29th August 2008 at 01:00


The death of William MacDonald at the age of 86 has robbed Scotland of a leading educationist who, over 40 years, left his mark throughout the country in the work of primary education.

One of four boys, Willie (as he was familiarly known) was born and brought up in Ness, on the island of Lewis, and educated there and in the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway. This was at the beginning of the Second World War and he enlisted in the Royal Navy, joining the coastal commando forces and serving on motor torpedo boats.

Like many others, Willie said little about his experiences in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic, and it was only in recent years that his family came to know of his bravery during that time; that he was mentioned in dispatches and was, in fact, the only surviving member of the original crew of "MTB 634".

On demobilisation, Willie entered Glasgow University to study maths and history, then progressed to Jordanhill College of Education for teacher training.

He began his teaching career in Paisley in 1951 and in 1952 married Marion, whom he had met many years before at school in Stornoway. It was a marriage that was to last 56 years.

From Paisley, he was appointed to Melvich in North Sutherland and, later, appointed as headteacher of Watten Primary in Caithness. Thereafter, he became the first head of a new primary school in Thurso. He finally took up a challenging position as head of the large primary school at Lismore in Edinburgh, where he left his mark before retiring in 1981.

Throughout his life, Willie had many interests and became heavily involved in youth organisations, especially the Boys' Brigade. A lover of all things Scottish, especially music, he put his good voice to use and on occasion taught the Gaelic choir.

He never lost his love of football (we are not sure when he finally hung up his boots) but, in his last years, he was often to be found on a Saturday afternoon in the Jail - that is, the Jail end of Ross County stadium. And if he was not there, he would be in his shed listening intently to the game on radio.

It was probably his involvement in the Prison Fellowship in Saughton and Peterhead that gave him most pleasure. He felt privileged to serve God in this way. He would take prisoners on home visits and entertain them in his own house. In all his ways, he demonstrated that he was a devout Christian man who spoke ill of no-one and looked for good in all things - the very embodiment of the Gospel message.

He is survived by his wife, three sons, two daughters and 11 grandchildren.

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