Racing driver, farmer, hotelier and publican

Born: 15 July, 1929;

Died: 19 March, 2017

IAN Stewart, who has died aged 87, excelled in a number of different fields. Had he only raced cars, he would have been worthy of great praise. He was one of Scotland's first Grand Prix drivers; some judges rate him as good as his fellow son of the soil, Jim Clark. He was one of the original Ecurie Ecosse drivers, designing the team's iconic badge and suggesting his blue racing colours before he retired, aged just 24, leaving a potentially wonderful career incomplete.

But he flourished on the land too, becoming a notable cattle breeder and stalwart of the Luing breed, while also running a flourishing chain of pubs and finding time to become Scotland's first Ferrari dealer. Add a spell as a mess colleague of author George MacDonald Fraser during national service with the Gordon Highlanders and you have a true renaissance man.

Born Ian Macpherson McCallum Stewart, his father ran the famous Millhills herd of pedigree Shorthorn cattle in Perthshire and Ian, an only child, seemed set for the life of a well-to-do farmer's son. He did not enjoy school at Cargilfield or Edinburgh Academy, while his parents' divorce when he was in his teens, was a blow. However, he went to Canada with his mother, who was South African, and enjoyed school at Selwyn College and ice hockey.

He then accompanied school friend Raymond Nairn to Repton School, where he was a house captain, excelling at swimming and cricket.

He was set to go up to Cambridge, but opted instead for national service with the Gordon Highlanders, having been denied his ambition to be a Spitfire pilot by the RAF incorrectly diagnosing him as being colour blind. Service in Berlin during the Airlift in 1948, in which the Western Allies dropped food and supplies to the people of West Berlin, greatly touched him and, on completing his two years, he decided against Cambridge, enrolling instead at Edinburgh Agricultural College, with a view to eventually taking on the family farm.

However, after an initial outing in his mother's MGA, he discovered his penchant for fast cars, and took part in Scotland's first motor-racing meeting, at the Winfield airfield circuit in Berwickshire. The MG gave way to a part-share in a Jaguar SS100, which led him to Merchiston Mews, David Murray's Merchiston Motors and becoming, with Bill Dobson and Sir James Scott Douglas, the founders of Ecurie Ecosse.

He stood on 37 podiums during his racing career. Twenty-five times he was on the winner's top step. He finished fourth at Le Mans, driving for the Jaguar works team; he was second overall and first in cars eligible for world championship at the Nurburgring 1000km; while he won the last ever

Jersey International Road Race, having “run in” his new works Jaguar C-type between the factory and the circuit.

However, perhaps the best indication of his talent was the day he beat Stirling Moss at Charterhall. They were driving near identical C-types; however, Moss was in the newer, disc-braked model, while Murray's car still had the less reliable drum brakes. He also won the Wake?eld Trophy in Ireland and competed for Ecurie Ecosse in the 1953 Formula 1 British Grand Prix, his only World Championship outing, at Silverstone, driving a Connaught. Stewart always claimed he holds the record for crossing the ?nish line backwards at Silverstone.

Stewart was not a gentleman racer, he was a full-time, professional driver, and during his career was elected to full membership of the exclusive British Racing Drivers Club. However, his career was to end after he was injured when competing in a long-distance road race in Argentina in 1954.

Stewart's father was also in the Argentine on cattle business, leaving before the race and receiving a message, while on board ship, that Ian had been killed in his accident. So, when he got back to Millhills, he was given the ultimatum – racing or farming. With his father's health declining, Ian made the only possible choice and hung up his crash helmet.

His father died two years later and Ian was left, aged 26 to run the family farms and the public houses business, which had been left over when the family had sold the McCallum's whisky business in the 1930s.

The bank forced him to break up the famous Shorthorn herd to meet death duties, but, uncomplaining, Ian Stewart did this, and started afresh. He retrenched at the family's hill farm at Glen Lochay, where he added Luing cattle to the existing sheep operation there.

He became a director of the Luing Breed Society, serving as chairman in 1976-77, while he rebuilt the family's farming operation, adding a couple of properties before, in 1984, he consolidated the farming operation at Woodburn Farm, near Crieff.

He never gave up on his fast cars though. His father stymied his attempts to persuade him a Porsche 365 was a good farm car. But, he was driving an iconic Mercedes 300 gullwing when he courted and married the love of his life, Miss Mary Alexandra Kent.

They also ran a hotel in St Fillans for a spell, even having the Beatles staying there during one early Scottish tour, but they decided running a hotel was not for them.

In the 1970s, he became the first Ferrari dealer in Scotland, enjoying driving the demonstrators and, while the venture was successful, he decided he could not spare the time from his other interests and allowed others to take it over.

He continued to drive exotic cars, but had to hand over day-to-day management of the businesses to his sons, retaining the chairmanship, while he cared for Mary Alexandra during her lengthy battle with heart disease, which eventually claimed her in 2010 – he never really got over this blow.

Ian Stewart was an old-fashioned gentleman. The word grace sums him up perfectly. Smoothness and elegance of movement, stylishness, poise, ?nesse and charm, courteous good will, politeness, good manners, civility, decency, propriety and respect – that was Ian Stewart.

He is survived by sons David and Christian, and grandchildren of Rosie, Constance, Robert and Daniel.