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Obit: RAVEN: Andrew Owen Earle Raven-2/10/2005>UK

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Obit: RAVEN: Andrew Owen Earle Raven-2/10/2005>UK

Posted: 1129390666000
Classification: Obituary
Edited: 1164831543000
Surnames: Raven
Andrew Raven
(Filed: 08/10/2005)
The Daily Telegraph and the

Andrew Raven, who died on October 2 aged 46, was one of the most committed and influential contributors to modern land policy in Scotland; he had the deepest and widest knowledge of Land Reform of any Scottish landowner and in a series of appointments steered what might have been a set of rather traditional Scottish institutions towards a more radical future.

Rural Scotland was for Raven a passion and a purpose. The complex threads of his own background shaped his life. His grandfather, Charles Raven, Regius Professor of Divinity and Vice-Chancellor at Cambridge, had been a deeply committed Socialist and pacifist in the 1930s. His father, John Raven, was a Greek scholar who co-wrote the standard work on the Pre-Socratic philosophers, and a conscientious objector in the war. As Senior Tutor at King's, Cambridge, in the 1960s, he had turned the college to the Left, telling public schools that their boys could no longer expect to swan in as before.

To this combination of scholarly precision and radical egalitarianism, the Ravens added a third element: deep love of the natural world. Charles Raven was a brilliantly gifted field naturalist and historian of botany; John Raven a leading expert on Mediterranean and British mountain flowers. From his mother's side, the Hugh Smiths of Hay's Wharf, Andrew Raven inherited not only a 19th-century tradition of patrician and Liberal service to the community and a belief in the duty of stewardship, but the place in which these various threads could find their fulfilment.

His mother's father, Owen Hugh Smith, had in 1930 bought the 35,000-acre Ardtornish estate on the Morvern peninsula in western Lochaber. It became the most important place in Andrew Raven's life.

Andrew Owen Earle Raven was born on January 22 1959. In 1983, after Marlborough, a BA in Architecture at Bristol and a period learning furniture-making in Edinburgh, he took a postgraduate course in Land Economy at Aberdeen University. Fired by his love of Ardtornish, he was already driven by plans to take on the sleepy world of rural land agency and "do it properly" - putting the rural community, a vital economy and a genuine understanding of the environment at its heart. After leaving Aberdeen in 1985, Raven joined the private land agency Smiths Gore, in Edinburgh, where he was also seconded to the Nature Conservancy Council. He managed a variety of rural estates, steering many of them towards a more sophisticated environmental policy.

In 1989 he became a trustee of the John Muir Trust, the landowning charity then beginning to acquire large slices of the Highlands, in Knoydart and elsewhere. In 1992 he became a member of the Council of the Rural Forum, the highly influential group which for the first time brought together rural communities and Scottish policy-makers. Three years later he joined the Scottish Consumer Council, seeing himself there as the voice of rural Scotland in consumer affairs.

His passion was at root intellectual. "I think I know about ideas," he once told his mother, "but I think I would like to know more about people."

Raven was a shy man, who did not like social chit-chat and could at times be brusque and even frightening. But with those he trusted and liked he could reveal a deeply warm, affectionate and generous nature. He loved his friendships and had a rare ability, even with new acquaintances, to go beyond the superficial, quickly talking about what mattered to him and what he believed in.

He often entertained his friends to large, meaty dinners which he cooked himself, delivering up dish after dish of beef, venison, lobster and prawns, over which the future of Scotland would be hammered out again and again. From the late 1980s onwards, together with his schoolfriend Angus Robertson, and building on the tradition which his mother's family had long established, he had guided the estate towards his vision of a better future. In some ways, Ardtornish was a laboratory for those ideas, if always in the context of the necessity for it to pay its way.

Scotland is full of estates regarded as playgrounds, sources of roadstone or places which can be allowed to sink gradually into boggy neglect. That was not to be the future for Ardtornish. With 15 full-time staff and the same number of part-time workers, it was a community that needed a sustained strategic direction if it was to survive. It had to be financially self-sufficient and it had to look after its own environment. Nothing was more important in Andrew Raven's life than the integration of these three aims, whether in Ardtornish or in Scotland as a whole.

As a result, the number employed at Ardtornish has risen and there is continuity in employment. A third generation of the Lauries, the Ardtornish shepherds, is now working there; 1,700 acres of new and regenerating woodland have been fenced off from deer; another 1,500 acres of encroaching rhododendron ponticum have been cleared. A hydro-electric scheme has been installed; holiday-makers stay in the estate cottages and in flats in the big house; the picky blackface sheep are being replaced by far more environmentally friendly cows, which eat anything.

Remarkably, for a Highland farm, the Ardtornish books now show, for the first time, a very slight profit. The secret of Raven's success was an ability to keep gently plugging away, getting neither angry nor discouraged, but slowly and systematically working to have his aims realised.

In 1995 Raven embarked on the last phase of his life, leaving Smiths Gore and moving into the public sphere. He became, first, Director of Land Management for the John Muir Trust - a role, as he said, which was "not just preaching but practising, and joining the two up". Raven was instrumental in the Trust's acquiring one of the grandest of all Scottish coastal landscapes, the beautiful Sandwood estate in the far north-west of Sutherland.

His growing reputation for hard work, integrity, political acuity, analytical skills, a wide-ranging memory, an unswerving commitment to the common good and an integrated vision of land, community and culture led to his appointment in 1998 to the chair of the Deer Commission for Scotland. Over six years, he transformed this half-forgotten and lacklustre organisation into a leading driver of Scottish land policy, establishing the need to reduce the burgeoning deer herd in Scotland, which was eating the country down to its bones.

Facing down the entrenched landed interests, Raven showed that he was prepared, often against fierce and angry opposition, to impose an integrated view of the Highland environment upon those who simply thought: "the more deer the better."

He had been a Trustee of the £30 million project for a Millennium Forest for Scotland, and in 2000 he was appointed a Commissioner of the Forestry Commission, becoming the chairman of its National Committee for Scotland in 2003. Amidst all this activity, he was also able to chair, since 2001, the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, the government-funded research institution in Aberdeen whose purpose is to provide a long-term, strategic view of the physical, environmental, and social consequences of land use, precisely the concerns that had been central to Andrew Raven's life.

He was appointed OBE earlier this year.

In 1998 Raven was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He and his wife Amanda, a partner in the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, whom he had married in 1987 and with whom he had shared a lifelong delight in the arts in all their forms, bore his illness and the repeated bouts of treatment with good humour and without self-pity.

Andrew Raven worked until the end, his papers spread out on the bed in front of him.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

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