Obituary: John Dick, Penicuik businessman, outdoorsman, lover of all things Scottish

John Stephen Dick, builder. Born: 20 July 1946 in Penicuik. Died: 21 February 2017, in Edinburgh, aged 70.

pic for thurs obit - john dick
pic for thurs obit - john dick

John Stephen Dick was an enigma. Outwardly he was always the life and soul of any social gathering, a man who was sought out by friends and colleagues alike for his company and invariably his advice on a wide range of matters. He always had time to help anyone who was in difficulty. Yet, inwardly, he was quite a shy man, who in private, was reserved and always looked deep in thought.

John lived most of his life in and around Penicuik and although the rest of his siblings, (Jimmy, Sylvia, Dorothy, Frances and Jennifer) ventured further afield at some point in their lives (some to Africa and Australia) John never had any inclination to live anywhere other than close to Penicuik. When circumstances meant he did move away, it was only for short periods of time and then he was back. John, together with his twin, Jennifer, were the babies of the family. He was the son a greengrocer and grandson of the local Provost. His early life was spent at The Pyke near Loanstone, Penicuik where he was happy playing in the local fields and woods with his friends and siblings.

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John started working life as shepherd in the Scottish Borders at Abbey St Bathans. However, this was tragically short-lived when his father died suddenly and he moved back to Penicuik. He had to take a trade and did so at the local paper mill called Eskmill, owned by James Brown and Company. He started as an apprentice plumber and by all accounts left an early impression on his peers.

He was fastidious in everything he did with very high standards when it came to his work, a trait which was picked up by the chief engineer Robert Dobie who saw his potential and moved him to an office-based role. This was to set him up well for when he branched off under his own name as a plumber in the late 1960s. His attention to detail and quality of work meant that he was always in demand and soon had to take on employees to help with demand.

This was the start of John S Dick Plumbing and Heating Engineers (becoming JSD Limited) which grew into becoming one of Penicuik’s biggest employers with over 80 people on his payroll. His Volkswagen vans were instantly recognisable and well known around Edinburgh and Midlothian. This business came to an end in the mid-1980s when the company had to be liquidated. John was devastated and briefly moved out of Penicuik down to the Scottish Borders where he played golf nearly every day for a year but decided he was too young to stop working.

He moved back to Penicuik and together with his son, Robbie and wife Fay, set up another company called Domus Contracts which specialised in new builds and home refurbishment. This was again, very soon, a success.

Away from work, John loved all things Scottish. From music to history, from landscapes to whisky. He also enjoyed the pastimes that Scotland is famous for, including shooting and fishing. As his two sons Kevin and Robbie got older, they too enjoyed the same pastimes, sharing good memories with their father. John travelled all over Scotland to shoot and fish and would think nothing of spending a week in the Outer Hebrides in the pouring rain trying to catch wild brown trout. He loved salmon fishing too which he came to later in life and although he went all over Scotland trying to catch one, it was in the Scottish Borders, on the River Tweed, by Peebles, that his first one was caught.

People who remember John best think of him in some bothy somewhere with a whisky in one hand and a cigarette in the other, entertaining people with his anecdotes. This was what he loved doing. He lived long enough to enjoy the company of his grandsons Fraser, Jamie, Connor, Lucas and Jay. Although he did not see them often he was immensely proud of all of them and enjoyed hearing about their achievements.

John detested going to the doctor and it is probably down to this that the cancer which was to kill him went undetected for so long. Right up to the end John did not want any fuss and even though he suffered terrible pain, he always tried to keep it from those around him.

In keeping with his wishes, his ashes were scattered not far from where he spent his happy childhood. John was a true man of Scotland and of Penicuik.