Fascinating life of local man

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Former British Ambassador Brian Buik Low CBE has died at home in Carnoustie, on October 28, 2015, after a short illness.

Born on November 15, 1937, in Glamis, he was raised by his grandmother in Carnoustie, along with his brother John. He went to Arbroath High School and was later selected to attend the secret Joint Services School for Linguists (JSSL).

The JSSL was a government initiative to put 5,000 of the best and brightest national service men through intensive training as Russian translators and interpreters to meet the needs of its intelligence operation. Its pupils included a remarkable cross section of talented young men, who went on to achieve great things including Alan Bennett, Dennis Potter, Micheal Frayn, stage director Sir Peter Hall and former governor of the Bank of England Eddie George.

Having spent six months at Crail Brian was posted to Hong Kong to do his National Service, where he listened in to Russian communications with China. He met his future wife Anita, an English Red Cross nurse, when he went to donate blood and they married in 1960 at St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong. Their first child Andrea was born in Hong Kong in 1961. On their return to London, Brian applied to the Foreign Office and was successfully appointed to Her Majesty’s Diplomatic service in 1962. Brian and Anita went on to have two more daughters, Fiona and Polly.

Thereafter followed an interesting and eventful career. His Russian served him well. He was posted to Moscow in the early seventies at the height of the Cold War. In 1991 when the UK re-established diplomatic links with Estonia, following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Brian became the first post-war British ambassador. Brian set the Embassy up from scratch, initially from a hotel room. He was in Tallin, when the MS Estonia sank on September 28, 1994, on route from Tallin to Stockholm, claiming 852 lives, including one Briton. It is the deadliest shipwreck to have occurred in Europe in peace time and Brian wrote a very moving account in his dispatch to London.

His final posting was to Papua New Guinea, as British High Commissioner, where he received Pope John Paul II. He was involved in the infamous Sandline affair, a political scandal that became one of the defining moments in the history of Papua New Guinea. Sandline International was a private military company, based in London, which was involved in conflicts in Papua New Guinea, having a contract with the government under the then Prime Minister Julius Chan. It brought down the government of Sir Julius Chan, and took Papua New Guinea to the verge of military revolt. In the process Brian arranged the release, and possibly saved the life of former Scots Guard Major Tim Spicer, who had been imprisoned in an abandoned and rusting landing craft in Port Moresby Bay.

Brian was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1994.

Always a proud Scot, Brian returned to Carnoustie on retirement, where he became a familiar and well-respected member of the local community, involving himself in the British Legion, the Probus and the Rotary club. In his spare time he enjoyed playing golf, becoming captain of the Carnoustie Golf Club. Brian was a great raconteur and a generous, sociable man, who is survived by his beloved wife Anita, his three daughters Andrea, Fiona and Polly and his grandchildren Jack, Jess, Alice, Shirley, Ollie and Emma.

The funeral service was held in Panbride Country Church, Carnoustie, on Monday, November 9, prior to the committal service at Parkgrove Crematorium.