Burke Nicholson of Balvenie

Senior vice-president of Coca-Cola who became Baron of Balvenie

Born: 14 June, 1917, in Atlanta, Georgia; Died: 27 June, 2007, in Atlanta, aged 90.

HAMMOND Burke Nicholson Jr, who has died in his 91st year, was the senior executive of the Coca-Cola Corporation who became a significant benefactor in Scottish cultural life.

He helped pioneer the Coca-Cola business in Europe, and was senior vice-president of the company in Atlanta, Georgia. He developed the brand in Europe, and became a major player in the long-standing corporate war with rival Pepsi-Cola.

It was in Scotland, however, that he made his mark as a philanthropist, with generous endowments to the Royal Museum of Scotland, to institutions in Banffshire, and in the pursuit of heraldry. Intensely interested in his genealogical roots as a member of Clan MacNicol, Nicholson was a former high commissioner for the Americas in the Highland Clan MacNicol, a counsellor to the Clan Chief, and a trustee of the Clan MacNicol Trust on Skye. A decade ago he was appointed chairman of the Highland Clan MacNeacail Federation.

A longstanding enthusiast for heraldry, he was able as a descendant of a Scot to petition for arms from the Lord Lyon, and this he did in 1988, followed by a flowering of family heraldry with individual matriculations of arms for eight family members. He backed this by commissioning a series of banners that flew in line on great occasions at Highland games in North America, each flag showing the correct difference of each cadet in exuberant colour.

His infectious eagerness saw him snapping up the barony of Balvenie when that came on the market, and he re-recorded arms in 1995 to display the red cap of a feudal baron above his shield. The barony, centred on Balvenie Castle in Banffshire, brought him into close contact with Dufftown, and typically of the man, he took the responsibility of his barony seriously, becoming honorary president of Dufftown Highland Games, patron of Dufftown Horticultural Society and a notable benefactor of Mortlach Church.

He also destined largesse to the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, to the publication of a book on Clan Nicolson, and sponsored a splendid catalogue to accompany the 1995 Edinburgh exhibition of heraldry.

Eldest of five brothers, Nicholson of Balvenie was educated in Atlanta, Toronto and the London School of Economics. He began on one of the lower rungs of Coco-Cola in a bottling plant in Atlanta, but his ability gained swift recognition. He worked with the company in New York, and after war service in the South Atlantic, engaged his Europhile tendencies with executive positions in Amsterdam, Zurich, Paris, Brussels and London, becoming European vice-president.

Always a prominent figure in his red Nicholson kilt, Balvenie continued to visit Scotland annually. Family commitment to clan matters continues through his younger brother, Harman (to whom the barony of Balvenie falls), and his three sons.

He is survived by their three sons H Burke (Nick) Nicholson III, Jeremy, and Graham; and three grandchildren.