Born: May 13, 1924: Died: April 7, 2012.

Alexander (Sandy) Robert Leslie Melville, who has died aged 87, was head of one of Scotland's oldest families and proud custodian of Glenferness Estate near Nairn.

As 14th Earl of Leven, he could trace his title back to 1641 when it was bestowed on the first earl who led the army of the Covenanters in the Bishops' Wars. He was also 13th Earl of Melville and a descendent of David Melville, one of the commissioners who negotiated the Union of Scotland and England.

Born in London, he was educated at Eton but spent every school holiday at the family seat in the Highlands where the River Findhorn runs for miles through the glorious landscape.

By the time he finished his education in 1942, war had been raging for nearly three years and he joined the Coldstream Guards, serving with the regiment for the next decade.

He saw action in Europe, arriving with the Guards Armoured Division in Normandy in 1944 shortly after D Day, but was wounded soon afterwards. He took shrapnel in one leg and was evacuated from the battle zone, arriving at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, just a few miles from Glenferness, to find his parents already waiting for him.

After recovering from his injury, he rejoined his regiment and served in Germany and Tripoli, retiring from the army with the rank of captain, having been aide-de-camp to the Governor General of New Zealand, Baron Freyberg of Wellington, from 1951-52.

He married Susan Steuart-Menzies the following year and, having succeeded to the ancient earldoms on the death of his father in 1947, he had stewardship of the lands at Glenferness where the couple lived for many years.

During that time he worked enthusiastically to improve forestry and fishing on the estate, adopting a long-running annual tree planting programme and efficiently organising fishing on the Findhorn over the past 30 years.

A great outdoorsman, he would take on much of the work himself, happily heading off into the hills on his own to plant trees and often acting as guide on the river.

He was also a highly-respected figure in the local community to which he contributed hugely in various roles.

He was Deputy Lord Lieutenant throughout the 1960s, becoming, like his father before him, Lord Lieutenant of Nairn, an appointment he held for 30 years from 1969 to 1999.

He also served as vice-president of the Highland District Territorial Army and, during the early 1970s, was convenor of Nairn County Council. In addition, he chaired the board of governors of Gordonstoun School for 18 years until 1989.

A passionate skier, he had been a member of the Cairngorm Recreation Trust and chairman of the Cairngorm Winter Sports Development Board. He also served as president of the British Ski Federation from 1981-85.

In 2007 the family suffered the tragic loss of their elder son and heir, 53-year-old David, Lord Balgonie, who was caught in an avalanche while skiing near Verbier in the Swiss Alps.

Several years earlier he had taken over the running of the family estate to which his father had devoted the best part of 50 years.

Lord and Lady Leven then moved to Old Spey Bridge where the earl continued to enjoy the love of the outdoors which had so defined his life.

He is survived by his wife Susan, their children Jane and Archie, and brother Alan.