Obituary: Sir David Landale, businessman and charity campaigner

Businessman launched the first Maggies Centre for cancer sufferers. Picture: ContributedBusinessman launched the first Maggies Centre for cancer sufferers. Picture: Contributed
Businessman launched the first Maggies Centre for cancer sufferers. Picture: Contributed
Born: 7 May 1934, in London. Died 25 March, 2016, in Dumfriesshire, aged 81.

David Landale, son and grandson of taipans of the “Princely Hong”, the Scots-Chinese trading house of Jardine Matheson, created on his return from working in the Far East a second career as the business brain behind influential charities, some springing from his native Scotland, others from farther afield.

Among the most notable of his successes are the Maggie’s Centres, which began with a single establishment in Edinburgh in 1995, and which now assist cancer sufferers across Britain.

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It was with characteristic chivalry that Landale took up the idea for the centres. It was put forward by a longstanding friend and neighbour who lived near Dalswinton, his ancestral home north of Dumfries. Afflicted with breast cancer, she told him how she envisaged places where anyone with cancer could get specialist help and advice in pleasant surroundings, away from bleak hospital rooms, which she had found distressing. She died not long after their discussion, but Landale brought the dream to fruition. From a first “Maggie’s Centre” in her name, in Edinburgh, he won for the project enough financial backing to establish 20 more, as far north as Inverness, and as far south as London. Landale was a board member for 11 years and was twice chairman.

“He took me under his wing”, one early employee of the project, the Maggie Keswick Jencks Cancer Caring Centres, recalled of its beginnings, when Landale had sorted out legal and financial worries. “He was a very big man; he had presence when he came into a room, yet he was incredibly kind and gentle.”

Landale, who had formerly worked for the Prince of Wales, also brought royal patronage to the cause: the Queen visited the Edinburgh centre in 1998, and the project’s President is the Duchess of Cornwall.

His involvement with the Prince had followed another of his own Scottish initiatives: Landale bought the tiny island of Gigha, off the Mull of Kintyre, soon after his return from the East in 1975, and invested in it, staying in possession for 17 years.

“We’re very lucky to have a man like him,” one member of the island’s population of about 150 said of Landale at the time. “He’s putting money into the place… he’s made a great job of the hotel.”

That work brought Landale to the Prince’s notice. Landale was appointed Keeper and Secretary of the Prince’s Duchy of Cornwall in 1987. He would look after its affairs until 1993. The partnership with the Prince would lead to the creation of the experimental town of Poundbury in Dorset, conceived in 1988, as well as the launching of Duchy Originals organic produce in 1992. He was appointed KCVO in 1993.

David William Neil Landale was the grandson of his namesake, David Landale, thirteenth taipan or “great manager” of the Jardine Matheson foreign trading house or “hong”, who died in 1935; his father, David Fortune “Taffy” Landale, 1905-1970, also rose to the company’s top job.

Landale was educated at Eton College and did national service in the Black Watch from 1952-1954 before going up to Balliol College, Oxford. He read history, graduating in 1958. While studying he kept up his connection with the regiment as a Lieutenant in the Territorial Army. He travelled East in 1959. In Hong Kong he met his future wife, Melanie Roper. She too, had Far Eastern history behind her: she was the daughter of the Tory MP for North Cornwall from 1950-1959, Sir Harold Roper, who as Burmah Oil’s general manager in Rangoon in 1942 had stayed behind to demolish installations and deny the oil to the Japanese invader. The couple married in Torquay, Devon, in 1961, and were to have three sons, Peter, William and Jamie.

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Landale worked for Jardine Matheson in Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. He was director of personnel in Hong Kong, and head of the business in Japan. “He worked six days a week”, his son Peter recalled. The children had happy memories of skiing holidays at Sapporo on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Back in Scotland, Landale would serve as Deputy Lieutenant for Nithsdale, Annandale and Dumfries. He also joined the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland. In later years he supported the Black Watch Heritage appeal, which from 2008 raised £3.5 million for a redeveloped regimental museum at Balhousie Castle, Perth; this opened in 2013. Another project in which he took great pride was Crichton University Campus, part of the University of Glasgow, which has been established on the site of the nineteenth-century Crichton Royal Hospital, Dumfries.

David Landale is survived by his wife and his three sons. Lady Landale represented him at engagements in his final months, when illness prevented his attending. He made his last journey to Hong Kong – for the opening of a Maggie’s Centre there- in 2013. An acquaintance said of him: “He took his time about things, and surrounded himself with good people. He was an anchor.”