Roy Thomson, Councillor and chairman of Scottish Liberal Democrats

Born: 27 August, 1932, in Aberdeen Died: 29 November, 2009, in Aberdeen, aged 77.

I FIRST met Roy Thomson when I got involved in local campaigning in the 1974 elections. Roy was then one of two Liberal councillors on the city council as well as running the family car dealership, Thomson's of Cults. From then on he became my mentor and great friend.

The phrase that best sums Roy up for me is "still waters run deep". The breadth of Roy's knowledge and the soundness of his wisdom coupled with his personal resourcefulness and resilience in the face of adversity never ceased to amaze me.

Roy retained lifelong commitments to the causes he espoused or that espoused him – from the Gordon Highlanders through Aberdeen University, liberalism, the arts and sport.

His training as a psychologist gave him a depth of understanding in humankind and he frequently railed against the abuse of statistics, especially by opinion pollsters or their misinterpreters.

He had a love of the hills, which drew him into playing a key role in developing a professional mountain rescue service. Roy thought nothing of going off by himself for days in the Cairngorms with just a sleeping bag, a tent and some essential rations – something that would have scared me witless.

He also presented a radio series on Scotland's Mountain Rescue service for the BBC. And every year until this one, he set off to tackle the black ski runs of St Anton and, no doubt, the aprs ski as well. By contrast he and Nancy loved Florida, where they went for many years and where Roy took up a new hobby with one of their many friends there – sea fishing.

It was our shared politics that drew Roy and me together. When I was adopted to fight West Aberdeenshire for the Liberals, which included Roy and Nancy's home in Bieldside, Roy agree to be my agent – a role he filled for four elections.

We didn't win in 1979, but we had a swing in our favour and Roy encouraged me to continue. The count in 1983 was close and as the votes were put into boxes, I did not believe we were winning. My opponent was James Cran and in those days the votes were piled into herring boxes, which held 20,000 votes.

When Roy said, just before the declaration: "You have won". I said: "How do you know?" He replied: "Because Cran's cran isn't quite full and your's is overflowing."

Another twist of the campaign is that Roy and my campaign manager, Forbes McCallum, were both Aberdonians. I am what in Scotland what would be called an "Inabootcomer", but I had learned the difference between Aberdonian and Doric and found my way about rural Aberdeenshire.

During the count, an activist ran up to Roy and said excitedly: "Tullynessle's magic," to which Roy replied laconically: "Far the hell's Tullynessle?"

Roy had his own challenges to face. His political commitment did not help his business, especially when he was leader of the city council, a role he filled with flair and diligence – but without a long enough time for the citizens of Aberdeen to recognise. His attempts to secure the business were frustrated by his political opponents and a less than fair treatment from his bank.

In the end, although the business did not survive, its solvency was proved and Roy's integrity vindicated at great personal cost to him and his family. Roy would not be human if he was not angry at the way he was treated, but he was never bitter. It was simply not in his nature.

Roy also faced major health challenges. He was just 35 when he had a major coronary and years later had a quadruple bypass operation, meaning he was on a permanent drugs regime.

He told me recently that the valves were not working well, but there was probably little to be done other than through drugs. His calmness amazed me, but he was philosophical. Living with this, I am sure, helps to explain his energy and commitment along so many fronts.

I have mentioned some of his leisure pursuits. To this must be added his love of arts, expressed through his chairmanship of Scottish Ballet, his early involvement and sustained commitment to the Aberdeen Youth Festival and Kaleidoscope; and his active role in Aberdeen Mental Health, of which he was president.

Roy was interested in the arts, especially ballet, before he became involved with Aberdeen's International Festival of Youth Orchestras, now the Youth Festival.

It was Roy, together with Lady Aberdeen, who brought Nicola Wallis to run the festival. Nicola, in turn, invited Roy to take over the marketing of the festival when he lost his council role. The professional partnership between Nicola and Roy ensured the dramatic expansion of the festival and box office success.

Roy's commitment to Aberdeen never wavered and he just found different ways of supporting and promoting the city's image and reputation. He was a deputy lord lieutenant and burgess.

Roy was an instinctive Liberal and had a commitment to the party that was deeper than most people knew and even now is probably not fully appreciated.

He was my predecessor as party president, a member of the federal executive and a candidate to continue on that post and on the Scottish Executive.

But, to me, he was very special. When my personal life was in turmoil, it was to Roy I turned and he and Nancy gave me unstinting support and sound, commonsense advice.

He even rearranged his diary to come away with me and my two children to a cottage in Islay while I sorted myself out. That was the kind of selfless, supportive man Roy was.

Roy and Nancy met at university and were married for 53 years. It is fair to say their relationship was sparky. I remember one occasion at a party conference a group of us were in the bar when something annoyed Nancy. She picked up a full jug of water and emptied it over Roy's head. Dripping from head to toe, Roy stood and quietly said: "That was very silly, Nancy."

I have also been on the receiving end of immense kindness and consideration from Nancy as well as forthright advice.

Perhaps because he recognised that we have no time to lose on this earth, Roy lived an extraordinarily full life. Only this year, he completed an M Litt with distinction. His thesis focused on the role of the Scottish Constitutional Convention in shaping the devolution settlement.

He sought my input, which I was glad to provide. However, being no diarist or record-keeper, I'm afraid I made him work for his research, giving him only vague dates of key events. This, of course, only spurred him on.

Roy Thomson was in every sense a complete man. He had deep wells of self-reliance, wisdom and perspective. I was so pleased that he and Nancy came to the surprise party my wife, Rosemary, organised for my 65th birthday only a few weeks ago.

To his friends and family and all who knew him, Roy was, quite simply, the truest of friends. Goodbye Roy. We loved you and we will miss you.