John Balfour: Public servant active in the fields of health and children's welfare

Among the most demanding tasks in the public service is the chairmanship of a major health board. Over four difficult years of Government–imposed financial retrenchment (from 1983-87), and shortage of resources to meet the rising expectations created by modern medicine, John Balfour chaired the Fife Health Board with skill and vision. His commitment to improving the health service impressed Scottish MPs, and his impeccable good manners and knowledge of their problems endeared him to staff at all levels. He was among the first to confront the problem of Aids as a priority, and was closely associated with Princess Diana in her work.

John Balfour was the second son of Brigadier Edward Balfour CVO, DSO, MC, OBE and a Colonel of the Scots Guards, and Lady Ruth Balfour CBE. John's elder brother, Peter, was chairman of Charterhouse plc, and for 20 years a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland. From Eton, John went to Trinity College, Cambridge for a year, before the Second World War intervened. He volunteered on the outbreak of war and was posted to the 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment of the Royal Artillery. Their work was crucial to Montgomery's initial success at El Alamein, and Balfour, aged 23, was awarded the Military Cross.

Having gone through the North African campaign, and Normandy, where he landed on D-Day plus one, he was stricken with rheumatic fever. However, he was able to return to Trinity in October 1946, completing his degree a year later in the Mechanical Sciences Tripos. He spoke to me of the particular kindness of Cambridge dons towards ex-servicemen who had been away from their studies for six years.

In 1950, Balfour married a hugely energetic science graduate of Edinburgh University, Jean Drew, daughter of the distinguished soldier, Major-General Sir James Syme Drew. Dr Jean Balfour CBE, FRSE, as she became, was the successful, effective and pioneering Chairman of the Countryside Commission of Scotland between 1972 and 1982.

From the early 1950s, Balfour and his dynamo of a wife – he sometimes gave the misleading impression of a being a laidback old Etonian – developed Balbirnie Home Farm at Cupar, Fife, and made improvements in estate housing and woodlands which were an example to others. Setting up Markinch Motors with James Bowen, he led a company which was among those responsible for dramatic improvements in farm machinery. However, in the late 1960s, the Balfour family had to quit the 700 acres of Balbirnie, where they had lived since 1642, to make way for the new town of Glenrothes, providing housing for miners at two huge coal mines (which proved to be a geological disaster).

Henceforth, Balfour's farming operations were on a smaller scale. More and more, he devoted himself to Youth Scotland, and membership of the Alcohol Advisory Council. He was a member of Lord Kilbrandon's Inter-departmental Committee on Children and Young Persons, Scotland (1963-1964), which laid the foundations for a system of children's panels, in an area where Scottish practice was a subject of interest throughout Europe. Balfour believed that children's crimes should, where sensible, be taken out of the courts and dealt with in the context of their families through children's hearings. Balfour was made an OBE for his work with young people.

His last public service was as an influential member of the Whitley council, dealing with health service remuneration throughout Britain, and as a trustee of the Aids Trust.

Tam Dalyell

John Charles Balfour, soldier, farmer and public servant: born Woking 28 July 1919; served in the Royal Artillery in North Africa and Normandy, 1939- 1945, MC 1943; Chairman, Fife Area Health Board, 1983-1987; OBE 1978; married 1950 Dr Jean Drew (three sons); died Markinch, Fife 21 May 2009.

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel