Managing director of The Scottish Milk Marketing Board

Born: July 27, 1925;

Died: December 11, 2018

IAN McAlpine, who has died aged 93, was the managing director of The Scottish Milk Marketing Board from 1969 until 1986 – successful years when sales of milk steadily increased and the board’s creameries, especially Dalbeattie Creamery and the Galloway Creamery in Stranraer, received UK awards for the excellence of their cheese.

Mr McAlpine was born in 1925 in Johnstone, where his father was a publican. His grandfather and previous generations had all worked on the land. After serving as a navigator in the RAF towards the end of the war, he felt a calling to focus his sharp mind on agriculture. He studied at Glasgow University and became one of the first students to graduate in agricultural economics, receiving a first class honours degree in 1952. Part of this course was one year of practical farming, which he spent at Auchenharvie Farm near Kilwinning, working for the Steel family. This personal experience of farming life was formative for Ian, and he often shared fond memories of those times working on the land.

During his student years, he also met and was smitten with a pretty young lassie with the unusual name of Garry Greig, who was studying to become a teacher at Jordanhill College. The feelings were mutual and the couple were married in 1953.

On completing his studies, Mr McAlpine immediately joined the Scottish Milk Marketing Board, initially dealing with statistical and economic studies in the marketing department. He was promoted to marketing director in 1960. In this key role he created and built up the board’s sales development department through a wide range of activities. He handled the sales of creamery produce from the board’s factories – both direct sales and through numerous agents. He was responsible for dealing with the sale of milk from farms to all trade buyers, involving negotiating prices and conditions. In relation to the farmers themselves he oversaw the introduction of more comprehensive quality standards for their milk as the basis of payments. This was facilitated through the development of centralised milk testing facilities.

In 1968, the board moved its headquarters from Bothwell Street in Glasgow to purpose-built premises in Underwood Road in Paisley. The following year Mr McAlpine was appointed as general manager - succeeding John Inglis, who was retiring. A few years later his position was re-styled as managing director.

In the ensuing period of 17 years he held overall responsibility for all milk marketing, creamery operations and producer service activities. He was particularly involved in many advertising campaigns as a member of the Scottish Dairy Council and the Butter Information Council, as well as in his capacity as chairman of the Company of Scottish Cheesemakers. He also often represented the Scottish Milk Marketing Board in radio and television interviews.

Ian McAlpine was a dedicated and conscientious servant of the board, which was led for most of this time by the steady presence of the late Sir William Young. Mr McAlpine worked long hours and was always well prepared. His strengths were his high intelligence, his deep and comprehensive understanding of the whole dairy industry, and his co-operative and pragmatic nature, which made him well respected both by staff and board members, and by the companies, government agencies and trade unions with whom he negotiated.

He was renowned for his negotiating skills. Donald McQueen, who was a close colleague for many years, put it this way: “I learned from Ian three key rules for success in this area: 1) Have respect for those on the other side of the table; 2) Be sure to have total command of all the relevant facts; 3) Try to arrive at a conclusion where both sides leave feeling they have won. This formula worked well over many years and the general record of the Scottish Milk Marketing Board in guarding the interests of the dairy farmers it represented was a proud one.”

By the time Mr McAlpine retired at the end of 1986, the board's turnover was around £200million, and 900 staff were employed.

Other roles he held included president of the Society of Dairy Technology, vice-chairman of the United Kingdom Dairy Association, chairman of the United Kingdom Dairy Industry Research Policy Committee, and member of the Hannah Research Institute Council of Management.

In 1985 he was awarded an OBE for his 33 years of service to the dairy industry.

Until his retirement at the age of 61, work was Mr McAlpine’s primary focus, but he did enjoy many other interests. Every Saturday morning would see him teeing off at Ranfurly Castle golf club, then in later years at his beloved Western Gailes.

His knowledge of Scottish geography was phenomenal – if you named any Scottish town, nine times out 10, he could recall a visit there and would give details of a hotel, restaurant or a golf course he had been at. Indeed, he turned down lucrative opportunities to work in larger organisations in order to stay in Scotland.

Along with his dear wife Garry, he created a wonderful and welcoming home at “Knaresby” in Newton Avenue in Elderslie, where they raised two children. The beauty of their garden was renowned – being exhibited on several occasions, and continually enjoyed by their four grandchildren, who were a great source of pride and joy for him.

Ian McAlpine often demonstrated a great deal of innate kindness and willingness to help others. Being the youngest of a family of nine children, there were so many examples when he stepped in to help his older siblings and their spouses.

He is survived by his son, Gordon, his daughter, Christine, grandchildren Vicky, Alistair and Andrew, as well as three great grandchildren.