Sir Alan Hume

Saviour of Edinburgh New Town


Alan Blyth Hume, civil servant and conservationist: born Broxburn, West Lothian 5 January 1913; Under-Secretary, Scottish Home Department 1957-59; Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office 1959-62; CB 1963; Under-Secretary, Ministry of Public Buildings and Works 1963-64; Secretary, Scottish Development Department 1965-73; Kt 1973; Chairman, Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland 1973-81; Chairman, Edinburgh New Town Conservation Committee 1975-90; married 1943 Marion Garrett (one son, one daughter); died Edinburgh 21 February 2006.

Alan Hume was one of a very small group who rescued the Georgian New Town of Edinburgh, one of the jewels of northern Europe, from falling into decay. For 15 years, 1975-90, he was Chairman of the Edinburgh New Town Conservation Committee, and before that spent eight crucial years as Secretary of the Scottish Development Department.

It was Hume's capacity for understanding, discipline and friendship which made this self-effacing man such an effective chairman. His friend Desmond Hodges, the dynamic Secretary of the New Town Conservation Committee, recalls Hume's ability to "shepherd into position" people who might make a contribution. As a civil servant, he was held in the highest regard by Robert Matthew and other leading architects, a situation which was rare, if not unique.

Alan Hume was born in 1913 in Broxburn, West Lothian, where his father, soon to become the headmaster of Bonnyrigg School in Midlothian, was a teacher at Broxburn High School. Hume was deeply affected by the loss of his 11-year-old sister to meningitis. Taking first class honours in History at Edinburgh University, he entered the Civil Service in 1936 and found that he was in a reserved occupation during the Second World War. In his spare time, he was a volunteer ambulance driver in the west of Scotland just as there were fearful air-raids on Clydebank and other targets.

Hume's first senior post was as Under-Secretary at the Scottish Home Department in 1957, dealing with delicate police matters at a time when crime was rising to an unprecedented level. Two years later, he was promoted to Assistant Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, working with the formidable Sir Douglas Haddow. After a period as an Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, Hume went in 1965 to take charge of the Scottish Development Department, which was dealing with the setting up of the British Motor Corporation Truck and Tractor Division at Bathgate, the Rootes factory at Linwood and, above all, the huge steel works at Ravenscraig.

The motor industry had come to Scotland against the better judgement of Sir George Harriman, boss of Austin, and other industry leaders such as George Turnbull. Hume tried very hard, along with colleagues such as Gavin McCrone, to attract the ancillary industries which would have made Bathgate and Linwood viable. The components suppliers steadfastly refused - for understandable reasons, citing economies of scale - to leave the Midlands.

My first meeting with Alan Hume was one of considerable antagonism. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I persuaded the then chairman, Douglas Houghton, to summon the Scottish Office to account for the unsatisfactory contracting arrangements for the building of the New Town of Livingston, then in my West Lothian constituency. Haddow and Sir David Lowe, chairman of Livingston Development Corporation, were incandescent with anger at the trouble I had caused them. It was characteristic of Hume that he should be far more measured in his response to the tribulations of democracy, and develop not only a courteous relationship but friendship.

On his retirement at the age of 60, in 1973, he became Chairman of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland. He was extremely competent - a steady hand at the helm supporting the scholars who worked for the board. He had an abiding interest in Scotland's heritage and worked hard to preserve Pictish sites, castles, abbeys and industrial monuments.

Hume rendered huge service, too, in various capacities, to Edinburgh University, serving on the Court, where he worked closely with his great friend the Rev Professor John McIntyre. Brenda Moon, the university librarian of the day, remembers Hume's considerable wisdom in dealing with the affairs not only of the library but of the bibliographical treasures in its possession.

Until his 92nd year Hume not only drove a motor car but continued fly-fishing, setting aside every Monday for the river bank or fishing boat.

Tam Dalyell

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: PSHE Teacher required in Devon - Star...

SEN Teacher (Primary)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Primary Teacher required Devon

SEN PPA Cover Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Teacher Jobs in Devon Devon

BSL Level 2 or above - Behaviour Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are looking for Teaching ...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor