Scotsman Obituaries, Douglas Morrison, Scottish farmer

Douglas Malcolm Morrison, farmer. Born: 15 March, 1947. Died: 28 September 2021, aged

Douglas Morrison made a significant contribution to Scottish agriculture
Douglas Morrison made a significant contribution to Scottish agriculture

The sudden death of Douglas Morrison was a blow, ending the life of a charming and intelligent man, liked and respected by colleagues and community. Doug farmed at Amisfield in his own innovative style. Beyond his farming career he made a significant contribution to Scottish agriculture through his cooperative farming involvements, his roles in the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS), as a director of the Home-Grown Cereal Authority (HGCA) and as a pivotal chairman of Scottish Quality Cereals (SQC).

Doug was born in 1946 at Amisfield Mains. His father, an energetic farmer and contractor, was tragically killed in an accident in his light plane in 1947. Doug attended Loretto School, where he did well if the subject caught his interest. He was not one to talk about himself or his past, unless it involved an anecdote relating to some mechanical challenge undertaken. After a happy season as a teenage assistant at AM Russell & Co Agricultural Engineers in Haddington assembling Claas combines, he attended the Edinburgh College of Agriculture, gaining a National Diploma in Agriculture.

Arriving back to Amisfield Mains, he discovered a substantial overdraft and his bank manager encouraged him join SAI’s farm costing service, which showed him which of the enterprises were leaving a margin. The sheep were removed from the Grade 2 south-facing land, the beef cows following them only a little later. It was an unsurprising decision given Doug’s mechanical bent and crop production skills; he loved his animals, but not as producer. With a sound grounding in farm business management his business prospered, the good potato years of 1975 and 1976 more than putting the business on its feet. He developed the business as potato grower and wholesaler, and cereal producer. He was a founder member of the East Lothian vining pea group, as well as Lothian Cereals, a co-operative grain storage venture based at Leith General Warehouse. These involved difficulties and setbacks but the lessons learnt stood him in good stead in his future roles.

In 1970 he married the vivacious Beverley Cameron, whom he had known since childhood. To his great sadness, after more than 50 years together, Beverley died in April of this year, following a few months of illness.

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Doug was always interested in technology and open to new techniques. He was competent with a spreadsheet before most people were aware of them. He shared ownership with his neighbours in the revolutionary Whitsed potato harvester and an early large square baler. An early user of liquid fertiliser on potatoes and cereals, he built his own liquid fertiliser manufacturing plant and guided many of us as to how it was done. He was an early adopter of non-inversion and reduced cultivation, a system which created some comment at the time but is now a current technique.

With his mechanical ability, he was never frightened to run a machine for many years longer than the norm, his costings indicating the burden of depreciation of new machinery. Doug’s knowledge meant that when farm pesticide sprayer operator training and certification became mandatory in 1988 he was one of the few able to become a trainer and examiner.

In 1985 he and his neighbours, Willie Kerr and Andrew Henderson, established an East Lothian agronomy group. Huw Philips, founding CEO of Scottish Agronomy, mentored the group to develop their agronomy skills and to value farmer-funded advice separate from commercial interest. Arising from this group was the formation, in 1989, of Agricultural Management Haddington Ltd (AMH). Doug, along with Willie Kerr, Jimmy Clark and Will Jackson, established the company to provide a farming service for those who wish to own land, but not farm it, yet still retain vacant possession. The business expanded to a peak in 2009 when it was farming for 16 different landowners. Doug was a director of AMH Ltd and subsequently served as a director of Greenshieldsagri Ltd after it took over AMH in 2015, finally retiring in 2019.

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As a member, and in 1991, chairman of the East Lothian NFU, Doug was invited to be National Convenor of the NFUS Cereal committee, where he was liked and respected. He was subsequently appointed a director of HGCA. He also represented Scottish farming interests in the formation of the Scottish Quality Cereals Assurance Scheme. This was established in response to the demand for standards and traceability in the food and drink industry. His skills and experience came to the fore, particularly as chairman. Many farmers resented what they perceived as an unnecessary intrusion, but Doug had the foresight to see that farmers must be involved, or conditions would be imposed by other interests. His hands-on knowledge of farm practice, insight and pragmatic approach allowed him to achieve workable outcomes. In all matters he took an interest in others’ opinions, but that did not necessarily mean he felt obliged to agree with them. His success was achieving consensus and the avoidance of many unnecessary burdens.

In 2002 he was awarded the East Lothian NFUS 2000 Award – a fitting tribute to a modest man who undertook substantial work for the benefit of the wider farming community.

Doug was an Elder of St Mary’s, Haddington. He and Bev moved to Gifford in 2010, a community where they were welcomed, and which they enjoyed. As tenant of Amisfield Mains, and with no farming successors, he negotiated with his landlord, Wemyss & March Estates, to relinquish his tenancy, finishing what turned out to be his final farming year with a fruitful harvest just weeks ago.

Doug is survived by his children Emma, Tony and Victoria, and six grandchildren.

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