Obituary: Sir Archie Dunbar, 11th Baronet, Estate owner and activist

Sir Archie Dunbar, estate owner was active in community and an enthusiastic railway modeller. Picture: Contributed
Sir Archie Dunbar, estate owner was active in community and an enthusiastic railway modeller. Picture: Contributed
Have your say

Born: 8 August, 1927, in London. Died: 30 November 2015, in Moray, aged 88.

Sir Archie Dunbar of Northfield, a lifelong lover of the county of Moray, involved himself greatly in his local community – in village halls, policing, model railways, law and the church.

His ancestry was complex enough to provide a challenge for genealogists. There exist five Dunbar baronetcies; the four of the Baronetage of Nova Scotia, and one of the Baronetage of the United Kingdom.

Sir Archie’s title comes of a baronetcy of Nova Scotia, granted on 10 April 1700. His lineage extends at least as far back as Alexander Dunbar of Conzie and Kilbuyack, born around 1505. Conzie has for long been known as Bognie, and lies not far from Huntly, Aberdeenshire. Sir Archie was descended of the first Dunbar of Hempriggs (land near Wick, Caithness), and is cousin to Dunbar of Mochrum.

A keen railway historian – he was a longstanding member of the Great North of Scotland Railway Association – Sir Archie would bring the past into the present through model railways. An active railway modeller with his local club, he manned and operated model railway layouts at fairs and events from Elgin and Aberdeen to Glasgow.

He had in his care a large-scale pre-war Gauge 1 layout, with rolling stock hauled by meth-fuelled working steam locomotives. The engines would become extremely hot during operation, and newcomers who risked touching them suffered burnt fingers. Thus Sir Archie rarely appeared at shows without his trusty asbestos gloves.

Eldest son of Sir Edward Dunbar, tenth of Northfield, Archibald Ranulph Dunbar was educated privately before attending Wellington College followed by Pembroke College, Cambridge. The following a family bent for service overseas, he attended the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad – though not before National Service with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders (attached to the Gordon Highlanders).

Interested in agriculture, he joined the Colonial Service and was posted to Uganda, a country which he grew to love and hold dear. A keen and able linguist, he joked that his frequent postings meant that whenever he mastered the fundamentals of one local tongue, he was relocated and had to start anew.

His final posting was as principal of Makerere University College in Kampala, where Idi Amin’s nephew was one of his students. During his time in Uganda, he published books on tropical agriculture and history.

Life in Uganda occasionally proved dangerous. He displayed great personal courage on one occasion when after a colleague was wounded in an uprising, Archie saved the life of the injured man by driving him some 40 miles to hospital through rebel-held territory.

After his father’s death in 1969, Sir Archie returned to Moray to take over the running of his estate of Duffus, quickly involving himself in Moray life.

A quiet and unassuming man, the compact Sir Archie became a special constable, pounding the beat in Elgin at weekends, becoming affectionately known as “the smallest policeman in Moray”. He was familiar with the other side of justice, serving as an honorary sheriff in Moray District Court.

Because he cherished what the local community had given his own children, he gave much time and help towards the local Duffus village hall and the Village Halls Association and well as a local youth club and the Cub Scouts. A keen animal lover, he gave a home to rescue bulldogs.

A committed Christian, Sir Archie was an active member of St Sylvester’s Church in Elgin. His piousness and service to the sick and disabled saw him engaged in pilgrimage to Lourdes, and he was made a Knight of Honour and Devotion of the Order of Malta - the worldwide order of chivalry caring for the poor and disadvantaged.

Sir Archie died after some nine years of ill health, and is survived by his wife Amelia née Davidson, his children, and grandchildren. The baronetcy is inherited by Sir Archie’s son Edward.