Obituary: Alexander Raeburn Grieve

Born: 3 May, 1932 in East Wemyss. Died: 5 April, 2016 in Lundin Links.

House builder established award-winning herd of cattle. Picture: Contributed
House builder established award-winning herd of cattle. Picture: Contributed

Rae Grieve was a self made man who became one of the leading house builders in Scotland through his ability to identify land suitable for development and through his leadership in getting the work done.

From his base at Carlhurlie, Lundin Links, he also established an award-winning herd of Aberdeen Angus in the extremely competitive world of pedigree livestock.

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He was born and brought up in the mining village of East Wemyss where his father was a chauffeur. His formal education came at Buckhaven High School followed by a course on agriculture at Edinburgh.

His initial post-college employment was with the National Coal Board where he set up a planned maintenance scheme for every single item of plant and equipment in the East Fife collieries; all of which are now part of history.

He then joined Associated Electrical Industries which was building two large plants at Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes for telecommunications equipment. His work as organisation and project engineer was closely involved in the recruitment of 3,000 employees for the plants.

After being successful in this, he was offered promotion to move south but decided to remain in Fife, joining builders, George Wimpey and Co, who had been main contractors for the two plants.

This was the start of his long involvement in the building industry and it was here that he demonstrated his expertise in purchasing land for development as he helped Wimpey’s land bank to expand at an unprecedented rate; this being followed by the rapid growth of the company’s house building programme throughout Scotland.

After ten years with the firm, he decided to move out on his own and in 1978, he bought a small company called London and Clydeside Holdings which, he helped expand from a turnover of £500,000 to £20 million in a few years, thus establishing the company as a considerable force in Scottish house building.

Within six years, the company went public with a listing on the Stock Exchange. Then, attracted by one of Rae Grieve’s shrewd purchases – including 850 acres on the east side of Dunfermline – his company was bought over by Wilson Connelly (Wilcon).

His vision on the potential of land for development often saw far into the future. Examples of this include a site on the outskirts of Aberdeen, which he bought in 1983 now earmarked for development, and the purchase of Dundas Home Farm, South Queensferry, in the 1970s which is now paying off with the building of the second Forth Road Bridge.

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Identifying land for future house-building may have been at the core of his success in construction but it was also accompanied by an ability to lead a workforce and encourage younger people in his company.

Another factor in his accomplishments was the ability to persuade local authority planning departments of the benefits of his developments. Although in his own inimitable way, when asked in later life and in poor health if he was allergic to anything, his reply was always “planners.”

He retired as a director of Wilcon on his 65th birthday and might have moved quietly into retirement on his farm but an unexpected approach from Aberdeen Asset Management saw him become a non-executive director and chairman of Boyack Homes.

He was given a mandate to expand the business and this quickly resulted in a considerable house building programme.

Along with many other construction firms, Boyack was put into administration at the start of the banking crisis in 2009 but Rae Grieve and two fellow directors acquired the company and started trading as Lundin Homes.

Significantly, he never again used bank money in the business as he and his colleagues built it up to become one of Scotland’s premier house builders

His farming education came to the fore with the purchase of Carlhurlie, followed by the near-by Annfield Farm. In 1990 he established what has become one of the leading Aberdeen Angus herds in the country.

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Over a relatively short time – in cattle breeding terms – his cattle won three supreme championships at the famous Perth now Stirling sales and proving these successes were well merited, they were followed by top prices.

His cattle also won two championships at the Scottish Winter Fair and the prestigious “champion of champions” rosette in the beef cattle section at the Royal Highland Show as well as many championship successes at local shows.

Only two months ago, at the Stirling bull sales, the supreme champion was bought on his behalf for the top price of 24,000 guineas at the new stock bull for the Carlhurlie herd.

Throughout his life, he enjoyed his motor cars and last year, he bought his latest Ferrari to go alongside the three Bentleys in his garage.

Leisure time was limited for this most sociable man but Rae Grieve hunted with the Fife Foxhounds for many years and was Clerk of the Scales at the Fife point-to-point for 30 years until 2006.

Poignantly, two days after his funeral at Largo and Newburn Parish Church on Thursday, 21 April, at 12:45pm, this year’s point to point will be held over some of his fields at Annfield.