Duncan Drummond Young


Born: 22 May, 1914, in Edinburgh. Died: 22 February, 2007, in Edinburgh, aged 92.

DUNCAN Drummond Young was one of the most distinguished of Edinburgh Town Councillors, whose work on behalf of the homeless created far-reaching social changes throughout the city. He was widely respected in the City Chambers for that pioneering work and his no-nonsense approach to politics. Drummond Young encouraged private companies to rebuild houses and then sell them to people who wanted to live in them.

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He recognised that the 1974 Housing Act radically altered occupancy law and plans of renovation could be inaugurated that revitalised rundown areas such as West Pilton. The process was soon followed throughout Scotland.

Drummond Young was, in 1975, the founder and first member of the Gorgie Dalry Housing Association. He went on to serve on their board for 18 years. His enthusiasm and commitment to the association (now the Dunedin Canmore Housing Association) was recorded in the annual statement of 1993 with a glowing tribute: "Drummond Young's immeasurable contribution to the association was based on his vision and years of unstinting service."

Roy A Walker, the current group secretary, said: "The association has undergone a major change since Duncan Drummond's time, but he remained a member of Dunedin Canmore until his death and helped to create a platform which allowed us to get to where we are today."

Duncan Drummond Young was the son of a photographer and artist whose photographic shop in Queensferry Street, in Edinburgh's west end, was much frequented. His father had taken a formal photograph of King George VI at Buckingham Palace. He was educated at the Royal High School and firstly went to work for the stockbrokers Bell Cowan, in St Andrew Square.

At the outbreak of war, as a member of the Edinburgh TA, Drummond Young was assigned to anti-aircraft defences, mostly guarding the Forth Bridge. In 1941, he was dispatched to the Indian Army where he served for the rest of the war: mostly in New Delhi in charge of all vehicles. He was demobbed with the rank of major.

On returning to Edinburgh, he joined the family photography firm, and with canny foresight expanded the business into photocopying and printing. His interest in politics was growing, however, and he travelled throughout Scotland speaking on behalf of the Conservatives. He was a gifted orator and had an immediate honesty which voters appreciated. Drummond Young always dealt with hecklers in a courteous and good humoured manner. He seldom used a microphone, preferring a soap box and a good argument.

He was unsuccessful in the 1955 general election when he stood in Kirkcaldy - then, as now, a Labour stronghold. Nevertheless, Drummond Young turned to Edinburgh, winning the Newington ward in 1959. From 1968, he represented the Dean ward, St Andrew ward and thereafter Stockbridge. Throughout, he remained active within the party and was chairman of North Edinburgh Conservatives, but he concentrated his energies on local politics and his charm and wit were to grace the corridors of the City Chambers until 1984.

His principal contribution as a councillor was as chairman of the housing committee. Drummond Young wanted to improve the quality of housing throughout the capital and believed that the sheer concentration of families within an area such as Wester Hailes increased crime, social deprivation and destroyed the family unit. He felt that rather than renting, a family should own a direct investment in the property. The physical ownership of bricks and mortar could, he believed, help alleviate many social problems.

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In West Pilton, Drummond Young set in force an initiative in which a private scheme financed the upgrading of the council houses. He closely examined the situation in Dalry Road and Gorgie Road which had many well-built tenement properties, but all desperately needed modernisation. After the Housing Act of 1974, government funding was available for housing associations and Drummond Young set up the Gorgie-Dalry Housing Association to acquire tenement blocks. These were then renovated and rented back to the existing tenants. Later, Drummond Young pioneered the right-to-buy scheme, which has helped many get a foot on the property ladder. The success of Drummond Young's urban regeneration plans, undoubtedly, enhanced and benefited many Edinburgh families.

Drummond Young's involvement in public affairs were based on his sound and committed Christian beliefs. He was a devout Roman Catholic and a devoted family man.

Always immaculately dressed with a ready smile and warm eyes behind horn-rimmed spectacles, Drummond Young was everyone's favourite uncle. Whether at the City Chambers or on duty as a baillie, he puffed merrily on his pipe in a kindly, avuncular manner. He was awarded the MBE in 1953.

Kenneth Ferguson, a fellow Edinburgh councillor, spoke warmly of his former colleague: "From the moment I joined the council, in 1979, Duncan welcomed me with open arms. He and his wise counsel were an inspiration to me and others of all political parties and none.

"Duncan was highly principled, a man of few words and always his own man. He was an outstanding citizen of Edinburgh."

Duncan Drummond Young married Annette Mackay in 1945. She died in 1995 and he is survived by their son (Lord James Drummond Young) and a daughter.

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