Obituary: Douglas WM Davidson MBE, highly-regarded community pharmacist and authority on Blairgowrie

Douglas Davidson MBE
Douglas Davidson MBE
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Douglas Walter McGeorge Davidson MBE, FRPharmS, MIPMI, FCMI, community pharmacist. Born: 30 August 1928. Died: 1 February 2018 in Blairgowrie, aged 89.

Douglas Davidson was the third ­generation of the Davidson family to head family community pharmacy business Walter Davidson & Sons Limited (Davidsons Chemists), Scotland’s largest ­independent retail pharmacy business, with branches throughout Scotland’s central and north-eastern area.

The Blairgowrie-headquartered business, which now has 36 pharmacies and an animal health supplies ­business, was established by his paternal grandfather, Walter ­Davidson, towards the end of the 19th century.

Walter Davidson had three sons John, Norman and ­Walter Jnr, all of whom went into the family business. John, the eldest of the three sons, was born in 1900, and ­Douglas was his son.

Douglas Davidson’s grandfather Walter was Provost of Blairgowrie, and his father, John Davidson went on to become Provost of Coupar Angus, the town in which Douglas grew up, where an early branch of the business was run. The Coupar Angus pharmacy was ­previously owned and run by John’s father-in-law, Douglas’s maternal grandfather, David McGeorge.

Douglas in turn, continuing the tradition of serving the local community in ­public office, was a baillie and town councillor of Blairgowrie, holding the posts of senior baillie, treasurer and Dean of Guild, and for many years was also a Justice of the Peace for Perthshire. He was also chairman of Blairgowrie’s local water authority before nationalisation.

Following a family tradition, he also held numerous other posts in various local organisations, including Blairgowrie Round Table (of which he was the founder chairman) and Blairgowrie Rotary, of which he was a past secretary and past president, and he was a recipient of the Paul Harris Medal (Rotary).

He was also a past vice-chairman of the Conservative & Unionist Association for the then Perth and East Perthshire constituency, in the era when Perth and East Perthshire returned Ian MacArthur and later Bill Walker to Westminster as Conservative MP for the constituency.

He took a keen and active role in advancing the ­interests ­generally of the Blairgowrie area, involving himself in ­bodies with that aim.

His interest in the Blairgowrie area and its people, who he embraced and who in turn embraced him, led to his becoming an authority on ‘old Blairgowrie’.

That, in conjunction with a substantial collection of old photographic slides led to him becoming a frequent speaker at local events on old ­Blairgowrie, giving ­illustrated slide show talks, a role he ­happily managed to fulfil despite a very busy ­professional, business and public service life.

For more than half a century he was a practicing pharmacist. Douglas, who had a particular interest in ­community pharmacy and veterinary pharmacy, also held ­various offices specifically in the health and pharmacy sectors, at local, regional and UK levels, including having been a member of the board of Perthshire General Hospitals and later (for 14 years over a 25 year period) Tayside Health Board.

He was also a council ­member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain for a number of years in the 1980s, serving on ­practice, law (Chair), ethics, legislation, agriculture and veterinary group and community group sub-committees.

He was also extensively involved at committee and officeholder level with the Scottish Pharmaceutical General Council (now ­Community Pharmacy Scotland) over the years, and was also a member of the Pharmaceutical General Council (Scotland) and its standing committee. He was a member of the Local Pharmaceutical Committee (APC) and the Chemists Contractors Committee, was a former chairman of the National Consultative Pharmaceutical Committee (Scotland), and was a member of the Veterinary Pharmacists Group, which he also chaired for 13 years.

He was a former vice-chairman of the GPUE Advisory Working Group on animal health matters in Europe. He was a founding member of AIMS (the Association of Independent Multiples (Pharmacies) Scotland) in the late 1990s, and was its first chairman, holding the post until 2014.

Douglas was given numerous awards and honours in respect of his committed involvement in community pharmacy, where he was one of the most highly-regarded community pharmacists of his generation in Scotland, including being accorded the distinction of being appointed a Fellow of The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 1989.

He was awarded the MBE in 1992 for services to pharmacy in Scotland and veterinary pharmacy in Europe, and a contemporaneous award of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain’s prestigious silver medal. He was an early pioneer in the increasing use of technology to improve efficiencies in pharmacy.

Davidsons Chemists are ­Royal Warrant holders to HM The Queen and the Prince of Wales and the business was formerly also the holder of a Royal Warrant in respect of the Queen Mother, at one point having the rare distinction of holding three Royal Warrants simultaneously.

Douglas was also a former president of the Aberdeen Royal Warrant Holders Association in 2006-2007. The company continues to have the honour of holding ­Royal Warrants granted by HM The Queen and The Prince of Wales, the grantee these days being Douglas’s son Graeme W I Davidson, who also became chairman of Walter Davidson & Sons Limited about four years ago, upon Douglas’s elevation to the role of life president of the company, on retiring from the chairmanship of the company of which Douglas was a director since the early 1950s.

Douglas was educated at Dundee High School and ­Dundee School of Pharmacy, and registered as a pharmacist in 1951. Shortly afterwards he began working in the family’s Blairgowrie branch, which was the base for his entire long working life.

Douglas had an extremely strong work and public service ethic. That, allied with his commitment to and passion for pharmacy, and a reputation for great kindness and integrity, made for him being held in extremely high regard, and widely thought of throughout the local community and the wider professional community.

Until about a year ago, when health issues curtailed his activities somewhat, but not his indomitable spirit, although nearly 90, he could be found most days at work in the ­company’s Blairgowrie headquarters or out visiting one of the branches.

Douglas was predeceased by his wife Avril in 2004. Douglas is survived by his eldest child, Gail, and his lawyer son, ­Graeme.