Queen’s Own Highlander, member of Ellon Men’s Shed and 51st (Highland) Division Territorial Army Major, William Macdonald has died aged 72.
William Macdonald – later known as Bill – was born on July, 19, 1948 in Melvich, Sutherland.
The son of Donald Macdonald, a shepherd, and his wife Catherine (nee Macpherson Ross), Bill was the youngest of five siblings.
With three brothers and one sister, a bustling life surrounded by people was something he was well used to, even before his sights were set on the army.
An ideal childhood
A move to Strathy Point early in his childhood gave Bill and his siblings plenty of scope for adventure in their coastland playground.
Going crabbing in rock pools and playing on the beach was an upbringing which Bill described as idyllic.
An Andrew Carnegie scholarship achieved when he was just 11 earned Bill a place in boarding school.
Although it meant a move further south to Golspie, a life of order suited him and just before his 16th birthday he enlisted with the army on May 11, 1964.
Highlands to Hong Kong
Regimental life would open doors for Bill to experience life throughout the world.
Starting his service in the Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion in Oswestry, Bill progressed and later served within the Signal Platoon of the Queen’s Own Highlanders.
Postings to far flung places like the Trucial States -now known as the United Arab Emirates – gave him a flavour of life across the globe.
Hong Kong, Belize, Germany, Finland, Norway and Brunei would follow.
He would also complete multiple tours to Northern Ireland, experiencing the harsher end of military life, recalling several ‘horrific events’ that he’d witnessed.
A Major achievement
Bill rose through the ranks to Sergeant Major, completing his time in the army on January 12, 1989.
While he’d find plenty to keep him busy in civilian life, a Queen’s Commission saw him return to a uniformed life, this time as part of the 51st (Highland) Division TA, as Major.
Working with young soldiers, and regaling friends and family with tales of serving Queen and Country for 30 years, typified Bill’s pride in the life he lived as a soldier.
Life and love
In 1984, Bill married Sheila Fraser, embracing his new role as husband and step-father to Alison and David.
Proud of his family, they would enjoy regular caravan holidays in Banff.
Sheila and Bill remained happily married, living in Forres, until her death in 2010.
But just as he had done with his army career, Bill found a second chance at happiness when he met Maureen Strachan in October 2012.
Both widowed, the pair tied the knot on Maureen’s 60th birthday, September 8, 2014.
Maureen said: “We just hit it off right away. He was kind, warm and good. He was a really good man.”
In civilian life Bill worked as a computer programmer for Arla Dairies in Nairn.
David said: “What he didn’t know about the milk industry could be written on the back of the stamp! But it was family life that meant the most to Bill.”
As his step children grew up he remained involved in his family’s lives.
“I remember him travelling to meet me in Cairns, Australia where he met Caroline for the first time. He really looked after us for the two weeks he was there.
“I’ve also got fond memories of the Also the first time he and Maureen came to see us in Ireland to meet our son Leon. From then on they were called Grandpa Willie and Nanny Mo.”
Marriage and myeloma
In September 2014, the same month he and Maureen married, Bill became ill with Myeloma.
Having moved from Forres to Aberdeenshire, the bone marrow cancer was eventually subdued and he entered into more than six years of remission.
A proud member of Ellon Men’s Shed, the Probus Club and Ellon Parish Church, he also loved to golf, even organising a golfing fundraiser for Myeloma UK.
Maureen said: “He was a courageous man, and never ever complained. He’d been doing so well for such a long time but when it came back recently a bad reaction to chemotherapy really impacted him.”
Faith and family
Enjoying their years together, Maureen and Bill bought a campervan to tour Scotland.
“They had many adventures in Harriet the Chariot with the slogan, ‘Mo and Bill’ on tour,” said David. “That’s when he wasn’t involved in one of his other activities including church. His faith was solid.”
Maureen and Bill retired the campervan in favour of Billy Bob’s Bothy – a caravan – when his health deteriorated.
Bill also enjoyed being part of Maureen’s extended family with her children Lindsay and Ryan, and their partners Matt and Kelly.
While he was Grandpa Willie to Leon he was Papa Bill to Ryan’s sons Calum and Keir.
Bill passed away just days before his 73rd birthday.
The family started a fundraising initiative which has now raised more than £2,400 for Roxburghe House and Ellon District Nurses.
Maureen added: “I’m sorely missing him already. He was so kind, always doing practical things. We were just so happy. We never got a good run at old age but the time we did have was wonderful.”
David concluded; “He was one in a million.”