Obituary: Alexander C Rutherford

Businessman honoured by the R&A for his contribution to golf in St Andrews and the world

Born: 3 August, 1918, in Kilmacolm.

Died: 29 May, 2010, in St Andrews, aged 91.

RETIRED businessman, entrepreneur and former town councillor Sandy Rutherford was a prominent figure in many aspects of life in St Andrews, where he had retired with his wife, Wilma, in 1969 after a successful career in the concrete industry.

During his lifetime he also gained a reputation as an inventor and he pioneered everything from surface water drainage systems and reflective road signs to wide-wheeled caddy carts for golfers.

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He was born in Kilmacolm but moved as a young child to Lenzie and was educated at Glasgow Academy and Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh.

His first job was working with an insurance firm in Glasgow, but his career was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.

He was commissioned into the 54th Queen's Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry and served in France, before joining the 13th Anti-Tank Regiment, also in France.

However, his service was curtailed after he contracted tuberculosis. He was hospitalised in a military facility in Cambridge before spending around a year recuperating in a hospital in Aberdeen and later in St Andrews, which had been a holiday destination of his family for many years.

On his return to civilian life, Rutherford joined the Guardian Society of Scotland.

However, making the most of his business ingenuity and judgment, he went into partnership with a friend to form two new companies, Safeticurb – which pioneered surface water drainage systems – and Solway Products (Glasgow), both of which he eventually bought out.

He was also involved in several other successful business ventures, including Scotchlite, producers of reflective road and traffic signs.

Rutherford also took a keen interest in local government – his father was for a time provost of Kirkintilloch – and he served on both Kirkintilloch Town Council and Dunbartonshire County Council, where he was convener of the roads department and a magistrate.

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On retiring to St Andrews with his wife – the couple married in 1951 – he immediately became immersed in community life and was elected as a member of St Andrews Town Council, on which he served for five years until the reorganisation of local government in the mid 1970s.

Like many in the town at the time, Rutherford was fearful that the control and management of the world-famous St Andrews golf courses would be lost when local burgh councils disappeared from Scotland.

He was among those were were instrumental in the drawing up the 1974 St Andrews Links Act of Parliament. It authorised the town council to hand over the control and management of the courses to the St Andrews Links Trust and Management Committee, and Rutherford became a founder member.

He had previously served on its forerunner, the Joint St Andrews Links Committee, through his membership of the town council. He continued to maintain his interest in local politics long into his 80s and a few years ago urged the people of St Andrews to canvass for a return to local control of its affairs.

During an interview with a local journalist, he claimed that St Andrews had come to be regarded as "a soft touch" by Fife Council and called for full power to be given back to townspeople.

He pointed out that the idea behind devolution from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament was to get the political power as close to the people as possible.

He said it was "therefore reasonable" to demand that this process should continue and that he would like to see it transferred from the artificial centres of power back to historical communities. In the case of St Andrews, that would be the townspeople themselves, rather than people 20 miles away in Glenrothes.

Although admitting to "never being much of a golfer", Rutherford loved the sport and he was a life member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, having been elected in 1946.

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He also enjoyed rugby as a young man and was a member of Lenzie Rugby Club.

Rutherford served for many years as a trustee of the renowned Robert T Jones Memorial Trust. This involves a student exchange programme between St Andrews University and Emory University in Atlanta, in the United States, where the late golfing legend Bobby Jones was a student.

Always looking to improve aspects of the game, Rutherford registered the design of the tee boxes which eventually came into use on the St Andrews courses, now the largest golfing complex in Europe.

He also designed the first wide wheel for use on caddy carts, which became known as the St Andrews Wheel – now used the world over. A later study by the English Golf Union showed that the wide wheels did less damage to golf courses.

His contribution to golf in general – and St Andrews in particular – was recognised by the R&A and during a special ceremony at a dinner he was presented with a quaich by past captain Sir Michael Bonallack to mark his dedicated efforts.

Also in St Andrews, he served as a member and chairman of the congregational board of Holy Trinity Parish Church and was associated with several other local organisations.

Sandy Rutherford is survived by his wife, Wilma.