James D.G. Davidson Contact
Duncan Gordon Davidson, son of a naval captain from
Nairn, and a wartime nurse from
He spent the fIrst two years of his life in Malta (where he learned to swim). Between 1930 and 1940 he attended various schools within reach of naval ports and in June 1940 took the competitive exam and interview for entry to the Royal Naval College Dartmouth as a Naval Cadet, ‘passing in’ 8th out of 30 successful candidates.
James became a Cadet Captain, was
awarded his ‘Colours’ for rugby and boxing, and won the open 440 yards and 880
yards in the annual sports. The R.N.College was
bombed in 1942 and evacuated to
Between 1945 and 1947 James passed his technical courses for the rank of Lieutenant and in 1947 was appointed senior Sub-Lieutenant of HMS Vanguard for the Royal cruise to South Africa. He was awarded the MVO by King George VI.
On leave between courses and after joining HMS Vanguard, he climbed widely in Scotland and the Alps, including a new winter route up the NE buttress of Ben Nevis, the traverse of the Cuillin Ridge in Skye in a day (including the Inaccessible Pinnacle), and seven major alpine peaks, among them the Matterhorn, the Schreckhorn and the Eiger. He also represented the Royal Navy against the Army and the RAF as a middle distance athlete in 1948 and 1947 .
Late in 1947 he was
appointed gunnery officer of a frigate in the Persian Gulf Division. He sailed
across the Gulf in a whaler with a volunteer crew to test the reaction of men
in an open boat to temperatures in excess of 100º F. While the ship
was refitting in
Having passed the requisite exams, he went back to sea in 1951 as a Training Officer in a frigate of the squadron based on Rosyth which took successive groups of boy seamen for 8 weeks sea training, interspersed with Fishery Protection duties.
June 1952, he was appointed Assistant Naval Attaché at the British Embassy in
appointment was as navigating officer of a
James worked for a year on a farm in Easter Ross, taking a
correspondence course at night, and in 1956 became a full-time hill farmer. For
the next eleven years he was his own cattleman and shepherd, establishing a
herd of Blue-Grey hill cows, (shorthorn/Galloway crosses), a registered flock
In 1964 he was adopted as Prospective Liberal Parliamentary
Candidate for West Aberdeenshire. At the 1964 General Election he
increased the Liberal vote by approximately 7,000 and in 1966 won with a vote
of over 16,000 – the first Liberal to win the seat for 35 years. In
Parliament, Jo Grimond appointed him spokesman on Defence and Foreign Affairs.
Perhaps the most notable of his many speeches and parliamentary questions was
an impassioned plea for
In 1968, James announced that he would not be defending his seat at the next General Election because of his wife’s serious ill health. With three young children at school, the situation had become increasingly difficult. The election came in 1970. He turned down the offer of a peerage and a seat in the House of Lords.
While in Parliament, James had entered into partnership on the farm, where there was no room for two managers. Offered the choice of four jobs, he accepted appointment as Chief Executive of the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland and for the next 22 years he was responsible to a board of 52 Directors for the organisation of the Royal Highland Show and for the establishment and operation of the Exhibition Centre at Ingliston. He presented the Grampian tv programme Country Focus for 12 years between 1970 and 1982. In 1984 he was awarded the OBE for services to agriculture.
On retirement in 1992, James set up the Flower of Scotland Campaign, designed to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
James visited and spoke in 127 secondary schools from Shetland to Galloway and in deprived areas in all Scotland’s main cities. Money was raised with the help of outstanding role models from the worlds of sport, the arts and tv, by direct appeal, by Burns Suppers and by various other means such as his first solo parachute jump at the age of 66. Copies of an inspirational video and a lifestyle handbook were placed in every Scottish secondary school. The Campaign ran for six years.
James was the founder chairman of the Newtonmore Community Woodland Trust which manages 45 hectares of woods and plantations and the increasingly popular Wildcat Trail – a wonderfully varied 10km walk around the village.
In 2000, James took part in an Earthwatch project to study river otters in Chile and, on his return, created a book for children at Primary Schools along the Spey.
James is happily married to his second wife. He has two sons, two daughters and five grandchildren. He has lived in Newtonmore for nearly 30 years.
You can purchase a copy of his autobiography Thinker, Sailor, Shepherd, Spy via www.amazon.couk rrp £7.99 sterling .