OBITUARY : Sir Maitland Mackie

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The Independent Online
Maitland Mackie was the eldest of the three remarkable sons of Dr Maitland Mackie, a farmer in Aberdeenshire. His younger brother was John (later Lord) Mackie, MP for Enfield, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture in the Wilson government and later Chairman of the Forestry Commission. His youngest brother George, Lord Mackie of Benshie, is a Liberal spokesman and for 20 years was chairman of Caithness Glass, and much else.

The Mackie family are tremendous innovators and Maitland was their patriarch. Last year there was a gathering of 165 of the 203 direct descendants of his grandfather at the Mackie home at Westertown. Maitland himself was an innovator in excelsis, in not one but two different spheres - agriculture and education.

He was the first Scottish farmer to make silage and pioneered techniques for its storage. He was the first to develop loose housing for dairy cows and the first man north of the Tay to acquire a combine harvester.

As a governor of the North of Scotland College of Agriculture from 1968 to 1982, he was a driving force in promoting experiments to increase agricultural output in inclement conditions and harsh climates. His lifelong involvement with the Rowett Research Institute helped to produce resources for distinguished research on wool and other products.

From 1965 to 1982 Mackie as chairman of the Aberdeen District Milk Marketing Board had an influence in the development of that board's activities throughout Britain. His interest in the proper marketing of milk may have arisen from his own experience as a teenager of knocking doors in Aberdeen and Huntly in order to get regular customers.

Mackie was also an educational innovator. In 1961 he spent a fortnight on board the ship school Dunera on an educational cruise to Bergen, Oslo, Copenhagen, Hamburg and Amsterdam when I was director of studies on the British India ship. Late into the night he would discuss ways in which ever more mature 14- and 15-year-old pupils could fill the last year at school and staying on could be made worthwhile. Work experience in the embryo North Sea oil industry on-shore, farm life for urban youngsters, courses in building techniques - all these ideas and more flowed from Mackie's fertile mind and were implemented at the behest of the education committee of which he was chairman.

He was not only an ideas man but a doer. I asked him during a very uncomfortable voyage across the North Sea to address 700 children, many of whom were seasick, on farming. He turned out to be a spellbinder.

His 15 years as chairman of the Aberdeenshire Education Committee were marred but not blemished in the end by a terrible long-running row which the Scottish and the national press simply could not resist. Mackie's farm was supposedly identified as being the source of dirty milk which had been given to schoolchildren in their morning break. This was pretty scurrilous stuff. In the event, after lots of mud had stuck, it became clear that Mackie and his farm were innocent.

Maitland Mackie was born on the family farm at North Ythsie, Tarves, in Aberdeenshire, still in the possession of his family. After Aberdeen Grammar School he graduated BSc in Agriculture at Aberdeen University, where his inspiration was the famous Sir John Boyd Orr, an international inspiration for many of those who were to work in Rome and elsewhere for the Food and Agricultural Organisation. Mackie farmed at Westertown, Rothienorman.

In 1935 he married Isobel Ross, a teacher in the village of Daviot, and was able to celebrate his silver wedding after an outstandingly happy marriage before she died in 1960. In 1963 he embarked on a second outstandingly happy marriage with the Texan Pauline Turner, who died three years ago. In his autobiography, A Lucky Chap (1993), written in conjunction with his nephew, the author and journalist Charlie Allen, he describes movingly what a vital part these two thoroughly nice women played in his life.

He was first elected a member of Aberdeenshire County Council in 1951 and remained until the establishment of Grampian Regional Council in 1975. He was the first chairman of the North East of Scotland Development Authority from 1969 to 1975. I think that the parties which he and Pauline threw for oil industry dignitaries had a great deal to do with the fact that Aberdeen and not Dundee became the capital of the British North Sea oil industry. His public interests were wide-ranging and he was a very influential member, along with Menzies Campbell QC, now MP, of the Committee on the Scottish Licensing Law under the chairmanship of Dr Christopher Clayson which reported in August 1973. I am told that Mackie was chiefly responsible for the recommendation that the seller's criminal responsibility should extend to taking due care to ensure that no sale is made to a person under 18 or that liquor is not consumed by such a person in a bar.

Tam Dalyell

Maitland Mackie, farmer, politician and educationist: born North Ythsie, Aberdeenshire 16 February 1912; CBE 1965; Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire 1975-87; Kt 1982; married 1935 Isobel Ross (died 1960; two sons, four daughters), 1963 Pauline Turner (died 1993); died Westertown, Aberdeenshire 18 June 1996.