Obituary: Lt-Col John Moncrieff; Black Watch soldier and charity worker who bagged his 284th Munro at the age of 73

Born: 31 August, 1929, in Edinburgh. Died: 11 September, 2012, in Perth, aged 83.

Lieutenant-Colonel John Moncrieff of Kinmonth served with much distinction with the Black Watch for 30 years. He saw active service in demanding areas that not only required military skills of the highest order, but also a diplomatic sensitivity in understanding complex local political situations. Moncrieff dispatched these duties with authority and perception, and further distinguished himself in various staff posts back in the UK. In the Black Watch archives there is a comment: “Colonel Moncrieff was a hard-working, loyal and conscientious officer.”

His work on behalf of the Episcopal Church in Scotland was considerable – always done in a quiet and undemonstrative manner.

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Moncrieff, an enthusiastic Munroist, attended morning service on the Sunday of a climb and then, on “bagging” a hill, wrote to the Episcopal Church thanking it for its spiritual benefit and enclosing a donation. It was a gesture typical of this kind and courteous man.

The Very Rev Hunter Farquharson, Provost of Perth Cathedral, said in his eulogy: “John was a gentleman, a man of kindness, love and generosity.”

John Graham Moncrieff was the son of Douglas and Doreen Moncrieff, and was brought up at Kinmonth House.

His father, whose original surname was Wright, was recognised by the Lord Lyon in 1946 “in the name of Moncrieff of Kinmonth”.

Moncrieff first attended Belhaven Hill in Dunbar and then Eton. He left the latter in 1947 and immediately went to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Black Watch in 1949.

He joined the 1st battalion in Germany and then returned to Crail to train for the Korean War, in which he served in the Intelligence Corps, being mentioned in dispatches. Moncrieff remained with the corps throughout his time in Kenya, during the challenging Mau Mau troubles, when he was awarded a medal and clasp.

Staff appointments followed before he was sent with the 2nd Battalion to Aden.

He was a Company Commander in Warminster and Minden, and served in Singapore before returning as Battalion Second-in-Command at Kirknewton and Gibraltar.

His final appointment was as Acting Colonel at Southern Division Headquarters United Kingdom Land Forces.

Moncrieff met his future wife Sue while skiing in Austria and they were married in London in 1966 – on the day that England won the World Cup. Their first joint posting was to Singapore and they much enjoyed subsequent postings at home and abroad.

In 1977, after a distinguished career with the Black Watch, Moncrieff retired from the army to return to the family home at Kinmonth, where he managed the estate and farm.

He involved himself in the day-to-day management of his sheep farm in Sutherland and the arable farm in Perthshire. But it was the voluntary work Moncrieff carried out throughout Scotland that gained him a wider respect.

Moncrieff was especially active in church life and worked with particular commitment as patron and a volunteer for the Churches Action for the Homeless (Cath) in Perth. Brian Cowie, operations manager of Cath, remembers Moncrieff with a very special pleasure. “John’s work at Cath was always very hands-on and constructive: his volunteering, financial assistance and, when we moved, storing many of our items, were all done with a generous spirit. He was always sympathetic and understanding and much respected and liked by all the staff.”

Moncrieff also supported the University of Highlands and Islands and was an active member of the Order Of St John and the Scout movement, acting as Commissioner for Perth and Kinross and an ambassador for Girl Guiding.

He served on the council of Glenalmond College in the early 1990s and, as a parting gift, made a substantial donation to the Sixth Form Club (now known as the Moncrieff Centre).

Moncrieff worked on behalf of many religious charities, especially the National Prayer Breakfasts and the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy. His wife, Sue, recalls the pleasure “and hard work” they had organising the annual gatherings for prayer and bible study at Kinmonth – affectionately known as the Kinmonth Retreat.

Moncrieff was a regular attender at St John’s Episcopal Church, in Princes Street in 
Perth and served as People’s Warden.

Climbing remained a passion throughout his life – along with skiing. He had climbed the Matterhorn in his youth and was 73 when he completed all 284 Munros. Other hobbies included rifle shooting at both military and civilian events, genealogy and stalking in Sutherland. He had been a member of the Royal Company of Archers since 1961.

Lt Col John Moncrieff is survived by his wife and their son and daughter.

Alasdair Steven