Peter Balfour: Tributes paid to a man of substance

Peter Balfour achieved many things during his life
Peter Balfour achieved many things during his life
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A FORMER chairman of Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, who was awarded a CBE for his contribution to industry, has died at the age of 92.

Peter Balfour came into the world in Woking, Surrey, on July 9, 1921.

From birth he already had a lot to live up to – his father Bill Balfour had distinguished himself in the military and later retired as a Brigadier after serving his country in both World Wars.

His mother Ruth was the niece of Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and was also one of the first women to attend Cambridge University, working as a doctor during the First World War.

Peter spent his youth between the family estate in Fife and their house in London, attending Eton in keeping with family tradition.

He left school in 1939 and was on a walking tour in the Highlands when the outbreak of the Second World War was announced.

Though too young at this point to sign up for active service, he moved to France to learn the language in preparation, escaping the country when Hitler invaded in 1940, he then signed up with the Scots Guards.

In a twist of fate, Peter ended up serving under his own father, who had been asked to return to active service, in the 3rd Tank Battalion.

By February 1945, Peter was a senior member of the battalion and was serving in north-west Holland when he was wounded in an attempt to make contact with a commanding officer.

He was hit in the back and lung by a machine-gun bullet and was transferred back to London to recover before returning to his duties and serving in Germany.

Not surprisingly, he left the army with the rank of major in 1954, a highly regarded and hugely capable soldier. Throughout his years he achieved very high positions and even directed the merging of Scottish Brewers and Newcastle Breweries Ltd.

In addition, he also had interests outside the brewing industry – from 1972 to 1990 he was a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland and vice-chair of RBS Group.

He was also chairman of Charterhouse plc from 1985-91.

He listed his recreations as farming and forestry but in truth they were virtually a full-time job.

Having bought a farm at Upper Keith near Humbie, East Lothian, in 1962, he took it upon himself to turn it from an arable farm into a lovely country estate.

A distinguished member of the Scots Guards Association and president of the East Lothian branch for 30 years, he always insisted on marching with the men, rather than the officers, on any regimental occasion.

As recent as July 4, he chaired the Third Guards Club dinner in Edinburgh, at the age of 92.

He will be remembered as a great husband and father who served his country in many ways his whole life.