Born: January 5, 1935;

Died: April 24, 2020.

DAVID Miller, who has died aged 85, was a son of the British colonial service who became an outstanding corporate personnel director and served as a committed chairman of a number of important organisations in the private, public and third sectors.

His many significant contributions to society were recognised both informally in recent expressions of admiration and gratitude from many friends and colleagues and formally with the award of a CBE and honorary doctorates from the universities of Stirling and the West of Scotland.

Born on January 5, 1935 in Wolverhampton, to John (Jock) Wilson Edington (later Sir Jock), a senior colonial officer who had served in Sudan and Iraq, and Jessie (Jay) Cathleen (later Lady Jay), who was from a Midlands brewing family, David attended Edinburgh Academy as a boarder from 1946 until 1953.

Notable for great energy and enthusiasm in everything he undertook, he was a keen if inaccurate fast bowler in the First XI and a “skilful hooker who played with zest in the open” in the First XV and afterwards in the Edinburgh Accies rugby team of the late 1950s. He was a competitive tennis, golf and squash player, and later an angler and an enthusiastic and diligent gardener for 55 years, as all those who visited his home in Kinlochard will bear witness.

David did his National Service in the Argyll and Cameron Highlanders and was commissioned into the South Staffords, serving in Egypt. After three happy years reading history and law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he joined J & P Coats Limited in 1960 as management trainee when he went overseas to Germany, Austria, and Denmark, enjoying occasional holidays in an E-Type with Tony Griffiths, his future best man, the introduction to a lifetime’s addiction to fast driving.

Later he went to Australia where, on a Melbourne tennis court, he met Saffrey Oxley, from Surrey. They enjoyed a very happy marriage for 57 years, blessed by children Andrew, Simon, Matthew and Katie, but marred by the cruel cancer and untimely death of Matthew aged 20.

As part of his Coats training he completed a diploma in industrial relations at the London School of Economics, returning to Glasgow as personnel office (training) and, having introduced a range of forward-looking policies and processes, ending as HR main-board director of what had become Coats Viyella plc, with 100,000 employees worldwide.

David was a single-company man of undying loyalty, a characteristic that imbued his whole life. The myriad of tributes that poured in on the news of his death illustrated how he had helped to influence and shape the lives of so many colleagues and demonstrated the warmth and respect in which he was held. He was referred to as a good friend, the stalwart keeper of the Coats culture and conscience of the company, a guide and guru, and a formative influence on many.

He was a compassionate and sympathetic man with good instincts and emotional intelligence who would take time with people, sometimes when least expected. He lived life to the full, always bursting with energy and ideas, willing to listen to alternative views and relishing the debate.

There were stories from former apprentices encouraged to climb the rungs of promotion, trainees unsure of their first appointment, managers seeking guidance at times of stress and directors looking for support from a confidant. The company was undoubtedly the poorer when he retired in 1990 and as a friend he will be much missed.

He gave back to society far more than he asked. He served as an officer in the Territorial Army for three years and as governor of his school with great distinction. He was rather surprised to find himself a successful chairman in a wide variety of organisations, though not a surprise to his friends who recognised his intuitive skills and exceptional judgement of people.

This was a role that he carried lightly and particularly effectively at Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries (now Marstons) during ten turbulent years in the industry. From 1992-1999 he was a superb chairman of the court of Stirling University, lending support, advice and encouragement to all members of the staff – never just to the academics.

He chaired Clackmannan College, SCOTVEC, the Scottish Examinations Board and, finally, the Scottish Qualifications Agency during a very difficult and testing merger.

He supported Fairbridge in Scotland, was actively engaged in Outward Bound Locheil for many years, and was vice-chairman of the RSNO when his expertise in industrial relations and his shrewd insights into human nature were highly valued.

He was also a commissioner of the Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, and a director of Scottish Life and J & J Denholm, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Scottish College of Textiles.

David was a man most unusually connected to his family in the broader (and historical) sense and had an abiding interest in family history and in grandfather clocks which took him and his children down some interesting by-roads.

Despite having at least three generations of clock-makers in the direct family tree there were no Miller clocks in the family. He bought his first Miller grandfather clock the year he went to university and there are now well over a dozen in the family; others that he could not acquire or did not have room for had been photographed and recorded before they left salerooms or restorers for places as far afield as Europe and Canada.

He had a network of clock enthusiasts who would phone him if any ‘Millers’ were spotted or simply buy on the spot if necessary. Thus a son and grandson found themselves at an auction bidding on his behalf only to discover later that the other bidder was a Miller clock friend acting on David’s behalf.

David died suddenly on April 24, 12 months after the death of Saffrey, with whom he shared great love and a deep faith. He had continued to live in their beautiful home and garden at Blairuskin Lodge, well supported by his surviving children and seven grandchildren, who can take great pleasure in their memories of a life well and truly lived.

Nick Kuenssberg