Sir Claud Hagard-Alexander, an active campaigner in the Burns movement, particularly the Burns House Museum, and a deputy lord lieutenant of Ayrshire, has died at the age of 79.

Born in Peking, the family moved back to England on his father’s death shortly after Sir Claud’s birth.  He was educated at Sherborne School in Dorset and later Cambridge University, where he took a degree in natural sciences and physics.

Form 1948, Sir Claud worked with several well-known institutions, beginning with the Cavendish Laboratory; from there he moved to RAE Farnborough where, while involved in long-distance radar, pointed out to the authorities that Rockall was mapped in the wrong position.  Employment in Edinburgh followed with Ferranti.  The Internet credits him with various scientific papers here in 1956.  Following this, he undertook research with ICI at Ardeer and later went freelance, based in Mauchline.

While in Edinburgh, Sir Claud decided in 1957 to renovate Kingencleugh House on the family estate of Ballochmyle, Mauchlin, and two years later, married Lady Alexander, Hilda Etain.

The estate had been bought from the Campbells of Loudoun in 1783.  Three years later in July 1786, occurred the famous encounter between Robert Burns and Miss Wilhelmina Alexander, the sister of the then Sir Claud.  Burns, having been inspired by the meeting to write his famous song, sent a letter to the lady asking her permission to print the piece but received no reply.  How dare a local farmer contemplate – and nightly to my bosom strain – a lady in her elevated rank!

Sir Claud was a no mean DIY buff, thoroughly enjoying taking electrical goods to pieces.  One of his specialities was installing central heating units for his friends.  The Alexander family motto, which is translated into Love God and hope for the best, often came into play in some of these activities.

One of Sir Claud’s most notable characteristics was his consciousness of his responsibility to society, with many local and national organisations benefiting from his hands-on interest.  An honorary sheriff of Strathclyde and deputy lieutenant for Ayrshire and Arran, he served as vice-lieutenant for 15 years.  In this capacity, he organised in 1997 the Queen’s visit to Arran and its distillery.  He was also a justice of the peace for East Ayrshire and chairman of the Justices’ Committee.  Along with the Duke of Kent, Sir Claud was patron of the ME Society, an illness he himself endured.

For 35 years, he was a member of St Ninian’s Church in Prestwick and various Mauchline organisations also enjoyed his patronage, among them the Scouts, Boys’ Brigade, the Horticultural Society, the Burns Memorial Homes and the Burns Club.  A particular interest was the survival and progression of the Burns House Museum.  His input was all-important to the latter’s committee, as his astuteness and diplomacy kept it alive.  It was most appropriate that the saltire on the National Burns Memorial flew at half-mast to mark his passing.  A Burn’s quotation can be relied on to pay tribute to a man who was held in such great affection and respect: “The gentleman an’ scholar; But tho’ he was o’ high degree, The fient a pride, nae pride had he.”

He is survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters and eight grandchildren.

Ian Lyell