It was with great sadness that I learned of the recent death of my life-long friend Douglas Conochie.
Douglas Alexander Ferguson Conochie was born in Lerwick in September 1928, the second son of stationer William K Conochie, and for most of his time in Shetland he lived at Braeside, Law Lane, Lerwick.
Known to his closest associates as Buzz, he and I had been close friends since we were pushed in our prams together.
A tall, rather ungainly figure, Douglas was an accomplished musician who played the flute in the Boys’ Brigade band and jazz piano as a founder member of the renowned group Dixielanders of the 1940s. Much later he was quite at home playing hymns in the organ in the hall at Pennan, where he had a holiday home.
On leaving school Douglas went off to Aberdeen University where he duly graduated MA, BSc and BEd and then joined the RAF where he trained in Canada.
After he was demobbed he began his career as a teacher and then became an educational psychologist and over the years worked for various authorities in Scotland and England, finally in Aberdeenshire.
He was very influential in educational psychology circles in Scotland and even after he retired he remained a keen member of several communities like his father, who was Provost of Lerwick.
Douglas and his first wife, Pat Imlach, adopted two children Helen and Peter; then, much to their surprise, Iain was born. Sadly their happiness was not to last when Pat died, leaving Douglas with a young family to raise.
He later remarried, this time to a colleague, another educational psychologist Cairine Petrie, and the family moved to 10 Bayview Road, Aberdeen.
Douglas and Cairine played host to countless Shetlanders and others who may have attempted to pass through Aberdeen without stopping but never succeeded.
Gradually the young family grew up and left home but once more tragedy struck when Cairine unexpectedly died. The house at Bayview Road was far too big for Douglas so he moved to a magnificent ground floor flat in King’s Gate which better suited his needs.
One of Douglas’s favourite pastimes was cooking and many a wonderful meal we have had from his hands over the years. Sadly, during the past few years his health was not good and latterly he had a problem with his back which affected his ability to walk and stand for any length of time, which caused him great discomfort when preparing meals.
Until very recently, whenever my wife Meg offered to assist in the preparation, the reply was invariably: “Get out of my kitchen Meg Black.” However, he actually accepted her presence when we last stayed at King’s Gate.
In September last year Meg and I were among 80 friends and relations who attended Douglas’s 80th birthday celebrations in Aberdeen. This was a great reunion of family and friends and a chance to renew former acquaintances.
All the Conochie family were there, including Douglas’s sister Jean, her husband Frank and sister-in-law Nancy who is the widow of his elder brother Ronald, who died a few years ago. It was a very happy occasion and I do not think that any of us realised it would be the last time we would all be together.
We last spoke to Douglas on Wednesday 8th April and, while bemoaning his lack of agility, he said that he was really looking forward to our impending visit, planned for the 28th; little did we suspect that this would be our final conversation.
Douglas took ill on Friday 10th April and was taken by ambulance to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he died last Tuesday morning.
Our sympathies go to his family, his sister Jean and sister-in-law Nancy.
Douglas C Smith