Ruari McLean

Graphic designer and typographer

Born: 10 June, 1917, in Galloway.

Died: 27 March, 2006, in Dollar, aged 88.

RUARI McLean was an internationally recognised graphic artist whose work covered a wide range of designs in a huge variety of publications. His book covers and designs for magazines such as the Observer Weekend Review, the Economist and the New Scientist offered fine examples of his craft, as did his work for academic books - notably WL Lorimer's New Testament in Scots. But generations of children will best remember his thrilling and modernistic drawings for the popular Eagle comic in the 1950s and 1960s. McLean operated, from the 1970s, from an office in Dollar and became a popular figure on the Isle of Mull, where he also had a home.

John David Ruari McDowall Hardie McLean was the son of a customs officer stationed at Newton Stewart, but his parents moved south, close to Oxford, when he was eight.

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He attended Eastbourne College and trained as a printer at the Edinburgh School of Printing. In 1938 he joined J Walter Thompson and, on the outbreak of war, declared himself a pacifist.

However, by the end of 1939, McLean had joined the Royal Naval Reserve and had a most distinguished war. He served in naval intelligence and was a liaison officer with the Free French, operating in submarines off the coast of Norway.

McLean also led several raiding parties on beaches leading up to D-Day. He was awarded the DSC and the Croix de Guerre and wrote of his war experiences in his book Half Seas Under.

McLean returned to publishing and, after a few years with Penguin, he taught at the Royal College of Art in London. He met a Lancashire parson in the early 1950s, Rev Marcus Morris, who had an imaginative - some thought foolhardy - scheme for a boys' comic that captured the mood of the era. He called it the Eagle and McLean produced the groundbreaking graphics.

Every Friday Dan Dare would save the world from the Mekon; on the back page there was a biography of a war leader or an icon of the day. In the middle was always a magnificent graphic design by McLean of the latest, car, ship or aeroplane.

McLean was also involved in supplying drawings for the first About Britain guide and the quarterly magazine Motif. After producing the Victorian Book of Design and Colour Printing in 1963, McLean succeeded Sir Francis Meynell as typographer adviser to the Stationery Office. At this time, he also contributed widely to periodicals and magazines, many of which were expanding rapidly with the arrival of colour printing.

In 1973 McLean decided to leave London and bought a house outside Dollar where he could work under more agreeable conditions and enjoy the countryside nearby. Several important national projects were entrusted to him - apart from the New Testament he designed the Concise Scots Dictionary, a biography of the engraver Benjamin Fawcett and a well-received Manual of Typography.

In 1981 he became a trustee of the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and contributed widely to its printed material: especially the annual report. He was an active supporter of the NLS's exhibitions and events.

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Ian McGowan, a colleague at the NLS recalls: "Ruari had a wonderful eye for detail, and set an exacting standard for library publications. In 1994 the NLS benefited from a generous donation by Ruari of his working library of typography."

The McLeans had long kept a second home at Carsaig on the south coast of Mull, and, on his retirement in 1981, McLean moved there permanently. He loved the island and spent many happy hours diving off its coast. In 1990 he produced, for the Scottish Sub-Aqua Club, a book of diving cartoons.

His own personal books - amassed over 40 years - proved a major problem. McLean was loath to discard any and eventually decided to have a log cabin built to house them. In some state, the cabin was delivered already assembled and sailed into the bay by Pier Cottage amid much local excitement.

McLean continued to write and contributed to several learned publications. He was awarded the CBE in 1973. In later years he moved back to Dollar.

He married Antonia Maxwell Carlisle in 1945. She died in 1995, and he is survived by their daughter and two sons.

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