Saying Farewell To Norman MacFarlane, Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden

Flower of the Forest

photo of Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden at Home

Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden at Home

It was with sadness that we reflect on the recent passing of Norman Somerville Macfarlane , Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden, Knight of the Thistle, at the age of 95.

Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden was a member and generously supported the heritage projects of the International Clan MacFarlane Society.

Lord Macfarlane in Life

Norman Somerville Macfarlane was born on March 5, 1926, the son of Daniel Macfarlane, a businessman who dealt in typewriter products, and his wife Jessie. He was educated at Glasgow High School. The family suffered a huge blow during the war when his older brother Richard, a flying officer who had been in the Dambuster Raids, was shot down and killed.  Norman, who idolized his big brother, went from school straight into the Army, where he was commissioned in the Royal Artillery and served in Palestine from 1945-47. His military career was ended by a diving accident in which he broke his neck and was shipped home, spending a year recovering in hospital in Cowglen.

In 1949, he decided against joining his father’s firm, and with his £200 Army severance, started a business supplying stationery to firms in the newly-built industrial estate at Hillington. He also attended the Commercial College in Pitt Street, where he met his wife, who was to be a stalwart support through his career.

Norman Macfarlane married, in 1953, Marguerite Campbell, with whom he had a son, Hamish, and four daughters – Fiona, Gail, Marjorie and Marguerite and 15 grandchildren: LucyKatieJamesCharlesRichardOliviaAntoniaAngusCharlotteGeorginaMollyRoryPippaEdward and Harrison.

Lord Macfarlane In Business

Lord Macfarlane assiduously built up his business from selling paper from a van into a packaging conglomerate with strong links to the drinks trade, making, among other things, inserts for whisky bottles.  In 1973, it went public as the Macfarlane Group (Clansman) PLC, eventually going on to become the UK’s biggest packaging distribution business. 

Lord Macfarlane also went on to acquire further directorships: at Clydesdale Bank in 1980, where he became Deputy Chairman (1993-96), and Edinburgh Fund Managers and General Accident (1984-96). He joined the council of CBI Scotland (1975-81) and the board of the Scottish Development Agency (1979-87), was director of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce (1976-79) and chairman of Glasgow Development Agency (1985-92).

In the late 1980’s, he took on the challenge of chairing Guinness, in the aftermath of financial scandal. He later became an honorary life president of spirits giant Diageo. Diageo’s chief executive described him as “a towering figure in Scottish business and society”. 

Lord Macfarlane In Public Service

Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden, was a doyen of the Scottish business establishment and a leading patron of Scottish arts. His enormous range of contacts, bolstered by his affability, straightforward manner and enthusiasm for the golf course, enabled him to enlist support for causes and cultural and sporting activities from beyond his own companies. He was friendly with Denis Thatcher, whose wife, the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, called on him for the awkward Guinness role and enlisted him to advise on the National Heritage Memorial Fund.  This later meant that Macfarlane, as the sole Scottish member, had a huge influence on the distribution of lottery funding north of the border.

His commitment to public service encompassed a dizzying range of posts: he was at one time or another involved in the running or support of Scottish Ballet, the Scottish National Orchestra, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow School of Art, the High School, the National Art Collections Fund, the Scottish Football League, the Boys’ Brigade, the National Galleries of Scotland, and the Glasgow Development Agency. He served three stints as High Commissioner of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

He was knighted in 1983, created a peer in 1991, and joined the Order of the Thistle in 1996. His chief sporting interests were golf and cricket, but during his involvement with Scottish football (when Bells sponsored the leagues), Macfarlane and his wife took the trouble to attend every Scottish football ground to meet club officials – an achievement commemorated by his being awarded a gold sculpture of a Scotch pie.

It was typical of the personal interest that he took in all the institutions he supported; he turned up to wave the GUU debating team off to Princeton, and, as a longstanding collector of paintings – particularly by the Glasgow Boys – took a close and informed interest in the work of the various fine arts groups on which he served.

One of the major projects of his later life was chairing the committee that raised the funding for and oversaw the triumphant restoration of the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. He was asked to obtain £5 million from the private sector; in the end, he secured £13.5m.

Lord Macfarlane In Retirement

In 2005, he broke his neck for a second time in a bad car crash. In 2016, he stood down from the Lords, but remained alert and active well into old age.

Lord Macfarlane, who was affectionately known by many as “Lord Mac”, passed on November 21, 1995.

Lord Macfarlane’s Arms

illustration of Armorial bearings of Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden, KT

Armorial bearings of Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden, KT

Notes: Granted in 1994.

Crest: A demi-bull Sable horned unguled and winged Or charged on the shoulder with a roundel gyronny of eight Or and Sable ensigned with a cross crosslet fitchée Or.

Escutcheon: Argent a saltire engrailed between four roses Gules on a chief Azure a billet bendways between in dexter two quill pens in saltire Argent and in sinister a stalk of barley with three ears conjoined at the stalk slipped and bladed all Or.

Supporters: Two Macfarlane clansmen of the 18th century each with a single feather in hsi bonnet a targe resting against the exterior leg and holding a sword in the exterior hand all Proper the said supporters being limited to his Lordship for life.

Motto: Sursim Semper

Resource: The Herald

photo of International Clan MacFarlane Society, Inc President Michael R. MacFarlane

Michael MacFarlane, FSAScot


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