Obituary: Dr Alexander Lindsay Stewart OBE, CA, FRCSEd (Hon), FRCSI (Hon), FRCOG (Hon). Herioter, leader, businessman, sportsman and benefactor

Dr Alexander Lindsay Stewart
Dr Alexander Lindsay Stewart
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Born: 9 July, 1926, in York: Died: 9 September, 2012, in Edinburgh, aged 86.

Lindsay Stewart was a man who set high standards and expected that they be met. He held strong opinions on most things and, once set on a course of 
action, followed it through with single-minded determination – usually to a successful conclusion.

Hearing Lindsay grunt, with brow furrowed, upper lip pushed out, some could be a little intimidated – until they realised that beneath the gruff exterior lay a surprisingly reserved and gentle man of great kindness and generosity of spirit. That he was kind is known 
personally to countless individuals; that he was generous will readily be confirmed throughout Edinburgh and beyond by many organisations which have already benefited hugely from his quietly-given donations.

Born in Yorkshire – “Conceived in Scotland to Scottish parents”, he’d always quickly add – Lindsay was initially educated in Aberdeen and Glasgow, then from the age of 12 in Edinburgh at his life-long alma mater, George Heriot’s School.

He often asserted this was where his education really began, and when he left in 1944, he had honed skills in mathematics, geography, tennis, rugby and athletics.

He’d become Chief Petty ­Officer in the Sea Cadets and been made a school prefect – in which latter role he pursued a certain George Watson’s Ladies College pupil, his beloved wife-to-be for 52 years, Edith.

The war nearing its end, Lindsay, as always, wanted action, and volunteered for the Royal Navy, training as a Fleet Air Arm pilot. After the war, he qualified as a chartered accountant, and in 1951, joined the international firm of Ethicon, Edinburgh, becoming managing director in 1972 and retiring in 1988.

He presided over massive growth in the company’s exports of surgical sutures to more than 120 countries, for which Ethicon received multiple Queen’s Awards. Lindsay was awarded the OBE for his services to exporting.

In these days, Lindsay tended not to suffer fools at all, never mind gladly, but he would mellow over time and was always scrupulously fair. His own work ethic was immense. He insisted on punctuality and made fast decisions, chairing meetings with brisk efficiency.

His inner confidence and drive inspired Ethicon’s 2,000 employees to support him with genuine affection. Lindsay Stewart was a superb leader. He often walked the factory floor, building warm working relationships both there and during the annual Ethicon trip, a hired train transporting 600 employees to resorts such as Blackpool for 16 hours of fun-filled bonding.

Outwith his fearsome focus on routine work, Lindsay nurtured and expanded the supportive relationships with various surgical colleges that his own mentor and predecessor, Dr Leonard Bailey, had initiated. Lindsay was an honorary member of the James IV Association of Surgeons, and received honorary fellowships from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London; the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; the Association of Surgeons of East Africa; and, of course, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, during whose 2005 quincentenary celebrations he would also receive the highest possible tribute of companionship, which was simultaneously awarded to the Duke of Edinburgh, while the then United Nations UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, accepted an honorary fellowship. An elite trio.

Snobbery and injustice were always anathema to Lindsay, and when he learned in his retirement that successful Ethicon Edinburgh was facing closure by giant US parent Johnson & Johnson, he immediately led a small group of his former board directors in a fierce David and Goliath battle, saving a third of the threatened jobs.

He took a close interest in Edinburgh Napier University, where he was chairman of the court and honoured as a Doctor of the University, Honoris Causa. The Lindsay Stewart Lecture Theatre testifies to his personal financial commitment, and he was a diligent trustee and treasurer of Edinburgh Napier’s Development Trust. Leisure for Lindsay really meant sport.

Swimming became a slightly unexpected interest when his daughter Kathleen showed ­notable breaststroke abilities and Lindsay was poolside at 6am every day, stopwatch in hand, helping his special girl to the distinction of representing Scotland in the Commonwealth Games. Tragically, Kathleen would later die of an accidental fall at home and, in 2004, after a long spell of devotedly caring for her, Lindsay was also to lose his childhood sweetheart, Edith.

In 1954, he had joined the Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Club as a novice. The kindly initial assistance of former British Boys’ Champion, Alan Macgregor, helped him eventually to break 100. So began Lindsay’s highly-competitive approach to playing golf, often with Edith – a formidable partnership, widely feared.

He enjoyed a distinguished career in golf administration, achieving captaincy of the Merchants, presidency of the Lothians Golf Association and ultimately of the Scottish Golf Union itself. He was also Great Britain and Ireland representative on the Amateur Technical Committee of the European Golf Association.

Lindsay fondly remembered his role as chairman of selectors and non-playing captain of the Scottish Youths’ International Golf Team. For no fewer than seven years under his inspirational guidance, this team was undefeated – and it won the European Youths’ Team Championship in France in 1982 and in Spain in 1986.

Lindsay’s current honorary presidency of Heriot’s FP Golf Club and honorary vice-
presidency of Heriot’s Rugby Club indicated that George Heriot’s School was probably the most abiding feature throughout his life.

He served as a governor of Heriot’s School from 1976 to 1996; as finance convener from 1981; vice-chairman of governors and convener of the investment committee from 1984. Only in 2011, did he demit office as convener of the investment committee of the Heriot Appeal Trust.

As well as his expertise, he personally donated generous financial contributions to Heriot’s, a substantial legacy being earmarked for the music department. Another tangible example is the magnificent Lindsay Stewart Sports Hall, which Lindsay himself earnestly hoped would help develop the strength and fitness of all Heriot’s pupils, and particularly those playing his favourite team sport – rugby.

As a former pupil back in the 1950s, Lindsay’s was a familiar face at Goldenacre. While no star rugby flanker, he was proud to have captained an unbeaten 4th XV for several seasons, with some team members – later to be famous Heriot’s FP 1st XV players – even refusing promotion rather than disrupt the team spirit Lindsay had helped create. Very recently, he’d been optimistic that Heriot’s would move up the Scottish Premiership and, typically, had once more helped the club with a little financial assistance.

Heriot’s School motto is “I Distribute Chearfullie”. Lindsay Stewart truly did.

He is survived by his sister, Anne.

Contributed by Graeme Crawford and George Borthwick