Obituary: Andrew Webster, planning official and folk singer

Andrew Webster: Renowned for his contribution to Scotland's heritage
Andrew Webster: Renowned for his contribution to Scotland's heritage
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Born: 8 October, 1942, in Nottingham. Died: 13 April, 2014, in Glasterlaw, Angus, aged 71

THROUGHOUT his life Andrew Webster made a contribution to Scotland’s heritage particularly in the fields of traditional railways and folk singing.

In his younger days, Andrew lived close to the station in Perth at a time when it was a major hub in Scotland’s rail network, its station boasting seven platforms and acres of train sheds and a goods yard.

It was all fertile territory for an active and inquisitive boy and gave birth to a lifelong ­passion for railways.

In 1979, Andrew, now living in Angus, became a founder member of the Brechin Railway Preservation Society, which established the running of steam locomotives along the one-time disused four-mile single track line between Brechin and Bridge of Dun.

He was renowned for his knowledge of all matters connected with railways of old, a fact born out by the huge turnout to a talk he gave in Brechin Library in the late Eighties.

By 1999 he was chairman of the Board of Caledonian Railway (Brechin) – a private limited company set up to handle the legalities and finances of running locomotives. He represented the company to funding bodies and to the wider public and steered it through some difficult financial times, not least when £15,000 had to be raised to repair frost damage after the long bitter winter of 2010.

On leaving school Andrew had entered the service of the Ordnance Survey before later becoming a local authority planning officer in Angus until his retiral in 1994. He handled planning applications in town and country and showed himself able to take on board the views of both the supporters and opposers of plans. He was the officer for Montrose and was valued for his knowledge and expertise in historical buildings and in the process played a role in retaining the original charm and character of this coastal town.

With his family he lived in the hamlet of Glasterlaw overlooking the Angus countryside towards the village of Friockheim. But Andrew never rested quietly in his rural idyll.

His garden reflected his love of railways. It runs alongside a length of a standard gauge railway line and contains a full sized railway signal, a traditional white-painted railway gate and a wagon converted into a garden house. He also installed a model railway train system built on the 0 gauge – the standard for this type of system in the United Kingdom.

Andrew’s interest in music was sparked off in the fifties by skiffle – Lonnie Donegan being a one-time hero of his. He went on to sing and play the guitar at the Abbey Folk Club in Arbroath and subsequently at the Montrose Folk Club as well as at a number of reunions of the Abbey Folk regulars. Most fascinating was his repetoire of traditional whaling songs.

For a period with fellow musicians he formed the group Tregallion which, in 1980, produced a record album to raise funds for Radio North Angus, which then entertained patients in hospitals in Arbroath and at Strathcathro, near Brechin.

Tall and athletic, Andrew was a keen sportsman, particularly in soccer and cricket. He regularly followed the progress on national teams and became a recognised football referee enabling local team games.

Always with a sense of contributing to the wider community he also trained as a lay ­Justice of the Peace and went on to serve in that capacity for 20 years between 1992 and 2012.

His first career with the Ordnance Survey had taken him to far-flung corners of Scotland including Orkney and Shetland. And in retirement he was a volunteer worker on the world heritage site of St Kilda in the North Atlantic, at 41 miles west of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides the remotest part of the British Isles.

Right from his younger days Andrew had shown an interest in travel to rural and remote places. At just 13 years old – together with a couple of Perth Academy school friends all under strict parental orders to stay in pre-booked youth hostel accommodation – he completed a cycle tour up to Inverness and Strathpeffer then across and around to Skye and back to Perth via Mallaig. The following year the friends cycled to Cape Wrath in the north.

Andrew faced his diagnosis of cancer five years ago with great equanimity, courage and dignity. He continued his commitments with the Brechin railway uptil his last months of life and he did not let cancer stop him undertaking a trip via air and chartered ship to Antartica. And just last autumn he completed with a cousin a boat trip along the Croatian coastline.

Andrew is survived by his wife Sheena, daughters Kirstin and Sara and grandchildren Thomas, Oliver, Kate and James.