Obituary: Ronnie Cramond, civil servant champion of agriculture– ‘a man no one could accuse of not caring’

Ronald Cramond CBE has died at the age of 91
Ronald Cramond CBE has died at the age of 91
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Ronald Duncan Cramond CBE, civil servant. Born 22 March, 1927 in Leith. Died 22 May, 2018 in Edinburgh, aged 91.

Though Ronnie came from a modest ­family background, describing himself as “a wee laddie fae Leith”, he went to George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh 1939-1945, having gained a bursary which paid his fees, books and uniform.

He did well in his studies, gaining another bursary to attend Edinburgh University while also playing ­rugby, including for the First 15, and becoming the senior NCO in the school Air Training Corps.

He was disappointed to fail an eye test to train as a Spitfire pilot, so stayed at school to complete his sixth year and go to university. These interests continued at university along with farm and timber camps in the holidays, though in 1947 he and a friend went hiking in France across the Pyrenees from west to east, something which was unusually adventurous at the time.

He graduated with First Class honours in history in 1949, and then did two years National Service where his OTC background earned him a place at Eaton Hall Officer Training School. Once commissioned, he spent the remainder of his time as an instructor for the Special Squad of National Servicemen, based at Dreghorn, while continuing to play rugby for the Army.

He then joined the Civil Service, serving first in the War Office in London, then in the Scottish Office where he served in housing and planning, where he was awarded the Haldane Medal in Business Administration in 1964, and then Agriculture and Fisheries, rising to the grade of Under Secretary in 1977.

He worked for a number of Secretaries of State for Scotland, including Willie Ross and J Dickson Mabon. During his time in Agriculture he took part in several British ­delegations to Brussels, and was always keen to emphasise the particular Scottish problems of farmers working ­marginal land.

In 1983, he became deputy chairman of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, with particular responsibility for tourism and for the Northern and Western Isles. He enjoyed all the travel this position necessitated, particularly to the smaller isles, in order to advise and support local farmers, fisheries and other businesses. One initiative that he was probably most proud of was the support ­given to the Cairngorm Reindeer Company. In 1987 he was awarded a CBE.

Ronnie’s abiding interest in history connected him to ­various museum bodies across Scotland. He was a Trustee of National Museums Scotland from 1985-96, the period of the planning, building and creating displays for the Scottish Collection in what became the Museum of Scotland, which opened in 1998.

He documented the story of this project, which was not without problems, in a ­thesis for an M.Phil, granted by Edinburgh University in 2011, setting a record for the longest gap between graduations. He was also chairman of the then Scottish Museums Council from 1990-93, and was associated with Bo’ness Heritage Centre and the Anstruther Fisheries Museum.

With a group of friends he set up a small charity in 1995, the Intellectual Access Trust, to look at ways to improve access to museums and ­galleries for people with learning ­disabilities, whom he felt were neglected by the disability discrimination legislation. They raised enough money to employ a researcher, publish a report and hold a series of seminars to disseminate the findings. Later on he began volunteering as a guide at the Museum of Scotland where he developed tours on the Jacobites and Scottish identity.

A keen hill walker and climber, interested in environmental concerns, Ronnie was a member of the Countryside Commission, the Strathclyde Greenbelt Foundation and, following the 1970 Year of European Conservation, the 1970 Club, which brought together the CEOs of various governmental and quasi-governmental organisations to continue to foster environmental issues and formed many friendships as a result.

When his son started playing rugby, also at George Heriot’s, Ronnie started refereeing the school teams and achieved another record as the longest serving referee at Goldenacre.

He was also interested in genealogy and the promotion of the Scots language, being a subscriber to Lallans and a supporter of the Scots ­Language Society.

Unfortunately a fall in 2014 resulted in slowly deteriorating health and eventually admittance to a care home.

At the end of one of many radio interviews undertaken during his career, Ronnie was described by the interviewer as “a man whom no one could accuse of not caring”. A suitable epitaph for anyone.

Ronnie’s first wife, Connie MacGregor, died in 1985, but he is survived by a son and daughter from that marriage, three grandchildren and his second wife, Ann.