Alex Stark Passed Away on 13 January 2016

Alex Stark passed away on 13 January 2016 at home in Edinburgh. His final days were spent surrounded by family and friends from throughout his very memorable life.


Alex started working as a stone masonry apprentice in 1952 and remained active and influential in the industry and wider built environment throughout his life.


Alex formed Watson Stonecraft Ltd in 1973 and was appointed Managing Director until his retirement in 2002. Watson Stonecraft became Scotland’s largest natural stone contractor, responsible for the construction, care and restoration of some of Scotland’s most significant architectural heritage.


Alex volunteered considerable time as Scottish Chairman of Stone Federation, founding Director of Scottish Stone Liaison Group and founding member of the Scottish Traditional Building Forum and always championed the cause of trades, ensuring traditional tools and techniques were valued skills.


Alex was heavily involved in raising the profile of Scotland’s traditional buildings to a wide variety of stakeholders through the Scottish Traditional Building Forum and his involvement ensured that traditional building skills and materials had a high profile within the Scottish Parliament and other stakeholders.


Alex was been instrumental in numerous initiatives and was involved at the outset of the Scottish Stone Liaison Group and influential in the preparation of “Safeguarding Glasgow’s Stone-Built Heritage” which highlighted the condition of Glasgow’s traditional buildings and the skills required to repair and maintain them.


Alex continued this quest by actively raising the issues to stakeholders and using his positive working relationship to develop collaborative approaches to addressing these.


During his 61 years’ service to the stone industry (only interrupted by National Service) he gained an irreplaceable degree of knowledge which he happily shared. He had an unfailing degree of fortitude and a willingness to recognise and adapt to change.


Alex had a worthy capacity to listen and respect alternative viewpoints while promoting his own views and had earned universal respect from all his peers in the Natural Stone Industry. He has also left a legacy of successful projects and well qualified and experienced tradesmen, many of whom have gone on to run their own successful companies which carry on his high standards in repairing and maintaining Scotland’s traditional buildings for future generations to enjoy.


Alex will be remembered for a long time for his positive impact on the stone industry.


Alex Stark at ETBFestival 1 Alex Stark and other SFGB at Garden Lobby

Traditional Skills Training Event, Edinburgh Castle. Monday May 21st. Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop with (from left) David Mitchell, Director of Conservation Historic Scotland; Hugh McCafferty, ConstructionSkills; Walter Kerr, ConstructionSkills; John Whittaker, Head of Training and Development Historic Scotland; Martin Vevers, Managing Director of Forth Stone and Stone Federation Great Britain; John Laing, Telford College; Alex Stark, Stone Engineering; Graeme Millar, National Federation of Roofing Contractors Scotland; Bob Coutts, Telford College; Sharon McCue-Livingston, Telford College; Principal Miles Dibsdall OBE, Telford College and Damien Yeates, Chief Executive of Skills Development Scotland.



John McKinney


  • John McKinney

    14.01.2016 at 13:22 Reply

    Jane Buxey, Stone Federation Chief Executive, added her praise of Alex and said:

    “He was an amazing character and always willing to promote the craft of stone masonry and the industry he loved with a passion. He was a great supporter of the Federation and personally, he helped me and gave me his sage advice when needed. We at Stone Federation will miss him and will never see his like again.”

    Martin Vevers, Forth Stone, :

    “he was a cornerstone in promoting stone masonry and I am not ashamed to say that I took his principles and ideas when we, as a company, decided to employ apprentices. He was instrumental in creating generations of highly skilled masons within Scotland – just one of his many legacies !!!”

  • Garry Laing

    14.01.2016 at 16:42 Reply

    I had just finished my 4 year apprenticeship as a Stone Cutter when Alex gave me the opportunity to join Watsons Stonecraft in 1985. If it wasn’t for the skills I learned there I would not be in the position of owning and running my own stonemasonry business today, up in Morayshire. He took a chance on me, employing me as a Banker Mason, knowing fine after a couple of days I didn’t have much idea, but he stuck with me, even coming out of his office a few times, grabbing the tools and showing me where I was going wrong. Later on he met me in Elgin, when I joined the SFGB. A very genuine and kind man, and I will miss seeing his face in all the news letters. RIP Alex, “till the day dawn”

    • John McKinney

      14.01.2016 at 17:02 Reply

      Thank you Garry, very well put.

  • Stephen sheridan

    14.01.2016 at 20:38 Reply

    John, what a great article and a fitting tribute to a great man and expert in his field.

    • John McKinney

      15.01.2016 at 09:06 Reply

      Thank you Stephen, you are right that Alex was a great man and acknowledged as an expert in his field. He gave so much to the stone industry and has left a lasting and long legacy.

  • Richard Groom

    15.01.2016 at 16:02 Reply

    His passing was so horrifically sudden, he was a mentor to so many of us in all aspects of the stone industry and beyond. One of my many fond memories of time with him is regular-ish journeys to London and back on the train to take part in National Occupational Standards meetings – ‘nosh’ as he called them. We’d take it in turns to provide the half bottle that was opened on the way back as we passed the Angel of the North. His dedicated note taking memory and mental filing system ensured that, if he was involved, nothing got missed. His wisdom, experience and knowledge cannot be replaced.

    • John McKinney

      15.01.2016 at 16:12 Reply

      Very well put Richard. A great loss.

  • John McKinney

    18.01.2016 at 16:05 Reply

    Fiona MacDonald – Conservation Architect & Grants Manager – Edinburgh World Heritage
    Thank you for letting me know this sad news. I was truly shocked to hear of Alex’s sudden death – he will be greatly missed.

    He will long be remembered for the first-class conservation projects he delivered with Watsons, for his warmth as a person and for his inspiration to others, on and off site.

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