Building contractor and businessman;

Born: September 20, 1916; Died: June 30, 2013.

Harold Whitson, who has died at the age of 96, was that rare blend of country gentleman and successful businessman. During his long career in the building industry he was not afraid to innovate and adopt new techniques and materials to improve construction.

He was born in Glasgow three years before the family moved to Symington in Lanarkshire. He was educated at Cargilfield and Rugby School where he did well academically and played rugger for the 1st XV as a prop forward.

On leaving school, he was apprenticed to the engineering company Ruston Bucyrus in Lincoln before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a keen follower of the Trinity beagles and graduated with a BA Hons in mechanical science. In 1938 he went with friends on a cycling tour of Scandinavia before starting work with Pauling & Co in Guernsey on the construction of the dam for the St Saviour's Reservoir. The following year he joined Sir William Halcrow where he qualified as a civil engineer and worked on various projects including the design of the Claerwen dam in Wales.

During the war he served with the Royal Engineers at home and overseas, including postings to India and later Iran. In 1942 he married Rowena Pitt while on leave in London. Sadly, the following year his younger brother Michael was killed in a flying accident in a spotter aircraft with the artillery.

On returning home at the end of the war he joined Melville, Dundas and Whitson at their London office before returning to Scotland in 1948. He was initially involved with the construction of British Iron and Steel Federation houses as part of the 5000 new homes being built in Scotland through the Scottish Housing Group.

Following the death of his father, he joined the board of Melville, Dundas and Whitson, later becoming chairman.

The company went public in the mid-1950s and moved away from civil engineering contracts to undertake major industrial developments including the car manufacturing plants at Linwood and Bathgate, shipbuilding facilities on the Clyde and ongoing work for Rolls-Royce, Courtaulds, the Distillers Company and many other household names.

During the 1970s, Melville, Dundas and Whitson completed many of the general hospitals in central Scotland and numerous city office developments in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The company was acquired by F C Lilley plc in 1981.

His other appointments included a term as chairman of the Scottish section of the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors and later chairman of the Aims of Industry in Scotland. He was a past Deacon of the Incorporation of Hammermen of Glasgow in 1967-68 and also served on the board of East Kilbride Development Corporation, Scotland's First New Town. In 1969 he was president of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and in 1970 was awarded a CBE.

Mr Whitson also served on the board of the Scottish Mutual Life Assurance Society and was appointed chairman during its centenary year. In 1979 he was appointed chairman of Irvine Development Corporation just prior to a visit to the town by the Queen.

He was a dedicated gardener and his vegetables won prizes at local shows. He also enjoyed country pursuits and playing bridge. He took a keen interest in current affairs and was not reticent in sharing his views.

In April 2003, Rowena, his wife for 61 years, died peacefully at home. He is survived by three of his five children.