Scotsman obituaries: Richard Cockburn, fighter pilot and pioneering advertising executive

Richard Manners Cockburn, advertising executive. Born: 2 June, 1941 in East Lothian. Died: 3 September, 2022, in East Lothian, aged 81

Richard Cockburn, a pioneering bright light in British advertising in the 1970s-early 1990s, has passed away after a bold but brief battle with CMML.

Brought up with older sister Brenda and brother John on the family farm in Cockburnspath, East Lothian in post-war Britain against a backdrop of rolling arable countryside and the panoramic, elevated views of a sparkling azure North Sea on the horizon, the young Richard was referred to as “Little Flea” by farm workers and locals, for his light frame. The name Flea stuck with him until young adulthood, when after attending Loretto School as a boarder, he became an accomplished point-to-point jockey, before joining the Fleet Air Arm as a naval officer training in Dartmouth, later based in Malta, Lossiemouth and Linton-on-Ouse following in the footsteps of his brother who was to retain the family farm.

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Richard and his fellow officers became what can only be described as real-life Top Gun pilots and he refused to see the films, as in his own words “he really lived it” with many hair-raising stories about his life lived mid-air at super speed as part of HM Forces, remembering proudly this exciting time in his life and those who served beside him.

Richard Cockburn blazed a trail in the 'Mad Men' world
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After retirement at a young age from the Fleet Air Arm and in the knowledge that he was gifted with a talent for writing, an opportunity came calling one day in Edinburgh where he now lived, to join a small Advertising agency, Hall Advertising as a commercial writer. When the owner Bill Hall died suddenly Richard, with two colleagues Vincent Taylor and Ian Colee decided go it alone and launched themselves into the world of the original Mad Men – the 1970s advertising industry with a luminary list of clients, successfully challenging the London big boys for accounts and spawning several niche agencies which are still in operation. Those at the top of their game in the industry today have surely benefited greatly from the foundations laid by Richard and partners. Hall Advertising was eventually sold to Saatchi and Saatchi in 1978 and Richard segued into other fields such as PR, setting up companies Tayburn and Northern Corporate Communications amongst others.

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Early retirement at 50 allowed Richard the chance to travel, living for a time in Majorca and the Alps where he pursued his beloved skiing, finally settling in a small village in East Lothian to live out a peaceful life with his partner Susanna, playing golf at Muirfield and Dunbar, with a group of friends and thoroughly enjoying a slower pace than in his earlier years. Richard leaves behind his partner Susanna and his two daughters Clare and Philippa from his marriage to Leone, as well as six much loved grandchildren. He will be sorely missed.

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