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Family tribute to 90-year-old Bill Stuart of Aberdeen’s Harper Motor Company

Bill Stuart spent most of his career at Aberdeen's Harper Motors - a job he was committed to for decades.
Bill Stuart spent most of his career at Aberdeen's Harper Motors - a job he was committed to for decades.

Mechanic, cyclist, Boys’ Brigade captain and former Harpers Motors service manager, Bill Stuart has died aged 90.

Aberdeen born and bred

William Stuart – better known as Bill – was born on April 20 1932. His father William – a travelling salesman, and his mother Annie, had five children and lived on Claremont Street, Aberdeen.

Bill went to Ashley Road Primary before moving on to the Central School. His secondary education was cut short, however, with the death of his father. Aged 13, Bill left to find paid work in order to support his family.

During the war, the Stuart family moved to Garthdee Gardens.

Mannofield memories

Bill got a job at a garage in Mannofield doing odd jobs and cleaning up until he reached 16 and could officially begin serving his time as an apprentice mechanic.

A young Bill Stuart, who trained as a mechanic before joining the RAF.

One of Bill’s happiest memories from his time at Mannofield was when Scotland played Australia at cricket in 1948. While 10,000 fans watched Aussie star Don Bradman playing from the stands, Bill and his friend were sitting on the roof of the garage as he began hitting sixes right to where they sat.

Time in the RAF

When National Service came calling Bill deferred until his 21st birthday in order to complete his apprenticeship. With time at the garage served he joined the RAF, and was based at Kinloss.

Working once more as a mechanic and in aircraft recovery he had plenty to keep himself busy, not least trips back to Aberdeen to see his sweetheart.

Young love: Bill Stuart and his future wife, Hazel Wilson.

While on leave at home Bill met Hazel Wilson, a Co-op girl from Inverurie, at the dancing.

On returning from service the pair wed in 1958 and lived with Bill’s mother afterwards.

Harper Motors

Though happy in his marriage settling back home after being in the air force was less easy. Bill took on various jobs from making ice cream to box manufacturing, before eventually joining the team at the Harper Motor Company, Aberdeen.

In 1966, the couple’s first son William arrived and in ’67 the family moved to Auchinyell Gardens.

Hazel and Bill Stuart enjoying the Gay Gordons at a dance.

By 1970, they had completed their family with the arrival of second son Derek and Bill’s career at Harper Motors was flourishing.

Starting off as a mechanic, he then became foreman, service manager, customer relations manager before finishing his time with the company checking people in at reception. Bill retired age 65.

With his wife Hazel, Bill Stuart worked at Harper Motors for most of his career.

However, his career was very nearly short lived.

From the 1950s – 1970s the vehicles of Balmoral Castle were serviced by Harper.

A brush with the future king

In one story told by Bill, he was the designated mechanic working underneath a car in the servants’ courtyard.

Two sets of little legs came closer before two sets of equally little hands began picking up his spanners and wrenches.

“In a gruff tone using some choice words, it appeared my dad had dropped a clanger… It was Princess Anne and a young Charles who he angrily called ‘little so-and-sos’ for picking up his tools,” said Willie Stuart, Bill’s son.

Bikes and the BBSs

When Bill wasn’t working on cars he liked to take to the road himself. An avid cyclist he was part of the now-defunct Panther Cycling Club. In later years he and Hazel were both involved with Deeside Thistle Cycling Club too.

A former member of two of cycling clubs, Bill Stuart.

The couple were both committed to South Holburn Parish Church and in earlier years its predecessor Ruthrieston South Church where Hazel played piano for the Girl Guides and Bill was captain of the 9th Company Boys’ Brigade junior section.

In retirement, as they had often done in their youth, the couple liked to spend time outdoors, especially on forest walks. They travelled to Europe by bus with friends, with France and Italy favourite locations, and Bill enjoyed watching Western movies.

Final years

In 2020 Hazel passed away. With ongoing support from family and friends Bill – who was having regular dialysis for a decade – was able to remain at home until February 2022 when he moved into Janesfield Manor care home, Garthdee.

A recent decline in his health meant an admission to the ARI’s renal ward where he died on February 26.

As he’ll be remembered by family, Aberdeen’s Bill Stuart.

Willie said: “We really can’t thank the ward and staff enough for their care of my dad.”

A celebration of Bill’s life is to take place on Monday March 13 in the East Chapel of Aberdeen Crematorium, at 11.30 am.

Great sense of humour

In sharing memories of his father, Willie added: “My dad knew lots of people. He lived in the south of Aberdeen most of his life and would talk to people in passing, as well as maintaining his friendships with colleagues.

“If you didn’t get to know him you’d perhaps think he was a bit of a tough guy with a hard exterior. But there was another side to him. He had a soft spot as well, with a great sense of humour. He loved to tell us the latest jokes he’d picked up.

“My dad was a great role model for us.”

Bill is survived by Willie, Derek, daughters-in-law Erin and Heather, and his four grandchildren.

You can read the family’s announcement here.