Alpha Gamma Rho, and Eta chapter in particular, has lost one of its most illustrious alums.  “Scotty” Buchanan-Smith, more formally known as Lord Balerno, recently passed away at the age of 85 in his farm home near Edinburgh.

    Internationally acclaimed as a agricultural scientist, he also was a top leader in his church and in the Conservative Party in Scotland, and had a distinguished record in the military, where, as an 18 year old platoon commander, he experience front line action in WWI and was a Brigadier General in WWII.

    In recognition of his many contributions as a farmer, teacher, soldier, lay church leader, and party official, he was Knighted Sir Alick by Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1956.  Seven years later Queen Elizabeth, mindful of Sir Alick’s continued services in academics and government, again honored the Eta AGR by joining Prime Minister Harold McMillan in granting a life peerage,  In taking the title, Baron Balerno of Currie, Lord Balerno paid homage to his home community in Midlothian – the town of Balerno – where his House of Cockburn farm is located.

    The son of the head of the University of Aberdeen, the youngest Scotsman became interested in Agriculture at an early age.  After graduating at Aberdeen, he was determined to attend and American University featuring agriculture.  An invitation from the late Dean Kildee resulted in his coming to Ames, where he was warmly welcomed, quickly enrolled, and soon thereafter became identified with Eta chapter to begin a lifelong love affair with AGR.

    His many talents, impeccable character, delightful personality, boundless energy, good humor, and outstanding ability in many fields quickly endeared him both in the fraternity and on the campus.

    “Scotty’s” enthusiasm for Alpha Gamma Rho knew no bounds.  His two farms near Edinburgh, widely recognized as amount Scotland’s most progressive, were the site of hundreds of visits by AGRs, as well as a major attraction for many ISU TravelTour Study groups.  Brothers who visited his home at Balerno were always accorded the same royal treatment he gave Prime Ministers and other distinguished callers.

    Both before and after being knighted, Sir Alick served on a number of major agricultural boards and commissions, including the UK Pig Development Authority.  Official assignments frequently took him to the US.  No visit was ever made to Iowa without a call at 201 Gray Avenue and a gathering with AGR brothers both old and new.

    When Eta’s 50th Anniversary was observed in 1964, Lord Balerno graciously accepted the invitation to serve as featured speaker, thereby renewing his acquaintance with hundreds of AGR brothers.  A few years later, in 1967, he was awarded ISU’s highest Honors Day recognition.  In the scholarly address made to some 600 of Iowa State’s most distinguished alums, he devoted an entire paragraph to the prominent role Alpha Gamma Rho and Eta Chapter had played in his life.

    He was not the only member of his family to become an AGR at Eta.  When his youngest son, Jock Buchanan-Smith, indicated an interest in attending an American University, his father strongly urged him to consider ISU for academics and Eta for a college home.  Soon thereafter Jock became an AGR.  The same applies to Lord Balerno’s grandson, George Corsar, as well as to Jasper and other promising young Scotsmen.

    In addition to Jock, now Dr. Buchanan-Smith, a leader in the filed of animal nutrition at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, who owns and lives with his family on a stock farm near the University, three other children survive.  They are Mary, the oldest, mother of George, and herself a leader in Scottish farm women’s organizations; Alick II, a member of Parliament and former Minister of Agriculture for Scotland, now serving as Energy Minister; and Robin, a prominent clergyman.  Balerno’s wife, Kathleen was killed in a tragic fall during a 1947 family holiday.

    It would require volumes to list off of the distinguished Scottish AGR’s accomplishments.  Responsibilities were thrust upon him by the score and honors accorded him by the dozens.

    Word of Lord Balerno’s passing resulted in glowing editorial tributes in the London Times, Daily Telegraph, Glasgow Herald, Aberdeen Journal, Dundee Courier, The Scotsman and other leading newspapers and magazines, all praising his military courage and achievements in two world wars, agricultural accomplishments in the classroom and on official boards, as well as a practical farmer, and for his leadership in the Conservative Party, Church of Scotland, Royal Scottish Society, Boy‘s Brigade and much else.

    In addition to Knighthood and the Peerage, Lord Balerno was named Honorary Colonel by the famed Gordon Highlanders, President of the Scottish Union Party and of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Commissioner of the General Assembly of the Church of Churches, Chairman of the Pig Authority, treasurer of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Chairman of Harat Watt University and was accorded an honorary appointment as Commander of the British Empire by King George.

    “Scotty” has now gone to his reward and the men of Eta, along with the other AGR’s, bow in reverent tribute to his memory.


[i] This article appeared in the Eta Crescent, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, Fall, 1984,
[ii]Herb Plambeck was the long time farm news director of WHO Radio/TV, Des Moines, Iowa.


How Lord Balerno became an AGR

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