Obituary: Colin Cowan, 93

Responsibility sat well on Colin Cowan's shoulders. Picture: comp
Responsibility sat well on Colin Cowan's shoulders. Picture: comp
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COLIN Cowan, an energetic character who was given command of an army regiment in the Second World War after only four months’ service, has died at the age of 93.

Later in life, he was instrumental in the restoration of the memorial garden to the 17th century botanist John Livingston in Bruntsfield and represented the Queen as Deputy Lord Lieutenant.

He was 20 when he was promoted to the leadership role in 1940, and over the next 30 years he served his country in Burma, Malta and Germany.

A keen cello player, he also gained a triple first at Cambridge and became an adviser to the United Nations before going on to lead the organisation that developed Cumbernauld as a new town.

Raised in Colinton, he was educated at Cargilfield Prep School in Barnton, before heading south for military training at Wellington College, outside London.

He was commissioned in February 1940, spending his first year in Northern Ireland. In 1942, he was appointed an instructor with the Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners and served at Kirkee, near Pooma, Bombay, before spending the next couple of years with 26 India Division in Burma.

He returned to Kirkee and served as corps adjutant until 1946, then came back to Britain to study mechanical sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge – achieving
a triple first.

In the early 1950s, he had posts at the staff college and the War Office in London, followed by a spell at the Malta Fortress Squadron, Royal Engineers. He also worked on the Royal Engineers combat development staff and as a defence adviser in the UK mission to the UN in New York.

In 1966, he was appointed chief staff officer to the army’s engineer-in-chief. He completed his service as a brigadier and the army’s planning engineer.

When he retired in 1970, he became chief executive of Cumbernauld Development Corporation.

His work to promote Cumbernauld was rewarded with the CBE in 1984, the year before he retired. A couple of years after joining the corporation, he was appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire and served until 1986.

His wife Elizabeth, whom he had married in 1949, died in 1985. He married Jen in 1988.

In retirement, he focused his energy on many activities, chairing the Greenhill and Church Hill Amenity Association and serving on Merchiston community council.

Travel, literature, art, music, hillwalking and photography were among his many interests.

He died in Edinburgh on February 21, aged 93. Predeceased by Elizabeth and their elder son, Michael, he is survived by Jen, children Simon and Lou and four grandchildren.