Tributes have been paid following the death of ‘quiet and unassuming’ Aberdeen lecturer and engineer, Stewart Duncan, aged 83.
Born on March 14, 1938 in Kirkintilloch, Stewart was the only son of Janet (nee McLaren) and watchmaker, Jimmy Duncan.
He attended Lairdsland Primary School then Lenzie Academy.
The youngest of three, but the only boy meant ‘he got everything new.’
At 17 he married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Alexander from Bishopbriggs.
Their wedding took place in Hamilton Registrar’s Office in 1955 and Graeme, daughter Perri and Andrew were soon added to the family.
John Lewis building engineer
With career aspirations, Stewart moved his young family from Bo’ness where they were living, to Aberdeen in 1968.
His early career was in mining engineering, sinking shafts with Cementation and later for Harley Haddow in Edinburgh.
All the while he was going to evening classes to advance his qualifications.
The family set up home in Milltimber while Stewart continued working as a structural and civil engineer.
He was part of the construction team for the Northern Co-op building on George Street, which later became the John Lewis building.
“It was quite a complicated building,” said Betty, “the construction required a lot from the engineers.”
The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture
In 1972 Stewart joined the staff of Robert Gordon University – then Robert Gordon Institute of Technology.
At the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture he taught structural engineering and geology, later becoming a studio master.
Former colleague and friend, Owen Ball said: “He was a rare breed of structural engineer.
“He had a very good sense of design and was able to encourage students to integrate the appearance of their building with its structure and construction.”
Professor David McClean, current Head of School was one of Stewart’s students.
He said: “Stewart was a skilled and hugely respected lecturer at the School of Architecture, where his expertise as a structural engineer benefitted very many students over the years.
“I personally recall him as a quiet, unassuming man who was passionate about his subject.
“He displayed great insight, and always imparted his expertise with warmth and humour.
“It was a privilege to have been taught by him, and his contribution was enormous.”
As a very private man Stewart rarely disclosed details of his early life.
However, spending time with his own family – and teaching some of life’s lessons – was important to him.
Graeme Duncan, his eldest son, said: “As a family we sat round the dining table for breakfast, lunch and tea.
“Mum baked all the time and produced great meals.
“We all had a laugh with dad quite often being the source of the amusement.
“He always said ‘no’ first because the ‘yes’ was then better.
“I eventually got wise to this but as a kid I liked this ‘no then yes’ strategy because it was always a great thrill.
“My brother and sister would probably say the same.”
Betty and Stewart were a month away from celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary when Stewart sadly passed away.
“With hindsight he was becoming more and more frail. But it’s still very much a shock,” said Betty.
In his spare time Stewart played golf, painted and his love of engineering extended to home improvements.
“My dad was a great artist but he didn’t produce much, however Perri fondly remembers him teaching her how to paint.
“She and her daughter are now very successful artists living in America.”
Being good at construction also meant the family had quite an elaborate patio at the house.
“Building it threw up a number of difficulties, but nothing he couldn’t solve,” added Graeme.
At his funeral a knitted sweater was laid on his coffin.
“That jumper symbolised how he was with clothes.
“Mum knitted it about 50 years ago and he wore it all the time.”
Betty added: “I darned it so many times I only had wool left for a couple of more repairs.
“It sums up Stewart though. He had no need for anything fancy.
“I can’t remember not being married to Stewart. We had a wonderful life and I’m so very sad at this very unexpected loss.”
Stewart’s life was celebrated at a service in Baldarroch Crematorium.
He is survived by his wife, children, his six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
You can read the family’s announcement here.