Obituary: John Train Nicol, master builder who was also a talented artist and singer

John Train Nicol. Born: 12 January, 1939. Died: 27 February, 2019 in Edinburgh, aged 80.

John Train Nicol has died at the age of 80
John Train Nicol has died at the age of 80

John Train Nicol was better known as Ian Nicol to his family and friends. He was a man of contrasting personalities and gifted in each one.

There was Ian Nicol, master builder, who built houses and was most happy when ­renovating and modernising old properties long before the TV of today entertained huge audiences featuring home renovations and new builds.

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He had started off his ­working life as a brickie with the successful firm Crudens and developed his considerable skills thanks to practice and hard work.

He perhaps was most proud of the house he built for ­himself and his family over a period of three years whilst his wife Heather and their children lived in a caravan on site.

In total contrast there was Ian Nicol, the talented artist who taught for a time between building assignments. His work has been much admired and sought after.

Then there was Ian Nicol, the professional cabaret singer. Together with a pianist friend from Livingston, Nicol was a regular star in a west of Scotland upmarket restaurant nightclub where his romantic style of singing and engaging personality found him attracting a devoted female following.Indeed he cut a very handsome figure in his tuxedo.

Always ready to help anyone who required his advice or building skills, Nicol, the ­singer, readily agreed to star in Livingston’s first ‘Half-Past Eight’-type production, Revue ‘72 at the then new Mews ­Theatre (now Howden Park Centre) and this led to his being invited to play the lead role of Sky Masterton in ­Beryl Beattie Productions’ smash hit production of Guys and Dolls, thus proving he could also act.

Both shows raised considerable sums for children’s cancer charity CLIC ­Sargent. He happily performed without his professional fee.

Interestingly, the show also included his lovely wife Heather and their beautiful daughter Julie who danced in the famous Take Back Your Mink sequence and were ­Hotbox gals in fishnet tights and basques in the same chorus line.

Bringing up his three children meant providing for them and his wife, so Nicol was also not averse to working between gigs at the busy Ingliston market when he could, where he proved he could sell anything and entertain the customers with his banter at the same time.

Perhaps his most glamorous assignment was as a fashion model at a glittering gala at Hopetoun House where he wore a collection of designer clothes, including the sheepskin jacket in the photograph.

Next day saw him back in overalls and hard hat doing what he did best, building a home extension among the bricks and mortar he knew and understood so well.

Ian Nicol built many friendships throughout his life, a life in which his daughter Elizabeth and her siblings reckoned he was always searching for that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and found it when he built their dream home in the country beside a sparkling stream with the only background sound the songs of the birds and endless sunny days of blissful happy family enjoyment.

Ian Nicol is survived by his son Graham, daughters Elizabeth and Julie, grandchildren Rachel, Rebecca, Martha and Delaney and his great grandson, Carter and best friend Mary. His wife Heather ­pre-deceased him.