Aberdeenshire farmer, Jack Sleigh, West Fingask, Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire – who saw active wartime service on the Russian convoys and later became chairman of the Royal Highland Show – has died at the age of 95.

Although in a reserved occupation working on his father’s farm of Newseat of Tolquhon, Tarves, Aberdeenshire, Jack enlisted as a volunteer in 1942, joining the Royal Navy after being advised that his first choice of the Royal Marines would give him a short life expectancy.

Following training at Chatham, London, and Campbeltown, Argyll, he was posted to Londonderry to be on stand-by as a replacement for the crews of passing battleships. His first mission was on a corvette, HMS Pennywort, accompanying a convoy to Gibralter, followed by a spell with the destroyer, HMS Duncan, prowling for German U-boats in the North Atlantic.

He later served with the battleship, HMS Anson, including six months at Scapa Flow in Orkney. Anson’s main role was to keep the German Baltic fleet at bay, including the dreaded flagship of the fleet, Tirpitz, which threatened British convoys shipping food and other essential supplies from their Loch Ewe assembly point to Britain’s beleaguered ally, Russia.

Following the end of hostilities in Europe, he was posted to the Far East with the frigate, HMS Taff, serving behind enemy lines in Burma to round-up Japanese prisoners of war.

Demobbed in 1946, he returned to the North-east to start farming the 220-acre West Fingask, the tenancy of which had been acquired by his father during his absence.

But his travels weren’t over and through his father, who was involved in the export of pedigree cattle to North America, he and his friend and best man, the late Bill Maitland, East Balhalgardy, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, took a consignment of Aberdeen-Angus and Beef Shorthorn bulls (along with a number of collie dogs) to Canada in 1948, followed by a tour of the US to take in the stockyards of Chicago and Denver.

He built up a successful farming business at West Fingask, Newseat and Netherton of Mounie, now farmed by his sons, Patrick, Andrew and Philip, specialising in beef cattle (finishing stores bought in Orkney), sheep (building up a strong trade for gimmers at the autumn sales), arable and seed potatoes, and hosted the Royal Northern Agricultural Society’s first ever on-farm arable event at West Fingask, in 1988.

For a time in the 1960s, the family owned Presly’s butcher’s shop in Oldmeldrum, and Jack greatly enjoyed working behind the counter serving his customers, with whom he built up a great rapport, later acquiring the paper shop next door which was run by his late wife, Mary.

He played an active part in Oldmeldrum's community over many years, becoming chairman of the local branch of NFU Scotland, a long-time leader of the Sunday school and elder of Oldmeldrum Parish Church, a Baillie of Bennachie and serving as chairman of the Oldmeldrum Sports, where he welcomed many famous show business stars who came to open the annual event, including the TV actress, Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner, Coronation Street) and the singer, Frankie Vaughan.

He was also instrumental in the reinstatement of the golf course in Oldmeldrum and the building of two club houses, both of which he was asked to officially open and for which he was also made an honorary member.

In the 1980s, he was elected to the board of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, becoming chairman in 1991 and 1992 and leading the development of the Scottish Food Exhibition, which is now an important part of the show and proposing the current Thursday to Sunday format, which has seen attendance at the show soar to almost 200,000 across four days. During his two years as chairman, he hosted visits to the show by the Queen and the Princess Royal.

Jack had the bold idea of inviting the prominent millionaire American businessman, Malcolm Forbes, son of North-east born, Bertie Forbes, founder of the renowned Forbes business magazine, and at the time the beau of English-born film star, Elizabeth Taylor, to become president of the show in the North-east’s year to provide the presidential team.

The prospect of Malcolm walking down the avenue from the 'Big Hoose', at Ingliston, during the Highland Show, with Miss Taylor on his arm, very much appealed to Jack’s sense of occasion.

Contact was made through North-east journalist, Jack Webster, who maintained close contact with the Forbes family, but Malcolm sadly died before what would have been his year of office. However, one of his sons, Steve, a director of Forbes Magazine and later to become a contender for the USA presidency, was able to take on the role in 1992. He flew in for the show on the family jet, Capitalist Tool.

That year, Mr Sleigh’s contribution to North-east agriculture was recognised with the presentation of the Royal Northern Agricultural Society’s annual award for outstanding service to the industry.

In recent times after the ending of the Cold War, servicemen involved in the Arctic conveys received the honours they richly deserved and Jack was proud to be presented with the Ushakov Medal from the Government of Russia which recognised 'bravery and contribution to the defeat of Nazism' to add to his Atlantic Star, Arctic Star and Burma Star from the UK Government. As recently as last May, he attended the annual reunion at Loch Ewe for veterans of the Arctic convoys.

Educated at Tarves School, Aberdeen Grammar School and the North of Scotland College of Agriculture (now part of SRUC) before embarking on his colourful career, Mr Sleigh had a great sense of humour and a story for every occasion. Despite failing health, he continued to take a keen interest in his sons’ farming activities right to the end.

He was predeceased by Mary, his wife of 64 years, in September, 2016, at the age of 88, and is survived by his three sons, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren, as well as two of his four siblings, Mrs Margaret Campbell, and David Sleigh, in Canada. His first son, John, tragically lost his life in a farm accident in 1955 at the age of five.