy policy; a vital principle of which was that no skilled workers were shed from Howden. This was a revolutionary approach to industrial relations and was key to the survival of the company.

When his uncle, Crawford Hume, retired in 1963 as chairman, after 50 years of service, Jimmy Hume, who had been managing director since 1934, took over as chairman and Douglas Hume was appointed managing director. One of his first initiatives was the amicable merger of Howden with Godfrey Engineering.

This brought the latter's experience of the precision engineering of the Lysholm rotary screw compressors to Howden, and today the Glasgow Craigton factory has a worldwide market for these specialist compressors.

The next major initiative overseen by Hume was the gas circulators for the advanced gas-cooled reactor nuclear power stations, a unique Howden design.

It is not widely known that the first two prototype wind turbines to generate electricity for the national grid in Britain were made and erected by Howden in the early 1980s, at Carmarthen in Wales and Burgar Hill, Orkney. Hume was very keen on this pioneering development, which was initially successful. However, after a catastrophic and expensive mechanical failure at what was then the largest wind farm in the world at Altamont Pass in California, they were discontinued in 1988.

Howden also played a key role in the Channel Tunnel project, which saw the Glasgow Scotland Street factory making the two giant 600-tonne machines that successfully completed the drilling of the main tunnels.

Tom Zacaroli, an American colleague who was appointed chief executive officer of Howden by Charter when they acquired the company in 1997, wrote in Hume's memoirs: "He was a serious businessman - but he did a great job hiding it. He was about fun and people. As a boss, he was always fair.

"He listened. He advised. And he could always be counted on to help as a friend when you needed one. I cannot recall a single instance where I was forced to do something I disagreed with, and never anything I thought was unethical."

Leaving Howden in 1987, Hume, who had been made a CBE, had the satisfaction of knowing that the annual turnover had grown from £5m to £500m during his leadership.

He put his energies into several other projects, such as chairman of the Industrial Committee of Glasgow Action, and chairman of Magnum Power Solutions, a small company that made a built-in power supply for computers.

Hume had a wide range of interests and enthusiasms. He loved sailing, racing on the Clyde and elsewhere with his wife June, and one of his favourite family cruising holidays was among the Greek islands. He was an expert fly-fisherman on the Spey, Tay and the Findhorn, and a first-class shot during the pheasant season.

He also loved classical music and was a great supporter and enthusiast of the visual arts.

He was generous to friends and family, typically inviting 21 of his close family as his guests on a 10-day trip on the Nile to celebrate his 80th birthday. Recently, he had set up a charitable fund as a result of his wife June's struggle with cancer.

This fund assists terminally-ill patients who wish to spend their last days in their own home and may need to purchase equipment and make house modifications. When Hume died, the family named this the June and Douglas Hume Memorial Fund, which is run by the Scottish Community Foundation.

June, his wife of 53 years, predeceased him, as did their elder daughter, Evelyn.

He is survived by his son, Duncan, younger daughter, Clare, and 10 grandchildren.