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Graeme Wilson MBE: Banchory businessman and Scout leader dies aged 90

Graeme Wilson.

Graeme J Wilson, chairman of Aberdeen plumbing and heating company William Wilson and Co has died aged 90.

Now tributes have been paid to the patron of the arts, Scout leader and royal warrant holder who lived most of his life in Banchory.

Granite City born

Born on August 17, 1931, he was son of  Aberdeen couple Leonora Ewan and George Wilson.

He had one brother, Sandy, and a sister, Iso.

His father was the nephew of William Webster Wilson – founder of William Wilson and Co Ltd – the well-known Aberdeen plumbing, heating and electrical supplies business.

And George had taken over from his father as company director – a path Graeme himself would follow.

A young Graeme Wilson.

However, his business acumen didn’t just come from his dad.

Leonora became a director of the business herself in 1939 – the first and only woman to do so – and her determination would all but guarantee her son would follow suit.

Take the loon

Graeme was educated at Aberdeen Grammar school.

When it was time to leave, Leonora wrote to plumbing firms all over the country asking them to ‘accept her loon for training’.

It would be Glasgow company Thomas Graham and Sons who’d reply saying ‘send the laddie down’.

Aside from two years of National Service he remained there until 1955 when he returned to Aberdeen.

Back home to Aberdeen

At just 24 he was appointed managing director of the family business – and would later become chairman in 1972.

Alongside his brother Sandy, Graeme grew the business to 600 employees, operating a network of 45 branches in Scotland and Northern England.

The business was sold to Wolseley UK in 2005.

Graeme married Kathleen Ramsay of Stonehaven on February 23, 1966.

Shown from left is Michael Wilson with his parents Kathleen and Graeme J Wilson, and Michael’s wife Jackie, after Graeme received his MBE.

Kathleen, whose family ran Ramsay drapers in the town, became Mrs Wilson at a ceremony in Fettereso Parish Church.

They jetted off for a honeymoon in Bermuda  and although they initially set up home in Aberdeen they soon bought their forever home in Banchory.

Named after their favourite song and those first days in Bermuda, Graeme lived in Bermore until his death.

Banchory scouts

In Scouting circles, Graeme was known as Bosun.

He was a life-long supporter of the 1st Banchory Scout Group where he was himself a Wolf Cub then a Scout in his youth.

Going on to become a patrol leader and Scouter before assistant Scout master in 1957, he’d step back from day-to-day Scouting activities in 1994 as a group scout leader.

Graeme loved attending scout camps, campfires and Fleur De Lys balls.

Graeme Wilson pictured after receiving his Silver Wolf award.

But it was the legendary gang shows from 1956 to 1969 that would really leave their mark on Graeme.

“My dad was always someone who was passionate about the arts – I think it probably came from his time in the Scouts when he took part in gang shows and other cubs and scouts shows thereafter,” said Michael Wilson.

Graeme was chairman of the Scottish Scout Committee and member of London Council for seven years.

He was awarded the Silver Wolf, the highest adult recognition for services to the Movement, in 1985.

And in 2000 Graeme was awarded an MBE for lifelong service to the Scout movement.

Amateur dramatics

Through his love of performing arts Graeme and his sister became members of the ‘55 Club’ – an amateur dramatic organisation.

He’d later also join Deeside Musical Society in Aboyne and Attic Theatre in Aberdeen.

An entertainer at heart Graeme is shown taking part in one of the many shows that he loved.

His most notable roles included Sancho Panza, The Governor of Texas, Mr Twimble, Mr Bumble and Nicley Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls.

He was also a generous benefactor to many music-based performances through GJW Productions.

Michael said: “My dad set up GJW Productions as a way to lend his support to the arts.

“People could apply for funding. Over the years he helped fiddlers rallies, smaller musicals to much bigger events. It was a real passion.”

Other accolades

During his working life Graeme amassed honours and accolades in his field.

These included:

1963, grantee of a Royal Warrant to William Wilson Ltd by HM The Queen.

1970-1971, 1981-1982, President of the Aberdeen Association of Royal Warrant Holders.

1987-1988, National President of the Royal Warrant Holders Association.

1973, Burgess of the Guild of the City of Aberdeen.

Aberdeen businessman Graeme Wilson, who has died aged 90.

1973, Member of the Institute of Builders Merchants.

In 1982, Freeman of the City of London, admitted into the Livery of the Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants.

In 1996, Honorary Member of the Aberdeen and District Master Plumbers Association in recognition of his contribution to the plumbing industry.

Family life

Graeme was a proud family man.

After 44 years of marriage Kathleen sadly passed away in 2010.

He is survived by his two sons and daughters-in-law David and Monica, and Mike and Jackie.

He was also grandfather to Andrew, Katharine and Scott.

Michael added: “He will be remembered as an entertainer both in business and in the other areas of his life too.

Shown in happier times, Graeme Wilson of William Wilson and Co.

“He was generous, an encourager, devoted to his family and committed to other people.

“His legacy in scouting is significant, but for us, we are just grateful and proud to have had him as our father.”

Graeme passed away peacefully on Monday, November 22.

You can read the family’s announcement here.