David Arthur, Kenyan born founding member of Samaritans in Scotland, dies aged 88

David Arthur
David Arthur.

Well respected Helensburgh headmaster and founding member of the Samaritans in Scotland, David Sloan Coullie Arthur MBE, died aged 88 On December 28, 2018.

Born in Kikuyu, Kenya, where his father was a Church of Scotland medical missionary, David’s education began at boarding school in Turi before the family returned to Scotland in 1937. He briefly attended St Trinnean’s in Edinburgh but completed most of his school years at the capital’s Loretto School.

While studying at Edinburgh University he met Mary Frost who he married in 1954, in the middle of his two years’ National Service. Stationed in Germany, the bridegroom had to return there after the honeymoon.

He initially harboured ambitions of working in the Foreign Office as a Governor in an outpost of the British Empire. However, the fall of the Empire put paid to that ambition and he instead turned his attention to teaching.

His desire to help others came from his early life and the influence of missionary work. However he was unsure whether he could adopt his parents’ faith but the emergence of Anglican clergyman Chad Varah’s crusade to combat suicides gave him the impetus he needed.

He had first heard of the organisation’s work to combat suicide while listening to a Radio Luxembourg broadcast in the 1950s and soon afterwards, the London-based priest appeared in a Scottish newspaper inviting anyone interested in forming a helpline to get in touch.

Arthur replied to the call and a week later Varah rang and asked him to organise a funeral for someone who had committed suicide. Following a subsequent meeting with others who had also been moved to volunteer, a Samaritans telephone service was launched in Edinburgh.

He went on to devote more than 40 years to the cause, served as its chairman and was made an MBE for his contribution.

At the same time he pursued his teaching career and worked in fund-raising for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

He also served as Helensburgh Rotary Club president and director of Helensburgh Heritage Trust.

His book, An Avenue in Time, covered the remarkable life of his father and his legacy in Kenya, as well as his own achievements and a history of various parts of Scotland.

Arthur was predeceased by his wife and their youngest child Catriona and is survived by daughters Gillian and Seonaid, five grandchildren and a great grandson.

A private family cremation took place on Saturday, January 12 followed by a service and celebration of Mr Arthur’s life in Helensburgh Parish Church 

Leave a Reply