Born: December 16, 1945

Died: February 17, 2021.

MARC Ellington, who has died aged 75, was surely the only draft-dodging, long-haired American hippy to have ever subsequently become a castle-dwelling Highland laird, beloved by many high society activists in the preservation of ancient buildings.

An American by birth, though the son of a Scot, he was initially a musician who played guitar alongside, or just knew, some of the greatest radical pop stars of his era including Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, David Bowie. He was friends with Fairport Convention’s celebrated guitarist, Richard Thompson.

Marc was born near Boston, Massachusetts. His Scottish-born father broadcast on the local radio and pioneered audio books for the blind; his mother was a speech therapist. By his own account they gave him and his siblings, Eric and Noni, a wonderfully happy childhood.

By 18 he was already in a duo using his soft and gentle voice to augment his skilled left-handed guitar playing and by 20 he was singing on stages alongside Joan Baez and Bob Dylan; a local newspaper in Oregon noted that he has given an evening concert on Portland alongside both.

Soon he was learning his trade the hard way, playing in clubs seven nights a week and indulging his other passion of collecting antiques, many of which had a Scottish theme, with his then girlfriend and later wife, Karen Streator.

Whilst still in his twenties, and having established himself as a minor American pop star he then, in 1967, moved to Scotland, partly to escape the draft, although he had long expressed a fascination with Scottish history and antiques; indeed, shortly before moving here, he and Karen had sold an antiques business.

When his visa ran out Ellington, a genius networker, perhaps typically was able to present himself at St Paul’s Cathedral and asked for sanctuary.

This was socially expedient given that the Canon of St Paul’s at that time was the legendary John Collins, co-founder of CND, a pacifist who had once inspired a famous newspaper headline “Ban the Bomb and Fire the Canon”. Marc was later to be granted full British citizenship.

Once here, he and Karen set about making an in-depth evaluation of castles that were for sale eventually managing to buy Towie Barclay, a semi-ruin in Aberdeenshire that had not been lived in for over 200 years.

But this was no lazy music star throwing money around wantonly; the young couple rolled up their sleeves and threw themselves into the demanding project with both energy and imagination

A tall, striking man with an almost overpowering physical presence and the kind of strident personality that ensured you always knew he was in the room, he was nonetheless a somewhat insecure and private person.

Recognised as being kind, if often outrageous and unpredictable, he soon became popular figure amongst some in the area. Some of the more conventional landowners, however, were never entirely convinced by a laird who had a ponytail and seemed perhaps a little too keen to celebrate the ancient bothy ballads of the unjustly poor rather than prioritise discussing their pressing need to kill small animals.

He might also perhaps be further defined as the man who acted as best man to the similarly unusual laird of Eigg, Keith Schellenberg. Not once but twice.

Marc’s subsequent career as an advocate for the preservation of ancient dwellings competed with his one as a musician. Whilst he never entirely gave up his music – in recent years he was inclined to dismiss discussion of it as old hat – he did record a number of LPs and host a number of Grampian television programmes on folk singing.

Two years ago, he was on stage at the Royal Albert Hall when Richard Thompson celebrated his 70th birthday with an all-star concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall alongside other such notables as David Gilmour, Hugh Cornwell, Loudon Wainwright III and Eliza Carthy; Ellington later admitted that he found the experience a little bit scary.

Latterly he became more celebrated in Scotland for his extraordinary commitment to the preservation of ancient buildings than his music and, in particular, for his interest in training young people in the ancient skills needed in this type of work.

He once went with Prince Charles to a village in Transylvania as part of an Unesco initiative to highlight the quality of some of its ancient buildings.

In his later days he was a jovial figure, always ready to warmly meet new people and offer enthusiastic support and advice and he became a keen supporter of a number of charity initiatives, not least the wooden boat-building festival at Portsoy.

Eventually he was being invited onto the boards of organisations such as the National Galleries of Scotland, Historic Scotland and the Historic Building Council for Scotland. He was made a Deputy Lord Lieutenant in 1984 and was given an honorary doctorate by Aberdeen University.

He is survived by his wife Karen, sister Noni, daughters Kirstie and Iona, and many grand children.

Let this then be a stone to his cairn, and let it be laid there level and true and using proper lime mortar by one of the many apprentice stone masons who might never have had a job in ancient building restoration without him