Alexander Buchanan Campbell RSA 1914-2007
Elected ARSA: 15 March 1972
Elected RSA: 25 May 2005
Alec Campbell, a renowned architect of the 1960s and 1970s, has died aged 92 after a short illness. He was an inspiration to his family and profession, and devoted his life to both. Although not a "committee man" by nature (preferring to get things done), he was president of each of Glasgow Art Club (1972-74), the Glasgow Institute of Architects (1974-76) and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (1977-79). Paradoxically, he was not a great respecter of authority, affectionately referring to those in high places as "big toalies".
He had a natural charm, warmth, fairness and generosity of spirit, which endeared him to those who met him.He was born in the fishing village of Findochty, near Buckie, his father being a master mariner, and moved to Glasgow in his teens following his father's death.
He studied architecture the hard way, first at night school and thereafter by attending Glasgow Art School and Strathclyde College (now university). He served his apprenticeship with Jack Coia, a lifetime friend and mentor. He also sang professionally with a band for several years, while studying, singing particularly songs by Sinatra, Crosby and Al Bowly, and ultimately had to choose between a career as a crooner or as an architect.
He met his late wife, Sheila, on a blind date after her arranged date - one of Alec's friends - had to cancel at the last minute, and suggested that Alec go in his place. This he did, turning up unannounced, and, as the story goes, it was love at first sight and they never looked back.
He had to walk home from Sheila's family home in Bearsden to Hyndland several times while courting, following their visits to the Rio cinema in Canniesburn, having missed the last bus. The war years were spent at the War Office in London, where ultimately he attained the rank of major.
His firm, A Buchanan Campbell and Partners, designed many notable buildings, including the Dollan swimming baths in East Kilbride, now A-listed, Callander Park College, Falkirk, and Craigie College of Education at Ayr (Civic Trust awards) as well as schools, churches and flats, including Whittinghame Court and Ascot in Great Western Road.
Sheila assisted in much of the interior design and colour schemes and they worked together as a team in this way. They were also a team in their hobby of many years, breeding and showing miniature poodles, one of which became a triple champion (winning best of breed at nine separate championship shows, such as Crufts, throughout the UK).
Summer vacations were mostly spent at Castletown golf links hotel in the Isle of Man, a much-loved spot for golf and family holidays. On one holiday he saved his nine-year-old son from drowning, pulling him from the bottom of a swimming pool and resuscitating him. He worked until he was 75 and, latterly, lived quietly near Dunoon, looking after Sheila, who was in poor health. He was quietly proud of the title of Royal Scottish Academician (RSA) bestowed upon him in 2005.
He is survived by his son, Euan, and daughter, Louise, and will be missed not least for his selflessness, gentle humour and kindness, which remained to the end.
RSA Obituary from the 2007 RSA Annual Exhibition Catalogue