Obituary: n Arthur Randell Hulton Bott, yachtsman and civil servant

Arthur Randell Hulton Bott: Yachtsman and civil servant. Born 26 July 1928 Died Sunday 3 March 2013.
Arthur Randell Hulton Bott: Yachtsman and civil servant. Born 26 July 1928 Died Sunday 3 March 2013.
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Born: 26 July, 1928, in Preston. Died: 3 March, 2013, in Edinburgh, aged 84

Randell Bott was an avid sailor and senior civil servant – in that order.

He made his mark in hospital design and building regulations but would leave work sharpish to get down to the water for a sailing race. Many envied the balance he struck between work and play.

This self-assured sailor’s enthusiasm for boating infected many in South Queensferry and beyond. He was a founder member of the Queensferry Boat Club in 1957 and helped organise regattas which attracted more than 100 dinghies from around the Forth in the 1950s and 1960s. His Dormobile with attached dinghy trailer, not to mention white overall waterproofs, were signature features of this early racing scene.

He considered himself an Englishman in Scotland: born in Preston, he moved here with his parents at the age of seven. But over the years friends south of the Border would notice Scottish vocabulary and slight inflections creeping into his speech. He loved Scotland, but still always supported England in the rugby internationals.

Randell held strong opinions. A female fellow-student, who became a lifelong friend, remembers that her first comment on meeting this rather dashing young man was: “Oh, how rude.”

He did not suffer fools gladly and wanted to get things right. The AGM of his boat club would often feature a carefully considered and unfailingly polite question from Randell in the audience about an obscure detail of the accounts. Randell was sent to George Watson’s College and later studied architecture and town planning at Edinburgh College of Art.

After graduating, he did his national service in the Royal Corps of Engineers, carrying out surveying work in Egypt and Kenya, where his commanding officer found in Randell a willing volunteer to teach other soldiers to sail on some underused dinghies.

After two years in the army he entered the professional civil service and started work in the Scottish Development Department in Edinburgh.

He would be promoted to deputy director of building and on the way be appointed director of the innovative Hospital Centre attached to the Western General Hospital in the city.

Here the experience and requirements of architects, doctors, nurses and other hospital workers were pooled into the design of hospitals.

It was pioneering work and led to Randell and his family spending a year, 1971-72, on secondment in New Zealand to advise on hospital development.

By then, he had married Trudi Sidler, the Swiss home help whom he met in the home of family friends in Barnton. He introduced her to sailing, often taking her out in his dinghy.

They kept in touch and seven years later, when he met her again in New York, he proposed to her and they married in 1964 in Kilchberg, near Zurich, her home town. They would often return on holiday to Switzerland, where Trudi introduced Randell to skiing, and he grew to love the country.

She became his crew, racing his Shearwater Catamaran, “Madam”, often suspended on a trapeze over the windward hull, holding the boat down. They won many trophies.

The couple moved to a flat on West Terrace in Queensferry and later bought their house on Station Road in 1965. Meanwhile, Randell’s career in the Scottish Office advanced and he was placed in charge of redrafting and developing building regulations. He wanted to make a difference in his job, colleagues remember, but not at the cost of his life outside.

“He worked for a living, and not the other way around,” said those who knew him well. Sailing and family life provided this counterweight to his professional responsibilities. At home he would immerse himself in the music of composers including Strauss, Mahler, Vaughan Williams and Wagner.

The couple had two children, Martin and Susi. Boat Club members recall the tricky feat of Randell sailing into Queensferry’s small harbour with Susi at the bow quickly dousing the spinnaker to slow them down as they approached their berth.

He built an OK-type dinghy, “Mistress”, in Queensferry Boat Club, which needed to be launched through the window onto the beach. He later had “Windsong” and lastly “Midnight Hustler”, a UFO-class, 31-foot racer.

Randell thrived on racing and also loved day sailing on the Forth with his family and friends, as well as cruising in the summer with friends on their boats on the west coast of Scotland.

Randell retired early in July 1988 as part of the Thatcher government’s cost-cutting purge of senior civil servants. He felt his work was not done but his outside life was always there. His staff gave him an outboard engine as a leaving present.

In recent years, Randell’s osteoporosis slowly and cruelly hampered his mobility and finally forced him to give up sailing two years ago.

He leaves his wife Trudi, their two children Martin and Susi and two grandchildren, Lucas and Olivia.