Scotsman Obituaries: Sir Raymond Johnstone CBE, investment manager

Sir John Raymond Johnstone CBE, investment manager. Born: 27 October 1929 in London. Died: 15 August 2022 in Edinburgh, aged 92

Confined to hospital for an agonising three years, his body wracked with TB, the young Raymond Johnstone kept his brain active by solving maths problems.

An Eton College student, he had contracted the bacterial infection in his mid-teens and suffered such severe spinal damage that three of his vertebrae had to be rebuilt with a graft from his leg bone.

Physical recovery was a long, tedious process and throughout his time at Wingfield Hospital, near Oxford, the stimulation of doing mathematics from his bed kept him mentally alert.

Sir Raymond Johnstone's financial expertise and keen intellect were sought by many

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It helped that he was clearly extremely bright – a fact that did not go unnoticed by Cambridge University. His bed-bound studies were almost certainly responsible for the offer of automatic admission to Trinity College.

Fully recovered, he took up the place and read Maths, going on to begin his career in accountancy before becoming a brilliant investment manager and charismatic leader in his profession in Scotland.

Born in London, and known by his middle name Raymond, he was the son of the former Alison McIntyre of Sorn Castle, Ayrshire and her husband Henry James Johnstone, a naval correspondent for the London Evening News and later captain of the destroyer HMS Brazen.

As a son of a military man, he was disappointed that the effect of TB on his health prevented him doing National Service, something that continued to rankle down the years.

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Consequently, following graduation from Cambridge, he trained as an accountant and worked for Robert Fleming & Co in London as an investment analyst before becoming a partner at Glasgow accountancy firm Brown, Fleming & Murray for much of the 1960s, during which time he was also a director of Shipping Industrial Holdings.

In 1968 he set up investment management company Murray Johnstone Ltd, serving as managing director, then chairman until 1991. The firm was eventually bought by Aberdeen Asset Management.

Over the years Sir Raymond, who was made a CBE in 1988, was also a director of Scottish Amicable and chairman of numerous organisations including Scottish Financial Enterprise and Murray International, plus a plethora of public bodies.

Known as a man whose morals could never be bought, his financial expertise and keen intellect were sought by many, most notably the Forestry Commission and Scottish Opera.

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He was recruited to the Forestry Commission, which he chaired between 1989 and 1994, at a time when it was rumoured the aim was to privatise the government department. They wanted an investment banker for the job but Sir Raymond, who loved trees, “went native” and went back to them with the conviction that it should absolutely remain in public hands. Not the answer they were expecting. However, his autonomy was respected and he was made a Knight Bachelor in the 1993 New Year’s Honours for public service in Scotland.

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He was also passionate about music but when he took over the chairmanship of Scottish Opera, in the early 1980s, he inherited an organisation that was in a pretty parlous state, facing financial and managerial crises. Widely regarded as almost single-handedly saving the company, he is credited with reviving its fortunes. Such is the appreciation of his contribution that Scottish Opera was due to play at his funeral.

Sir Raymond’s insatiable work ethic also saw him chair the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland, the Nuclear Trust and the Patrons of the National Galleries of Scotland, as well as serve as a director of RJ KILN Plc and Atrium Underwriting.

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A prolific art collector, with an impressive collection including works by The Glasgow Boys, he also bought beautiful pieces for companies he chaired. His own portrait, which hung in the National Portrait Gallery, was painted by John Byrne to “commemorate the personal, business and philanthropic interests of a man at the centre of Scottish public and commercial life for several decades,” said the National Galleries.

Brought up with strong Scottish roots, Sir Raymond was a countryman at heart and bought the idyllic Wards Estate, part nature reserve, part farm, on the edge of Loch Lomond where he lived with his wife Sara for many years. He had been a very eligible bachelor when they met at a house party in Dumfriesshire. She was a widowed mother of seven children. Married in 1979 when he was 51, he happily embraced the instant family whose ages ranged from six to their early twenties.

A natural host and entertainer who threw himself enthusiastically into anything he tackled, enlivening any proceedings with his sense of fun, he also had an abiding passion for Scotland. A gentleman farmer, he enjoyed the traditional country pursuits of shooting and fishing along with sailing and skiing, and family holidays were spent on his beloved Tiree where they had a black house on the beach.

Latterly he and Sara moved to Edinburgh’s Ann Street, where he was a huge support to his wife as her health declined.

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Widowed last November, he is survived by his seven stepchildren.

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