Obituary: Nan Lindsay, only female President of Scottish Motor Trade Association
Nan Lindsay, who has died of cancer aged 75, was a well-known figure in the Scottish car industry, the first and so far only woman to serve as President of the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA). During her term in office, 1992-94, one of her favourite duties was opening the Scottish Motor Show at Glasgow’s Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, now known as the Scottish Event Campus.
The SMTA was formed in 1903 to “encourage, promote and protect” Scottish car dealers big or small and Nan Lindsay spent many years doing so long before, and after, the two years she wore the golden chain of the president’s office, engraved with the names of every president since 1903.
Nan spent most of her career in the industry. She was the wife and business partner of Dumbarton car dealer John Lindsay, who ran Dumbuck Garage, outside Dumbarton, at the junction where drivers from Glasgow choose between the road to the Highlands or the Mull of Kintyre. That key crossroads, and the fact that the garage had long been a famous Jaguar dealership run by Sir Jackie Stewart’s father Bob, made it a natural stopping-off point for car buyers, or simply enthusiasts.
Focussing on his racing career, Jackie never took over the garage and sold it in 1965 to his pal John, who had started there as a mechanic straight after school.
Given the economic climate, John gave up Jaguar and became a Vauxhall dealer. Downmarket, perhaps, but more economically viable on the Clydeside of the time. John sold the cars while Nan helped with the book-keeping and made sure more cars were going out than were coming in.
The couple were also childhood and lifelong friends of Jackie Stewart and his wife, Helen, and accompanied them to racetracks from Jackie’s earliest days at the Ingliston, Oulton Park and Snetterton circuits through his glory days as three-time Formula One world champion and during his retirement travels as a track safety pioneer, television pundit and globally known ambassador for the sport.
Sir Jackie always said Nan and John were his closest friends and, with their Clydeside accents, helped him keep his feet on the ground when he was surrounded by hangers-on and wannabes on the glamorous F-1 circuit.
Nan was, however, known to put on her poshest accent when swigging champers in the paddock club at F-1 races while John, a car fanatic, would be seeking out the best corner from which to see the race.
Agnes Stewart Davison, always known as Nan, was born in Dumbarton on 25 April 1943, to Kit Davison and his wife Agnes (née Rodger), who was from the Vale of Leven. Nan was born “up a close” at 5 Meadowbank Street, where her parents had survived the Luftwaffe Blitz aimed at the shipyards.
She attended Knoxland primary school and Hartfield secondary, leaving aged 16 to work in her father’s general store, Davison’s Emporium on Castle Street, Dumbarton, opposite Ballantine’s distillery and Denny’s shipyard.
Many of the customers worked at Denny’s or Ballantine’s, others were war widows who often asked if they could buy now and pay next week. “Aye, nae bother,” was the usual reply from Nan or her mum and dad, although Nan got a wee bit more canny about money when she got into the motor trade.
When she was 14, Nan met John Lindsay and it was love at first sight. She became an awed pillion on his Triumph motorbike until, in 1959, he showed up at her door with one of the first Minis seen in Scotland, bright red and with a racing-style wooden steering wheel.
They married in 1965 and were inseparable thereafter, until John died last November. Their only child, Damon, was born in 1968.
Nan was also a gifted musician, having taken piano lessons from an early age, and, having studied in Glasgow, gained her LRAM (Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music).
Her younger brother Phil recalls: “Nan could read sheet music and could play classical, such as Bach, and especially hymns, but my first musical memory of her in our front room – the one where the piano was and only posh guests ever saw – was playing Elvis’s All Shook Up.
When John retired in the late 1980s, Damon, still only 20, effectively ran the dealership, now known as Lindsays Dumbuck.
He took over formal ownership in 1993 and turned it into one of the most successful Vauxhall dealerships in Scotland.
Nan stayed on as an accountant and advisor until she retired in 2004.
For many years she looked after Jackie Stewart’s elder brother Jimmy, himself a leading car racer of his era, after Jimmy had suffered from, but later recovered from, an alcohol problem.
For much of their lives, Nan and John lived in a bungalow next to Dumbuck Garage, the house Jackie Stewart was born in and which now bears a plaque saying so.
Latterly, they moved to the village of Rhu, near Helensburgh, where they enjoyed sitting on their balcony watching submarines, Royal Marine RIBs and other vessels come and go through the Gareloch and the Clyde estuary.
After John was diagnosed with leukaemia and Nan with cancer, they were well looked after by their neighbours in their block of flats in Rhu. Sir Jackie Stewart continued to visit or otherwise keep in touch with Nan until the end.
In her dying months, she was cared for her by doctors and nurses at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow, although she was allowed to live at home and travel to and fro for tests.
After a sudden deterioration, she died in the Lomond Ward of the Vale of Leven hospital near Dumbarton on 14 March. Throughout her illness, and particularly during her last days, she was lovingly cared for by her close family – her son Damon, daughter-in-law Elaine and granddaughters Iona and Lara.
In addition, she is survived by her younger brother Phil Davison, a London-based journalist.