Obituary: Lord Burton of Dochfour of Burton-on-Trent and of Rangemore in the County of Stafford, landowner

Lord Burton
Lord Burton
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Born: 27 June, 1924, in Burton-on-Trent. Died: 30 May, 2013, in Invernesshire, aged 88

Lord Burton inherited the title of Burton-on-Trent from a grandmother who was a member of the Bass brewing family while the barony of Dochfour came from another grandmother who belonged to the ancient Highland family of Baillie. Their family home, Dochfour, has been in the Baillie family since the 1400s. The house is in spectacular scenery with stunning views over Loch Dochfour and Loch Ness. Burton’s knowledge of the Highlands and the countryside was intense and he remained a committed opponent of land reform. His 40,000 acre estate was indeed extensive including such famous moorlands as Dochfour, Cluanie, Glen Shiel and Glen Quoich.

Burton’s family connections with Scotland go back many centuries. Two of his ancestors had been kings of Scotland and their link with royalty continued with visits from Prince Albert and then Edward VII (as Prince of Wales) – the latter rented Glen Quoich on the Glengarry estate in the late 19th century.

Michael Evan Victor Baillie was the eldest son of Brigadier the Honourable George Evan Michael Baillie, MC, TD, and the grandson of Nellie Lisa, the 2nd Baroness Burton. He attended Eton where he excelled at boxing and then was commissioned into the Scots Guards. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant and was seconded to the Lovat Scouts, seeing active service with them during the Second World War.

Burton devoted himself to farming and managing the estate. He was a keen angler, stalker and shot but his commitment to the upkeep and improvement of Dochfour played a major part in his life. He was an active member of the House of Lords, speaking with first-hand knowledge on country and farming matters – serving on many committees connected with agriculture. Burton was saddened when he lost his right to take his hereditary seat after the 1999 Act.

In 1965 Lord Burton opposed the Labour government’s Highlands and Islands (Development) Bill and in 1970 spoke against that government’s attempt to eradicate brucellosis as being “complacent, parsimonious, and half-hearted”. It was a subject on which he spoke with authority as both his wife and daughter had contracted the disease. He opposed a Scottish Assembly in the 1970s fearing the growth of interested factions.

Burton was a key member of the local community in Invernesshire and was a councillor on the Inverness County Council (1948-75) and then later on Inverness District Council (1984-92). He served as a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant of Inverness-shire (1963-1965). Burton was an executive member of the Scottish Landowners Federation and founded and ran the Inverness Pony Club for 25 years.

His presence in the community was always much appreciated by residents: he was no absentee landlord and spoke on the area’s behalf with passion and authority – always keen to preserve its natural beauty.

Burton did champion some unusual aspects of country life. In 1984 he asked permission to destroy a marauding golden eagle on his estate, but that was rejected. “It seems to be just this one bird which is doing the damage,” he said. Burton applied again in 1985, while also attempting to amend the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Bill, but failed again. In 1981 Burton found the savaged carcass of a roe deer on his estate with large cat-like prints – the size of a puma – close by.

His desire to protect his land sometimes got Burton into trouble with the authorities. These contretemps varied from a verbal battle with a lorry driver who had blocked one of his private roads and, in 1992, confronting a woman who had strayed on to his land. He denied shouting at her, but admitted he had a loud voice.

Burton was a prominent Freemason and served as Grand Master in Scotland from 1993-1999. Burton and his wife moved from the family home at Dochfour to the nearby Dochgarroch Lodge but he had had the foresight to greatly upgrade Dochfour by asking the eminent architect Richard Tyler to restore the building.

It is thought that Michael Chaplin, the scriptwriter of the BBC television drama series Monarch of the Glen, may have based the part of Hector, as played by Richard Briers, on Burton. Chaplin certainly did early research at Dochfour.

Burton married his second cousin, Elizabeth Ursula Foster Wise of Lochloy in Nairn in 1948. They had six children, the eldest of whom, Evan farms in Australia and now inherits the title. Two of Burton’s daughters predeceased him. That marriage was dissolved in 1977 and he married Coralie Cliffe the following year. She survives him along with two sons and two daughters.