A former first minister has led tributes to a west coast crofter who “could start a party in an empty room, and often did”.
Donald John MacInnes rose to the top of several leading organisations and was for many years chief executive of Scotland Europa – making him effectively the nation’s ambassador in Europe.
Fellow crofters raised the alarm on Monday when Mr MacInnes failed to return to his home at Cravadale, near Huisinish on the Isle of Harris, after going to gather sheep.
After a search involving around 20 coastguards from the Scalpay, Stornoway and Tarbert, the 72-year-old was found by a local group in a difficult location.
He was airlifted to Western Isles Hospital at Stornoway where he died.
Tributes have now poured in to the beloved character from across the political spectrum.
Jack McConnell, who worked alongside Mr MacInnes while first minister from 2001 to 2007, said his death was “such sad news”.
The Labour politician added: “So many memories in Brussels when I was representing Scotland and he was leading the amazing team at Scotland Europa.
“He could start a party in an empty room, and often did. Will raise a glass to his memory.”
Former SNP Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, said: “Sorry to learn about the death of Donald MacInnes who did so much for the country as chief executive of Scotland Europa.”
And former energy minister Brian Wilson, who now chairs Harris Tweed Hebrides, said: “Donald John was a life-enhancing individual, at home in any setting from Scarp to Brussels and many points in between.
“He understood very clearly that fragile communities, language and culture are hanging by a thread but that things could be done to save them, if anyone cared enough.
“He still had a great deal to contribute and his death represents a huge loss. Like all his innumerable friends, I will miss him greatly.”
Fisherman’s son Mr MacInnes was a native of the now uninhabited island of Scarp off main Harris.
He was brought up on the island and his was the last family to leave in December 1971.
Educated at Inverness Royal Academy and Strathclyde University, he graduated in economics.
He went on to become chief executive of Dumbartonshire Enterprise in 1991 and in 1997 the new Labour government commissioned him to investigate the needs of Scotland’s remote communities.
Mr MacInnes started as chief executive of Scotland Europa, which represents Scottish organizations in Europe, in 1998 and held that position for almost 15 years. He was also involved in many Gaelic initiatives and organizations.
Current head of the organisation, Sarah English, said: “I can’t overestimate how much Donald did for me, the Scotland Europa team and Scotland in Brussels.
“What memories and stories you gave us all Donald, that will keep on inspiring and challenging us.”
Since retiring, Mr MacInnes spent time between his home in Glasgow and his croft in Harris.
It is believed the father-of-four will be buried on Scarp.