Obituary: Dr David Wilkie, 85

Dr David Wilkie. Pic: comp
Dr David Wilkie. Pic: comp
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Dr David Wilkie, a retired physicist and leading member of the Saltire Society, has died, aged 85.

A miner’s son, from Buckhaven in Fife, David was born on October 6, 1927, and went to Buckhaven High School, where his academic ability became evident and he also excelled as a sprinter and footballer.

He was almost signed for East Fife juniors but, after leaving school, went to St Andrews University where he graduated with a BSc in natural philosophy.

He then spent a year working on rocket fuel for the Bristol Aeroplane Company before embarking on further studies at Imperial College London where he researched supersonic flow and completed his doctorate.

In 1956 he began work at the then Windscale Nuclear Power Station in Cumbria, later known as Sellafield.

He and his wife Isobel, whom he met on an Edinburgh-to-London train, settled in the village of Seascale where they raised a family of four. He suffered a heart attack at the age of 42, but continued to lead a busy life for the next 43 years.

He worked at Sellafield until 1990, being responsible for the design and analysis of experimental work. He was awarded a Doctor of Science degree from his alma mater, St Andrews and he became a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.

On retirement, he and his wife returned north to Edinburgh, living in Dean Village, and both became active in the Saltire Society.

Formed in 1936, the society seeks to preserve Scottish tradition and enrich the country’s cultural life. It has wide-ranging interests including architecture, arts and crafts, civil engineering, history, literature, music and science.

David quickly became a member of the society’s development committee and science award panel. He was appointed chairman of the Capital’s branch in 1993 and a member of the society council the following year.

The Wilkies were described as “the epitome of everything that is good about the Saltire Society”. In 2010 they were made honorary members, joining a prestigious roll call of luminaries to earn the accolade, including First Minister Alex Salmond and the late Donald Dewar.

David described the honour at the time as “gobsmacking”. He said: “This is usually given to people who have achieved something for Scotland like writers and politicians. Very occasionally it’s given to those who are members of the society.”

The couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last December.

David’s other interests included reading, his garden, opera, theatre and his church – he had been involved in the Methodist church in Seascale and was an active member of Edinburgh’s Palmerston Place Church.

He is survived by his wife, his children Deborah, Nigel, Fergus and Edwin, seven grandchildren and his sister Irene.