Influential agricultural lobbyist, Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington, died recently, aged 90.

A former Hill Farming Convenor of NFU Scotland and a champion of hill farming as a productive part of agriculture, and as an aid to biodiversity, he was knowns as 'Patrick of the Hills' because of that passion.

He served on the former Dumfries and Stewartry area executive of NFUS ands was area president for two years in the mid-1970s and was made an honorary president of the area in recognition of his work on behalf of his fellow farmers. At that time, he also had a hill farm at Tynron.

Latterly known as the booming voice of Muncaster Castle in the Western Lake District, he remained devoted his time as a lobbyist to serving hard-working hill farmers of Scotland and Cumbria for many years after his official involvement in agri-politics. He was also known, on occasion, to hold an audience by force of argument on agricultural topics at Speaker's Corner, in London, with his familiar scabby old Tweed greatcoat, more often than not tied together by a bit of orange binder twine.

That he was a brilliant communicator who could talk to anyone and bring a smile to their faces, Patrick also won much admiration for his erudite and sometimes controversial opinions, but would say the most outrageous statements with such a charming twinkle in his eye and his tongue firmly in his cheek that most recipients thought he was joking. Sometimes, he wasn't!

An amazing memory and fierce determination were gifts from his mother and his education mainly taught him that 'diplomacy is the art of telling plain truths without giving offence.'

Patrick delighted in standing up against any government, or those in authority, firing off letters or calling politicians of all persuasions on the telephone to bend their ear to the plight of whichever dispossessed group he was fighting for at the time, usually those with an agricultural or rural agenda.

E-mails, social media and smart ‘phones he never understood and he achieved a long-held ambition of dying without ever having turned on a computer.

Patrick grew up in Moray, in the North-east, and educated at Eton and Oxford before seeing National Service in the Cameron Highlanders. He carried the Regimental Colours at the Queen’s Coronation Parade in 1953 through the rain.

His parents disapproved of him then becoming a shepherd in Tynron, but in 1955 he married Phyllida, adding her surname of Pennington to the two fine Scottish surnames already in his possession. Years later he made the mistake of accepting a reverse charge call at 3am in the morning from a rather drunk Scottish gentleman residing in Fort William who had been reading the telephone directory and demanded to know what right he had to three surnames?

Patrick couldn’t answer him but ever after refused to accept reverse charge calls.

The marriage produced four highly independent daughters who he brought up on his mixed hill farm in Dumfries-shire before moving with his beloved wife to her ancestral home of Muncaster Castle, in the Lake District, in the early 1980s.

While Phyllida and their daughter, Iona, made an excellent job of turning it through sheer determination and hard work into one of Cumbria’s leading tourist attractions, he promoted it brilliantly in between working in the gardens and travelling throughout Scotland and Cumbria working for various agencies.

As well as being the Hill Farming Convenor, in Scotland, Patrick also held the posts of convenor of the Scottish Landowners Federation (as it was then) and chairman of the Deer Commission for Scotland. Somewhere in between, he was county chairman of the Cumbrian NFU and for many years an appointed member of the Lake District Special Planning Board.

Patrick Gordon Duff Pennington speaking at the SAYFC West Area Conference, Rothesay, in 1979

Patrick Gordon Duff Pennington speaking at the SAYFC West Area Conference, Rothesay, in 1979

He wrote to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 just after the Chernobyl disaster deposited clouds of radioactive dust on the Cumbrian Fells but the Russian Embassy refused to accept his letter as they didn’t believe anyone had three surnames and thought it was a hoax.

Nevertheless, Patrick persisted, resulting in a long association with the British Soviet Friendship Society and a tour of collective farms in Siberia, followed by a return visit with two Russian farmers to Cumbria who spoke no English. No matter – Patrick drove them round the Cumbrian fells introducing them to various farmers, laughing and singing all the way.

Patrick also had a lengthy connection with another family concern, Ardverikie Estate in Scotland, serving for quite some time as managing director. The castle there became famous as Glenbogle House in the BBC TV series 'Monarch of the Glen' and stood in as Balmoral in the film Mrs Brown, and more recently The Crown TV series.

Along with the factor, Geordie Chalmers, in the 1980s, Patrick was instrumental in installing an hydro-electric scheme at Ardverikie which saved the estate.

But it was as an orator that Patrick was best known. He could light up any room he entered with his amusing tales and irreverent outlook on life. His brilliant memory and party tricks of ambidextrous mirror writing ensured guests forgave his usually shabby apparel.

He even once became the centrefold in one edition of Japanese Playboy, fully clothed in this dishevelled coat standing with the magnificence of Muncaster behind him. Although worried that his father-in-law would have disapproved of finding his castle’s photograph surrounded by tasteful pictures of naked ladies, Patrick was more concerned that he had been described as an 'English eccentric', despite his Scottish heritage.

Regardless of his prickliness in dealing with those in authority, he was awarded the MBE and later the OBE for services to agriculture and served for many years as a Deputy Lieutenant of Cumbria.

All that was a bit at odds with some of his profuse poetry writing, which he resolutely took every opportunity to sell to unsuspecting Muncaster visitors whom he enjoyed ambushing while thinly disguised as a hard-working gardener.

He was a wonderful communicator, particularly with young people, and was a star turn at some of the SAYFC conferences of the 1970s. He always advised them to be true to themselves, treat others as you would wish to be treated, yet always to stick two fingers up at those in authority and keep them on their toes.

His family said he would be fondly missed and with a smile on their faces by his four daughters, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, as well as a myriad of folk all over the world.