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Death of William ‘Leo’ Lyon, Buckie skipper and Ballater community stalwart aged 87

Bill Lyon as captured by artist Ruth Samuel Art.

Like a cat with nine lives, William ‘Leo’ Lyon certainly lived up to his nickname.

For the former Buckie skipper and oil rig engineer had not one, but two brushes with death in his career, but lived to tell the tale each time.

Now, following his death aged 87, his daughter has paid tribute to the fundraiser, lover of Scottish music and founding member of Ballater and District Pipe Band.

William ‘Leo’ Lyon

William Lyon was born on November 4, 1934 in Buckie.

Known as Bill, but also Leo since he was a boy, as his male family members were before him, he was the eldest of four children for Margaret and Wilkie Lyon.

His father worked as a painter and decorator but had been in the Gordon Highlanders.

So when it came time for Leo to leave Buckie High School for national service he hoped to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

“Unfortunately that never happened.

“He ended up in the Buffs –  the Royal East Kent Regiment and was stationed in the South of England instead.”

All wasn’t lost however, as he ended up in Kenya – a posting that he thoroughly enjoyed.

Providing for his family

Leo married Lorna Thain in 1957.

She was a domestic in an Elgin hospital and they met at a dance.

Crew of the Concordia. Bill – the skipper – is first left with Robert McPherson, Robert Gordon, Daniel Gordon, Andrew Thain, Adam Innes and Daniel McPherson.

Although they later divorced they had three children: Shona, Wilma and William.

To earn a living he became a skipper on a fishing boat.

While he had many successful trips out to sea leading a crew one trip could have been the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Air Rescue

In October 1970 he and the crew of the Concordia got into trouble when a storm far surpassed anything weather reports had predicted.

An incredibly choppy sea and a tall mast made a helicopter rescue of difficult.

The Press and Journal reported the dramatic sea rescue.

So Bill made the difficult choice to cut down the mast so an airlift could be possible.

Thankfully he and his crew lived to sail another say but the Concordia went down.

Shona said; “I remember seeing it on the telly. My gran and granda must have been worried sick.”

New life in Ballater

Bill met his second wife, Margaret Bannerman, in Aberdeen.

In 1967 they married and moved to Ballatar where Margaret lived and he gave up fishing for the rigs.

He went on to become chief marine control engineer on Buchan Alpha, retiring early at 55.

However, even that wasn’t plain sailing.

“My dad had always heard these stories of people just retiring and then being too old to enjoy it so he wanted to take retirement early,” explained Shona.

“But on the very day he was leaving his appendix ruptured and once again he was airlifted , this time to Aberdeen.”

Community stalwart

Bill settled into Ballater life and was vert much a part of the community there.

He was one of the founders of the Ballater Charity Chiels – a men’s fundraising organisation.

The Ballater Charity Chiels.

And despite not being musical himself he founded the Ballater and District Pipe Band.

Shona added: “My dad just loved Scottish country music and the pipes.

“Jimmy Shand was a firm favourite and when he was younger he’d be at all the dances he could manage to get to.”

He was also an honourary member of Ballater Highland Games Committee and was prolific in his charity work.

Royal honours

In recognition of such he was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in 1991.

The British and Commonwealth award is for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown. 1991 he got the BEM in recognition of his charity work.

“My dad was so proud but it was a happy sad time.

“Although he had known for a while, the night before he was allowed to tell others about the medal his dad died.

Bill – Leo – Lyon.

“They were both staunch royalists and he just felt my granda would have been so proud.”

Bill – who on moving to Ballater became known as Tiger – lost Margaret in February this year, just after he had suffered a stroke himself.

Earlier this month the 87-year-old grandfather of six and great grandfather of nine, passed away.

Fitting final farewell

His funeral service took place in Glenmuick Church, Ballater where the Chiels spoke and his great granddaughter Arwen played a melody of tunes on the violin.

The pipe band were going to play

Chiels were speaking and his granddaughter was playing a melody of tunes on the violin.

Bill remained a member of the Royal British Legion until his death, and as his funeral cortege left the church the pipe band he founded played his favourite music.

“My dad will be remembered for his charity work and so many other things he got involved with, but we’ll remember him as the man who was always there for us.

“William, Bill, Leo, Tiger, Lyon – a husband, father, grandfather and friend.”

You can read the family’s announcement here.