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Lord Forbes, KBE (1918-2013)

The 22nd Lord Forbes, Premier Lord of Scotland, who has died aged 95, was an Aberdeenshire farmer who — much to his surprise — spent a year in Harold Macmillan’s government as Minister of State for Scotland.

Arms: Azure, three bears’ heads couped Argent muzzled Gules (page 437, 19th Ed BLG)

Lord Forbes
5:40PM GMT 07 Mar 2013

Forbes was a relative unknown at Westminster when, in October 1958, Macmillan offered him the job in place of Lord Strathclyde, who was leaving the government. Forbes accepted, on condition that he would serve only until the next election — which in the event was 12 months away. Macmillan’s timing was superb. Forbes might not have had a political track record, but he knew about deer, and had been pressing for stiffer penalties for poaching and a close season on deer in the Highlands. Just such a measure was ready, and while Forbes did also have to speak on education and home affairs, he spent most of his time at the Scottish Office piloting through the Deer (Scotland) Bill.

Nigel Ivan Forbes was born on February 19 1918, the eldest son of the 21st Lord Forbes and the former Lady Mabel Anson, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Lichfield. After Harrow and Sandhurst, he followed his father into the Grenadier Guards. Though commissioned in peacetime, Forbes was soon on active service in France. During the retreat to Dunkirk his left leg was shattered by a mortar . He recovered sufficiently to serve as adjutant and attend staff college, and in 1947-48 was military assistant to the high commissioner in Palestine during the explosive final months of the British Mandate before retiring from the Army as a major.

In 1953 Forbes succeeded to his title, created in the 1440s for a grandson-in-law of King Robert III. At the Coronation that June, he carried the coronet of Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. He did not move into the family seat of Castle Forbes, built in 1815 by the 17th Lord Forbes, instead managing the 5,000-acre family estate beside the river Don and serving on Alford council. In 1972 the house became a private hotel for American oilmen coming to Aberdeen; later Forbes’s younger son managed the estate from there, and more recently it has been a guesthouse.

In May 1955 Forbes was elected a representative Peer of Scotland in the great hall of Parliament House, Edinburgh, by his fellow peers with titles created prior to the Act of Union, entitling him to a seat in the Lords . A few weeks later he shot for the Lords against the Commons at Bisley, but it was December before he spoke, urging speedier transport of freight by rail. He joined delegations to Denmark, Canada, Pakistan, Hungary (where his horsemanship impressed) and Ethiopia. Forbes made his most controversial speech during the 1957 debate on the introduction of life peerages. He declared his passionate opposition to such titles for women, saying: “No sooner do you get two women in a Chamber than voices are raised and the debate becomes heated.”

Out of office, Forbes joined the board of what became Grampian Television on its formation in 1960, serving for 28 years. In 1962 he told peers of his concern that the launch of BBC Two would make life tougher for less viable regional stations like Grampian. He was deputy chairman of Tennent Caledonian Breweries for a decade, and later chaired Rolawn Ltd. A keen naturalist and ornithologist, he also took parties to study wildlife in East Africa.

Forbes became increasingly concerned at the growing influence of communism in Britain, saw Scottish devolution as a threat, and became disillusioned with Edward Heath, calling late in 1974 for Conservatives to replace him with a “real and inspiring leader”. He would be an ardent admirer of Margaret Thatcher.

In his year as a minister, Forbes coincidentally chaired the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Aberdeenshire in 1958 and KBE in 1960.
Forbes married, in 1942, Rosemary Hamilton-Russell, eldest daughter of the 9th Viscount Boyne; they had two sons and a daughter. He is succeeded as the 23rd Lord Forbes by his elder son, the Master of Forbes, Malcolm Nigel Forbes, born in 1946.

The 22nd Lord Forbes, born February 19 1918, died March 5 2013

Source: Donald Draper Campbell of Alexandria, VA USA

The artwork is a rendering by John Hamilton Gaylor

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