Published: 29/05/2009 00:00 - Updated: 29/11/2011 10:26

Baron of Balvenie, noted benefactor

Charles Beck Harman Nicholson
Charles Beck Harman Nicholson

AN American who held the title of Baron of Balvenie and established links with groups at Dufftown has died aged 88.

As Baron, Charles Beck Harman Nicholson was the holder of the ancient Castle of Balvenie in Dufftown, and was honorary president of Dufftown and District Highland Games, a patron of Dufftown Horticultural Society and a benefactor of the ancient Mortlach Church and Stephen Hospital, which he visited whenever he was in the area.

A native of Columbus, Georgia, he acquired the Balvenie title in 1998, and first attended the Dufftown Games in 2001, when his flag led the procession into the games field.

Mr Nicholson was a pioneer of the Coca-Cola business in Italy, where he lived for 37 years. He was chairman of two subsidiaries of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation in Italy, and retired to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1985.

He had joined the Coca-Cola Company in New York in 1946 his father, Hammond, had been a former chairman and worked as a sales representative in Vienna, Austria, before being assigned in 1948 to Milan, where he held various senior managerial positions, including deputy general manager of the Italian division.

Educated in Atlanta, Toronto and London, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature at Princeton University in 1942. During World War II, he served in the United States Army in Europe.

In retirement, Mr Nicholson pursued a long-held interest in Scottish matters which stemmed from his mothers family links with the Hebrides, and he and his late brother, Burke Nicholson of Balvenie, became founders in Edinburgh of the New Museum of Scotland, and major supporters of the recently completed restoration of the Thistle Chapel of Saint Giles Cathedral.

As well as being Baron of Balvenie, he was deeply involved for more than two decades in the worldwide affairs of the Highland Clan MacNicol, as archivist to the chief, as chieftain and chairman of the Highland Clan MacNeacail Federation. A founding member and director of the Clan MacNicol Society of North America, and a trustee of Urras Clann MhicNeacail on the Isle of Skye, he participated in the purchase and reforestation of the ancestral clan land on the island.

Mr Nicholson was editor of the definitive book of the clans history, a history of the Nicolsons of Scorrybreac, co-authored by the now Lord Lyon King of Arms, W. David H. Sellar, and the late Dr Alasdair Maclean.

His generosity made it possible for every active member of the Clan MacNicol worldwide to receive a complimentary copy of this history, a gift which will extend to all future new members of the Clan.

In Atlanta, he played a significant philanthropic role. He donated the Nicholson Gallery to the new Museum of the Atlanta Historical Society, and was a major contributor to the Olympics Monument at Pershing Point, as well as a patron of the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Atlanta Opera.

Mr Nicholson was also a member of the Capital City Club in Atlanta; the Princeton Club of New York; the English-Speaking Union, and the Churchill Society. As a life member of the Presidents Club of Mercer University, he endowed the Nicholson Scholarship for a semesters undergraduate study at Oxford University.

Mr Nicholson, a bachelor, bequeathed the Barony and Castle of Balvenie to his nephew, Jeremy Duncan Nicholson of Atlanta, who has been visiting Scotland and Dufftown annually since 1997, and has held senior positions in the Highland Clan MacNicol in North America and Scotland.

Among those attending the funeral in Atlanta was Highland Clan MacNicol chief, John MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac who, along with his wife, Jenni, flew to the US from their home in Ballina, New South Wales, Australia.

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