A Lochaber man dubbed “a serial entrepreneur with a conscience” has been presented with a rare honour from the Pope.
Angus MacDonald, 58, of Lochailort has been described by his local priest as dedicating more than anybody else in developing businesses in the Highlands.
Bishop Brian McGee attended St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Arisaig to present Mr MacDonald with a Papal Knighthood of the Order of St Gregory the Great.
Entrepreneur sticks to his roots
Mr MacDonald has helped to turn around the fortunes of Fort William town centre by buying the Highland Book Shop and building a new cinema to replace the one that closed in 2005.
Employing around 25 young people, Highland Cinema opened last year and Mr MacDonald, who spent several million pounds of his own money on the project, doesn’t plan to make any profit.
He said: “I had a great business career and wanted to do something for my hometown.
“Several years ago, I read an article that said the best way to bring life into a small town was to have an independent book shop and a cinema.”
Other contributions to society include spearheading the restoration of Glenfinnan church and recently becoming involved in doing the same with the church at Arisaig.
Fundraising efforts raise £15million for charity
Mr MacDonald also founded the Caledonian Challenge, an event which took place for 20 years.
The walk, which takes in the West Highland Way from Fort William to Loch Lomond, raised £15million for charity.
He also heads the Moidart Trust, a “venture philanthropy” fund that helps grow West Highland businesses.
The Papal Knighthood is bestowed upon Roman Catholic men and women, and sometimes in rare cases to non-Catholics, in recognition of their personal service to the Holy See and to the church.
This can be through their unusual labours, their support of the Holy See, and the examples they set in their communities and their countries.
“Surprised and humbled”
When Mr MacDonald was contacted about the honour, he thought Father Stan Pamula of St Mary’s, Arisaig, was joking.
Mr MacDonald said: “It was a bit of a surprise. I feel honoured and humbled.”
This is not the first time his work has been recognised. In 2014 he was made an OBE for services to the Highlands.
A few years later in 2017 he scooped a UK award for entrepreneurship.
Mr MacDonald was awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the 11th annual Spears Wealth Management Awards at London’s Dorchester Hotel.
The judges’ citation praised him as “a serial entrepreneur with a conscience, with a genuine love of the West Highlands.”
Dedicated his life to charity
Father Stan Pamula said: “Angus has dedicated his life to charity. He is a successful businessman. In his work he has always tried to promote local people and other local business start ups.
“He is very much a Lochaber man and a person who wants to develop the local area and not only concentrate on his own work.
“He was one of the instigators of the renovation for Glenfinnan Church which is very popular among tourists to the area.
“He is very much in the heart of the Highlands.
“I don’t think you could name any other person who has dedicated so much in developing businesses in the Highlands.”
On the same day as Mr MacDonald received the Papal Knighthood, fellow parishioner Lilian MacDonald of Arisaig was awarded the Benemerenti medal for service to the church.
Father Pamula said: “She spends most of her retirement helping people.”
Also recently two parishioners in Morar received Benemerenti medals. Sisters Mae MacDonald and Isa Henderson received the awards in recognition of their dedication to the church and the local community.
Father Pamula added: “To have three recipient of the Benemerenti medal and one knighthood in such a small area, we should be very proud.”
Pioneering Scottish companies
Before he sold up a few years ago, Mr MacDonald was the chairman and largest shareholder of three pioneering Scottish companies.
The serial entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist had business interests including education publisher ICSLearn, wind turbine supplier Renewable Parts and waste management company SWR.
He first made his name in the 1990s and 2000s by building two successive financial publishing empires, which he sold for more than £91 million.
Mr MacDonald is the grandson of “Long John” MacDonald, who owned distilleries in Fort William.