Former Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire and father of Hollywood star dies, aged 93

Major-General Sir John Swinton, who died at home, aged 93, last week.
Major-General Sir John Swinton, who died at home, aged 93, last week.

A hugely popular Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire, who was born exactly one year before the Queen, has died, aged 93.

Major-General Sir John Swinton’s passing will be met with great sadness among his many friends in Berwickshire and beyond.

The father of well-known actress Tilda Swinton, John died peacefully at the age of 93 at home at Kimmerghame, near Duns, in the early hours of Thursday, October 4.

The son of Brigadier Alan Henry Campbell Swinton and his wife Mariora, John was born on April 21, 1925, appropriately sharing that birthday with the Queen, albeit being born exactly one year previous.

He was educated at Harrow School, in London. Commissioned into the family regiment – The Scots Guards – in 1944, he saw active service in NW Europe, being wounded twice.

He celebrated VE Day in a hospital ship returning to the UK, having lost a leg at a place very close to where his father had suffered a similar wound in the Great War.

He saw further active service in Malaya from 1948 to 1951, being mentioned in dispatches.

He was Aide-De-Camps to Field Marshall Sir William Slim, Governor General of Australia, and it was there that he met and married Judith.

The couple went on to have three sons, James, Alexander and William, and one daughter, Tilda.

John commanded the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards from 1966 to 1968, the 4th Guards Armoured Brigade as a Brigadier between 1972 and 1973, followed by the Scottish Lowlands, centred on Edinburgh Castle, from 1975 to 1976.

He was then appointed general officer commanding London District, as Major-General commanding the Household Division from 1976 to 1979, being appointed KCVO on relinquishing that command.

During that time, he organised the state funeral of Lord Mountbatten and was in charge of London’s emergency services during the fireman’s strike.

He had held the title of Lord Lieutenant for Berwickshire from 1989 to 2000, succeeding the late Lieutenant-Colonel Sir William Swan.

During this time, he organised a number of royal visits, including a highly successful one by the Queen and Prince Phillip in 1994.

In addition to being Lord Lieutenant, John Swinton held many other positions including chairmanships of The Royal British Legion Scotland, Borders Area SAAFA, the Berwick Military Tattoo, the Thirlestane Castle Trust and the Berwickshire Civic Society.

He was not a man who could be an idler.

He was a member of the Queens Bodyguard for Scotland (The Royal Company of Archers), and was captain from 2003 to 2007.

He enjoyed fishing and shooting, being active in both into his 90s. Most of all he enjoyed being at home with his family at Kimmerghame.