Former National Trust President Dies

Former National Trust President the Earl of Wemyss passed away on 15th December in Edinburgh

Francis David Charteris was born on January 19 1912, the eldest son of Lord Elcho, eldest son and heir of the 11th Earl of Wemyss. His mother, Lady Violet (née Manners), was the second daughter of the 8th Duke of Rutland. The family seat was Gosford House, East Lothian, but the family also owned land in Perth, Peebles, Haddington and Gloucestershire, as well as Stanway House, Gloucestershire, where the 11th Earl was born, and Neidpath and Elcho castles.

He was educated at Eton College and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he read History. On leaving university, he went to Africa and was a Colonial Administrator in Basutoland from 1937 until 1944. He succeeded to the earldom on the death of his grandfather in 1937, and in the same year joined the Colonial Service serving as an assistant district commissioner in Basutoland and with the Basuto troops in the Middle East during the Second World War.

In 1940 he married Mavis Murray, daughter of Edwin Murray, of Hermanus, Cape Province. They had two daughters and two sons. He served with the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps in the Middle East during the war.

Returning to Scotland after the war, he began a career in public life, devoting himself to conserving and protecting the country’s heritage. He served as vice chairman, chairman of the council, and then as president, of the National Trust for Scotland from 1946 to 1991. During his time in office, he accepted many properties into the National Trust for scotland, including the Binns, West Lothian, Leith Hall and several castles.

The Trust’s President, the Duke of Buccleuch, described him as “a legendary figure, a giant in the story of the National Trust for Scotland whose contribution to the heritage of Scotland was simply immeasurable.

“Through his vision and tireless leadership for over half a century he inspired people across the country to preserve and enjoy their natural and cultural heritage.”

He also acted as chairman of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments for Scotland from 1949 to 1984; and as a member of the Royal Commisson on Historical Manuscripts from 1975 to 1988. Other appointments included that of Deputy Lieutenant from 1959 to 1967 and Lord Lieutenant of East Lothian from 1967 until 1987. He was appointed as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1959, 1960 and, unusually, again in 1977. He held the honorary appointment of Lord Clerk Register from 1974 until 2007.

His own home contained one of the finest private collections of paintings in Scotland, valued at around £50m. and including masterpieces by Botticelli, Rubens and Murillo, and a magnificent series of family portraits by Ramsay, Raeburn, Kneller, Reynolds and Romney. Ranking 27th in the Sunday Times Rich List, In 1999, he sold Botticelli’s magnificent Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child to the National Galleries of Scotland for £10 million and last autumn he put Seton Castle in East Lothian on the market for £750,000.

After the death of his first wife in 1988 he married in 1995, Shelagh Kennedy, property manager of the National Trust for Scotland’s Georgian House in Edinburgh. His son, Lord Neidpath succeeds him to the title.

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Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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