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Sir Angus Grossart obituary: Eminent businessman with Fife in his heart

Sir Angus Grossart.
Sir Angus Grossart.

Sir Angus Grossart was without doubt one of the most eminent Scottish business figures of his generation

He built and ran the merchant bank Noble Grossart for five decades, served as vice-chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland and was a committed patron of the arts.

While his business life required his base to be in Edinburgh, with visits to London and overseas, Sir Angus tended to spend weekends at his other home: Pitcullo Castle near Leuchars.

Labour of love

He bought the ruined 16th Century tower house in 1977 and spent decades restoring the building and landscaping its gardens.

The castle, near Balmullo, has views over St Andrews and the North Sea.

Sir Angus, who has died aged 85, relished organising every aspect of the restoration, working with craftspeople of every sort, stone masons, artisans and artists who returned the castle to its original condition, indeed undoubtedly considerably better and a reflection of his taste.

He always seemed to like that the work could never quite be finished.

In recent weeks he had been flying the Ukrainian flag in solidarity with the besieged people of that country.

Sportsman

In his youth Sir Angus had an early career in competitive golf and was twice captain of Scotland’s under-22 team.

He toured the USA as a member of a British junior team, was runner-up in the British Youth Golf Championship and secured success in a number of open amateur golf competitions.

Sir Angus was a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the New Club and the Speculative Society.

Tribute

Christopher Thomson, chairman of publishers DC Thomson and Co. Ltd, said: “Sir Angus was a man who could not be pigeonholed, defined or captured.

“He was always ahead of any such attempts. He was as much at home with the titans of industry as with artists and artisans.

“He never lost the common touch and could be seen occasionally in St Andrews at the fish and chip shops, and was as happy with a fine bowl of soup as a fancy meal.

Influence

“There was, however, very little in Scotland that was not affected by him in some way for the better.

“There are very few indeed of whom that can be said.”

Born Angus McFarlane McLeod Grossart in Lanarkshire in April 1937, he was educated at Glasgow Academy and then Glasgow University.

Angus graduated MA in arts and LLB in law. He was president of the university law society and twice captained its golf team.

Legal calling

He was a pupil of Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the future Lord Advocate, and after qualifying first as a chartered account, he was called to the Scottish bar in 1963.

Between 1963 and 1969 he practised at the Scottish Bar as a member of the Faculty of Advocates, latterly specialising in corporate law and tax.

In 1969 he jointly formed the merchant bank  Noble Grossart Limited with some of the larger financial institutions and commercial interests in Scotland.

Adviser

Over many decades he acted as financial or strategic adviser to many public and private companies.

Sir Angus chaired or served on nearly 20 listed public company boards in the UK, USA and Canada, involving banking, investment and investment management, property, oil, construction, insurance and newspapers and media.

He was a former vice-chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland and was chairman of Scottish Investment Trust PLC, Edinburgh Fund Managers PLC and of Edinburgh Partners.

Infrastructure

From 2008 until 2017 he was founding chairman of the Scottish Futures Trust, which was strategically responsible for procuring major infrastructure projects and supervised a budget of £9 billion.

From 1986 he was a trustee and, until 1997, chairman of the National Galleries of Scotland, and was chairman of the National Museums of Scotland until 2012.

Until 2005 Sir Angus was a trustee and depute chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland.

Burrell

He was a founding trustee, along with the Duke of Rothesay, of the Dumfries House Trust, and chaired the Burrell Museum Renaissance and the Edinburgh International Cultural Summit.

Over the course of his career Sir Angus held many other appointments with public, cultural and charitable bodies.

These included Scottish National Orchestra, the Scottish Civic Trust, Scottish Cot Death Trust, Scottish Opera and Edinburgh International Film Festival.

He was chairman of the advisory council of St Andrews University Management Institute, and chaired the selection panels for the Scottish Business Achievement Award and the Highland Business Award.

Appeal

In addition, Sir Angus was chairman of the Renewal Appeal for St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, and honorary vice-president of the St Andrew’s Clinics for Children.

He wrote papers on leadership, the future of the Scottish financial sector and on the centenary of the Great War Armistice.

Sir Angus had a major interest in the built heritage and the arts and had substantial collections of Scottish paintings, decorative arts and traditional crafts.

He also initiated and led the national service of celebration for the life of Sir Walter Scott in 2021.

The event, which marked the 250th anniversary of the author’s birth, was held in St Giles Cathedral and was preceded by a procession led by the Lord Lyon King of Arms and followed by a march to the Scott Monument to lay tributes.

Honours

He was awarded honorary degrees of LLD from Glasgow in 1985, DBA from Strathclyde in 1998, D.Litt from St Andrews in 2004 and LLD from Aberdeen in 2006.

Sir Angus, knighted in 1997, was an honorary fellow of the Institute of Bankers in Scotland and was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

A deputy lieutenant of the City of Edinburgh, he was presented with a Loving Cup by the City of Glasgow to mark the reopening of the Burrell Collection, which he was closely involved with.

He is survived by his wife, Lady Gay Grossart and daughter Flure.

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