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‘He influenced every police force in Scotland’: Peter MacNab, retired Superintendent, dies aged 90

Peter MacNab, as he will be remembered in Coupar Angus
Peter MacNab, as he will be remembered in Coupar Angus

Peter MacNab, retired Superintendent, Tulliallan Police College trainer, Masonic past master, and tartan enthusiast, has died aged 90.

Born in Glover Street, Perth, in 1931, the son of Euphemia and Peter MacNab, he lived near the railway station where his father was an engine driver.

While his mother worked for Pullar’s laundry and dye works, Peter and  younger brother James, now deceased, attended Craigie Primary in Perth.

Of all his father’s tasks, delivering the Royal Family to Balmoral would be a legacy well maintained. Peter would later entertain prime ministers and royalty himself at Tulliallan Police College.

Police Superintendent Peter MacNab and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Tulliallan.

His secondary education was at Perth Academy. He then left school and joined his father in railway work.

National service meant two years were spent in the Royal Logistics Corps but Peter was in no hurry to go back to civvies, exchanging one uniform for another.

Joining the Force

In December 1951 he joined the Scottish police training academy before starting work for what was then the Perth and Kinross-shire force.

First posted in Dunblane, he would then go to Aberfeldy.

Peter MacNab in 1971.

“The first memory I have of my father is in Aberfeldy,” said his son, also called Peter MacNab.

“I remember him in uniform doing the garden. In those days you didn’t get a day off unless you negotiated with an amenable wife to answer the phones. So he was on duty all day every day.”

Thankfully Peter met such a wife.

Love in the nurses’ residence

He married Catherine Blair, better known as Babs, a surgical nurse working at Bridge of Earn hospital, on September 25, 1954 at St Michael’s Church of Scotland, Crieff.

Their daughter, Helen Cole, recalls their first meeting.

Babs and Peter MacNab.

“There was a party at the nurses’ quarters. Mum and her friend Margaret were asked to go to help keep guests company. Dad was there with his friend George.

“For most of the night George was chatting to mum and Margaret with my dad. I don’t know exactly how it happened but they must have realised they’d be better suited the other way round. In the end, Margaret married George and my mum married my dad.”

The couple went on to have three children: Helen, Peter and Colin. They would later become grandparents to eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, with one more on the way.

Success at work

Working as a constable, Peter and his family lived in the police house, complete with cells, in Aberfeldy then Kintillo before buying the house in Coupar Angus where Peter remained until his death.

His career changed course in 1966 when he began a secondment at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan.

Director of junior training at the Scottish Police College, Peter MacNab is shown front row, right of centre.

He would go on to climb the ranks becoming director of junior training as a superintendent in 1977; the same year he was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for public service.

Matt Hamilton, former chief superintendent of Tayside Police and current president of the Retired Police Officers’ Association Scotland was one of Peter’s students.

Peter MacNab with Princess Margaret.

“He had somewhat of a majestic presence, whether dealing with dignitaries like Princess Margaret at passing out parades, or just speaking to every man in the force about the importance of family.

“He had a booming voice, you could hear him all over the college. But alongside that he was a nice, kind man. Peter would have taught officers on every force in Scotland, no question about it. And he taught those who went on to train after him. His influence on Scottish policing is immeasurable.”

Precious memories

Helen added: “It was a hard job. Dad would be responsible for search parties in the mountains and would never get a day off when he started, but then we had awesome times running wild at Tulliallan as a family.

“We swam in the pool and played in the grounds and I remember tables laid with scones and soup every time I went with him to check the guns of the gamekeepers. Those are happy memories.”

Retirement and interests

Peter left the college for the final time in 1980 and returned to Tayside Police before retiring in 1982 after 31 years of outstanding service.

He was also held memberships of the Masonic Lodge Moncreiffe 1332, achieving rank of Past Master, Abbey Church of Scotland in Coupar Angus, Blairgowrie Probus and Perth Burns Club.

Peter MacNab Past Master of Lodge Moncreiffe 1332.

His love of Burns poetry took him to Canada where he delivered the Address to the Haggis at a Burns’ Night dinner, and he would travel to schools and retirement homes speaking about tartan. He was also well known for delivering the grace at Retired Police Officers’ Association of Scotland dinners.

In their retirement, both Babs and Peter continued their love of travel and spending time with their ever-growing family but in January 2019 – after 65 years of marriage – Babs passed away.

Mr and Mrs MacNab in later years.

Peter was also a an avid dog-walker and was well known in Coupar for being the man in the wide-brimmed hat, walking Bonnie the black cocker spaniel, stopping to speak to everyone.

Peter, who also became a police officer, added: “My dad was absolutely born for the job he had within the police in the same way Andy Murray was born for tennis. He was a round peg in the roundest of holes. He set a very high standard for all of us. A fantastic communicator with exceptional humanity; he cared and talked to everyone. And we dearly miss him already.”

The family’s announcement can be read here.

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