Obituary: Robert J Lennox, farmer and Kirk elder.

A well-travelled farmer who devoted his spare time to Luss Church. Picture: Picasa
A well-travelled farmer who devoted his spare time to Luss Church. Picture: Picasa
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Born in Luss, Loch Lomondside, 15 May, 1925. Died in Paisley, 12 April, 2015, aged 90.

Robbie Lennox, who was a sheep farmer, councillor, company director and long-serving Church of Scotland elder whose fund-raising skills helped to save one of Scotland’s most famous “wedding churches” on the banks of Loch Lomond, has died.

Robbie was born at Shemore Farm in Luss on Loch Lomondside to Robert and Margaret Lennox, and although he was an only child his cousins were more like brothers and sisters to him, in particular Craig Davie.

This was fortunate since they were there to help out when Robbie’s father died and he was left at the age of 16 with the responsibility of looking after their Shemore and Shantron farms in the scenic hills which overlook the loch.

He attended tiny Muirlands Primary School in Arden and Vale of Leven Academy, Alexandria, where again he made good friends – one of them, Frazer Mellor, worked on the farm with him for several years until he got his own farm to manage in Northumberland. He was Robbie’s best man twice.

On his 17th birthday Robbie drove a lorry full of potatoes to Partick in Glasgow despite having never sat a driving test due it being wartime. He was in the Home Guard, having lied about his age to join.

He was always a progressive, innovative and forward-thinking farmer who could “think outside the box” long before that phrase was invented.

In the early 1940s, before mains electricity came to the area, he built a water wheel in a fast-flowing river and linked it to a generator to provide electricity to the farm. And he started putting the farm accounts on to computer when Amstrad launched their first PC, long before there were specific farm account packages available.

In October, 1952, he married Ailsa Howie, of Drumfork Farm, Helensburgh, and they had two children, Bobby and Margaret, and five grandchildren, Gill, Allan, Kay, David and Michael and Andrew, who unfortunately died five years ago. There are two great grandchildren, Blair and Ailsa.

Ailsa died in 1988. Six years later, on 25 January, 1994, Robbie married Marie Duncan, of Old Kilpatrick

He was a farmer first and foremost and on the Saturday before he died he was in the sheep yards helping his son, Bobby, and daughter-in-law Anne with sheep.

Anne said: “Robbie was a typical farmer. He never retired.”

He also never retired from his post as session clerk at Luss Parish Church, the “Bonnie Banks” setting where so many celebrities have chosen to be married over the years.

As an elder he served the tiny kirk for more than 60 years. He was always at the door greeting parishioners and visitors, and stood beside the minister as the congregation left after the service.

He would have served 50 years as session clerk in August this year and also served as representative elder for Luss on Dumbarton Presbytery for more than 40 years.

Rev Dane Sherrard, who recently retired from Luss, said: “I remember Robbie and his wife at the Bible study groups we shared in together every Monday evening for more years than I care to remember.

“I remember his encouragement as we started our youth programme, rebuilt the pilgrimage centre and created the bridge over the Luss Water to the Glebe. It was built by members of the Royal Engineers.

“I remember the great year of 2010 when we celebrated 1,500 years of continuous Christianity by Loch Lomondside, a year-long celebration filled with activities at the centre of which Robbie was always to be found as we welcomed visitors and told the congregation’s story. He was a totally remarkable man.”

Despite an accident which left him with only one kidney, Robbie was forever travelling and learning about farming.

His activities within the Young Farmers organisation led to his being awarded a Nuffield Scholarship in 1963 to study the wool production aspects of sheep farming in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

He was held in high regard in farming circles throughout Scotland and also became a councillor on the old Dunbartonshire County Council, where he sat on a committee which monitored progress on the building of the Erskine Bridge. He also helped to found the Luss & Arden Community Council and was its chairman for the first 20 years.

But the church always had first call on his time. He and the late Hamish Lumsden, the kirk treasurer who was for a time chairman of Burma Oil, spear-headed the project to totally refurbish the church at Luss.

They raised funds estimated at around £1 million from Historic Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund and by also setting up a church gift shop to raise money ­locally.

More recently, he would come and take a turn as beadle during the wedding season, ensuring that brides’ nerves were calmed and visitors were welcomed.

Rev Sherrard said: “Not only was he the embodiment of the church to many people, but he also stood for all that was good in our village. He was a friend to many, an example of all that is good and honest and true to his community, and the best session clerk a minister could ever wish to have.”

Robbie had a sailing yacht on Loch Lomond in the 1960s and the family and friends enjoyed trips out to the islands on the loch.

He was a well-travelled person having visited countries with the Young Farmers and then his Nuffield Scholarship. He went on to visit Brazil, Mexico, China, and then Egypt on honeymoon with Marie. They continued travelling to the Holy Land, Thailand, the Canary Islands and many more. His grandchildren reckon he visited about 40 countries in all and he always had a camera or a video camera to record travel and family events.

Robbie attended West of Scotland Agricultural College in 1946 and was awarded the Bronze Medal, was elected a governor of the college in 1964.

He was a founder member of Loch Lomond Young Farmers Club in 1944 and chairman of the National Farmers Union in 1977.

He was appointed to the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board on which he served for 26 years and the ­Agricultural Training Board, the NFU Mutual Insurance Society, where he was the Scottish director in 1965 and served for 26 years, the Department of Agriculture’s Farming Advisory committee and the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee.

Robbie also sat on the Secretary of State’s Loch Lomond and Trossachs working party, drawing up proposals for a National Park and was a Justice of the Peace on the bench at Dumbarton.

He was awarded the OBE in 1977 and became a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1987.