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Long-time Arran resident Owen Swindale has died at the age of 94.
Owen was a man with many and varied gifts. He was first and foremost a musician. He taught harmony and counterpoint for more than a decade at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow and wrote a textbook on music, Polyphonic Composition. He played piano, recorder, horn and violin and composed music for these instruments.
But the majority of his life was spent working as a craftsman, living on Arran designing and making jewellery with gold and silver and semi-precious stones. This was sold, first at his workshop in Whiting Bay, then at the Jewellery Workshop – now the Red Door – in Brodick. He also painted and wrote poetry, much of it about Arran and the imagined lives of its previous inhabitants.
He was born into a working-class family in the East End of London. By 1941, both his parents had died and he was looked after by his aunt. He stayed in London during the blitz, studying the piano and earning a living odd-jobbing as a horn player.
Shortly after the war he met Tessa, the love of his life. They married in 1947 when Tessa was 18 and Owen was 20. They moved to Edinburgh where Owen became a student at the university. While there, he conducted the student orchestra and worked as a music critic for the Scotsman newspaper. Not long after graduating, he was recruited to teach at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which he did from 1956 until 1970.
The connection with Arran began at this time, first with hostelling and camping holidays with his young family, then when the birth of a fourth child made camping too impractical, continuing with the purchase of a semi-derelict cottage in Pirnmill. The family visited at every opportunity and Owen rebuilt the ruined half of the building and restored the interior.
In 1970, Owen gave up teaching to begin a new career as a jeweller. The cottage was sold and he and Tessa moved to Malvern, Worcestershire. But the connection with the island proved impossible to break and by 1980 they were back, living at Shawfield, Whiting Bay. Tessa worked as the island chiropodist and, in his spare time, Owen became involved with musical groups, putting on chamber concerts in the 1990s in Corrie, Brodick and Whiting Bay. He also painted, resumed composing and published music during this time.
He and Tessa had many friends on and off the island who valued Owen for his friendship and his many and varied intellectual gifts. Among his legacies are his musical teaching, compositions and performances, while his jewellery must have given satisfaction and pleasure to countless customers. There will be many who still wear and treasure his engagement and wedding rings and other pieces.
In Owen’s final years he was looked after by members of the island care at home team. The family expresses its deep gratitude to all of them for their love and care. He is survived by his four children, Nicholas, Ian, Amelia and Mark and grandson Thomas.