Obituaries: Roy Davidson MBE, adopted Scot with lifelong dedication to Scouting

Roy Frederick Hill Davidson MBE, Building industry director and West Lothian Scouting chairman. Born: 13 February 1941 in Catterick, Yorkshire. Died: 25 August 2021 in Livingston, aged 80

Roy Davidson was dedicated to public service

Serendipity led Roy Davidson to the Scouts but an innate desire to serve and help others resulted in a lifetime’s dedication to the movement at home and internationally.

He was just a small schoolboy, probably aged about eight, when he was introduced to the scouts via an electrician doing some work in the family home. Curious, the youngster followed him around the house and discovered that the sparky was also a local scout leader. He told Roy all about scouting.

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Young Roy duly joined the Cubs, moving up through the Scouts and Venture Scouts before becoming an Assistant Scout Leader. He was still only 18 but for the next 60 years he would devote much of his spare time to the movement, becoming a Depute Chief Commissioner in Scotland, leading the working group that restructured scouting north of the Border and supporting scouts throughout the pandemic – despite shielding for more than a year while he lived with a rare blood cancer. It was a life defined by mottos like “Be prepared” and “Do a good turn daily”.

Born in Yorkshire, at Catterick Army base where his father Edward was in the Army, he moved to Paisley a couple of years later with his mum Doreen and stepfather George. The family subsequently moved to Glasgow where he spent his childhood and was educated at a variety of primary and secondary schools.

After leaving school at 15 Roy became an apprentice joiner, going on to work for various construction companies before taking a post as a contract manager with the Scottish Special Housing Association (SSHA). By this time he had married his first wife Margaret, with whom he had a son Martin, and lived in Glasgow and Ayr before moving to Linlithgow.

Although he had not been particularly academic at school, he studied in his spare time to become a member of the Chartered Institute of Building and was promoted to a director of the SSHA’s building department, becoming a member of the board. When changes to the organisation saw his department taken over by a succession of companies he remained in a director role with them before leaving to become a consultant to various Scottish local authorities. He retired in 2004.

In parallel with his busy professional career was his family life and commitment to the Scouting movement. From his first teenage role as Assistant Scout Leader with 4th Glasgow Summerston Scouts, he moved up to Leader there before moving to Ayrshire where he became Group Scout Leader at 66th Ayrshire in Symington and then District Commissioner for the county.

While living in West Lothian he held various roles including: Group Scout Leader at the 2nd West Lothian in Linlithgow; adult training, District Commissioner; and latterly District chairman and honorary vice president. He also held a variety of Scottish roles and in 2007 was appointed Depute Chief Commissioner for Scotland with responsibility for development. It was in this post that he led the working group to restructure Scouting in Scotland, creating the current eight regions. He also sat on various committees at headquarters in London.

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Roy, who had been involved in overseas development expeditions to Namibia and Zambia and in a Scottish expedition to Malawi, latterly supported more recent trips to Namibia and happily recalled his own experiences there of witnessing African scouts having walked for hours to join their Scottish visitors, of feeding countless participants at a jamboree and of digging hundreds of metres of water pipe ditches. Condolences have been received from the past and present Chief Scouts of the south-west African country.

Throughout his Scouting career his unflappable leadership, dedication and enthusiasm were both admired and officially recognised with the Award for Merit in 1977; the Silver Acorn in 1986; the Silver Wolf, the highest award, in 1995; and the MBE for Services to Scouting in the 2011 New Year’s Honours.

Divorced from his first wife, in 1991 he married Cherry, with whom he became an active member of Livingston Ecumenical Parish Church. He sat on the church council, serving as its chairman for 11 years and guiding it through major changes when six congregations amalgamated to become Livingston United Parish Church.

In retirement he became involved with the Falkirk branch of the Seagull Trust and relished skippering canal boats and training others in those skills. He had started sailing in his thirties, when he built his own dinghy in his garage, but later enjoyed yachting, sailing extensively on the west coast, with additional trips to the Channel and Croatia, and helping the Royal Yachting Association develop safeguarding policies and training. Travel also featured large in his life when he stopped work. Europe was a favourite destination, there was also a memorable trip on the Orient Express to Russia and others further afield to explore countries in South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Life was curtailed not only by the pandemic but by a diagnosis of MDS, a form of bone marrow cancer, which he faced with characteristic positivity, dignity and courage, celebrating his 80th birthday with a Zoom party.

He is survived by his wife Cherry, son Martin, grandchildren Matthew, Rory, Finlay and Sarah, and his sisters Stella and Rhuie.

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