Obituary: Blair Macnaughton, managing director

BC Macnaughton'Obit pic'Obituary picture
BC Macnaughton'Obit pic'Obituary picture
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Born: 7 March, 1927, in Pitlochry. Died: 28 April, 2015, in Pitlochry, aged 88.

The family weaving firm of Macnaughton Holdings was founded in 1783 in Aberfeldy and has grown to become recognised worldwide as one of the leaders in the production of tartan.

Prominent producer of tartan who had taken part in every curling Grand Match

Prominent producer of tartan who had taken part in every curling Grand Match

It is one of Scotland’s oldest private companies and holds a special place in reflecting Scottish business enterprise with a keen interest in its heritage.

Blair Macnaughton was the seventh generation to be in charge of the firm and largely responsible for modernising and diversifying the business.

He was an expert and canny salesman – travelling with great gusto throughout Europe and the Far East. He built up a first-class list of customers in America and the company’s products were regularly seen in such New York stores Macy’s and Saks.

The Pitlochry shop gained an early eminence when Queen Victoria disembarked at Pitlochry station bound for Balmoral on a cold day and she and John Brown bought a rug prior to a journey on horseback through Glenshee to Braemar.

The firm proudly displayed the telegram stating: “The Queen is much pleased with the rug.”

Blair Charles Macnaughton attended Croftonloan prep school, the Edinburgh Academy and Glenalmond College. At the latter he was a prominent sportsman, captain of the 1st XV, Victor Ludorum and a prefect.

He worked briefly in the mill at Pitlochry before training as a physical training instructor with the Marine Commandos.

He played rugby for Exeter Rugby Club and competed at athletic events at White City. In the past few weeks Macnaughton Holdings was awarded the contract to supply kilts to the Marine Commandos – an order that would have given Macnaughton a particular pleasure.

Macnaughton was demobbed in 1947 and attended the Scottish Woollen College in Galashiels, where he met his future wife Elsie Davidson.

He played for Gala and was given the nickname of “the flying winger” by his teammates. He became a lifelong lover of the Borders and returned every year for the Melrose Sevens.

In the early 1950s Macnaughton returned to Pitlochry to succeed his father, as the sixth generation of Macnaughton to run the business.

He had to stabilise the finances and cope with the gruelling problems of the post-war years. He managed the firm with shrewd initiative and had the foresight to be the founder of the Independent Harris Tweed Association.

The body was forced to close; Macnaughton, with typical resolve, fought the case to the end. But his enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit ensured the expansion of the tartan business at the House of Edgar in Aberdeen.

His leadership of the firm and his astute ability to plan the company’s future direction has ensured it prospered.

The strength of the business that he passed on is recognised in the continued profits growth and the valuable inroads Macnaughtons have made in Russia.

Macnaughton retired in 1980 and remained a consultant for a few years.

His love of sport remained a paramount interest throughout his life. He was a passionate curler and an enthusiastic ambassador for the sport. He had the distinction of curling in every Grand Match – the outdoors Bonspiel – since the war. He held many posts in the sport and for 30 years was secretary of the Atholl Province and a founder of the Heart of the Highlands Club.

Graham Brown curled for many years with Macnaughton and warmly remembers his love of the sport and enthusiastic personality. “Blair was always good fun. He went to places that most of us had never heard of – either on business or to curl.

“In 1981 he was in the forefront of adapting the old Pitlochry theatre for curling and both he and his wife Elsie did much to encourage the young to take up the sport.

“Blair was full of energy and vigour but blessed with a warm and generous nature. He was a wonderful raconteur and a great man to have at a dinner party. Conversation certainly never flagged.”

He was a staunch member of the Pitlochry Rotary Club for more than 50 years and chairman of the Abbeyfield Atholl Society. His other interest was the Macnaughton clan. He played a prominent role at the 2009 Gathering in Holyrood Park, acting as a host to members of the clan from all over the world.

His son Blair, now running the firm, recalls: “Dad’s enthusiasm saw no bounds. His welcome included organising a tour of Macnaughton country from Perthshire to Argyll. The bus was full of laughter and dad was in his element repeating family and clan yarns.”

His service to the clan as vice chairman at the Gathering was acknowledged when his name was added to the clan’s Roll of Honour.

Macnaughton’s wife, Elsie, and a daughter died last year. He is survived by their two sons and a daughter.