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Family tribute to Strathpeffer crofter and shinty player Tumba MacDonald, 64

The dad and grandfather - part of a shinty family dynasty - played for Caberfeidh.

Ian Tumba MacDonald of Strathpeffer.
Ian Tumba MacDonald of Strathpeffer.

Crofter, shinty player, farmer and construction foreman Tumba MacDonald of Strathpeffer, has died aged 64.

The grandfather and former Caberfeidh first team player passed away at home following a long illness.

Crofting in his blood

Ian MacDonald – known as Tumba from childhood – was born on March 7 1959 in the family croft at Strathpeffer. It was his love of watching television westerns with his three siblings that earned him the affectionate nickname that would remain with him for life.

Son of agricultural department manager Ian and nurse Margaret MacDonald, Tumba loved crofting and being outdoors his whole life.

Earl of Cromartie, centre with Tumba’s shinty team, Caberfeidh. Tumba, third on the left, is surrounded by many of his closest friends, mentors and teachers. His brother Rod is also in the picture, first on the left of the back row.

He attended Fodderty Primary School then Dingwall Academy but excuses to get out of the classroom and into the fields were not uncommon. From a young age he worked at Achterneed and Ardival Farms for John McGregor – who passed away just a few days before Ian.

Doing “a bit of everything” Tumba combined his hard work ethic with his love of Scotland and the outdoors to forge for himself a career that he loved – in the place he loved.

Strathpeffer and shinty

He was embedded in the Strathpeffer community like his grandparents who ran the local dairy and the garage for coaches and horses, and his other grandparents who ran the smiddy.

A love of where he came from wasn’t the only thing in the family genes.

Like his grandfather, the late Roddy Munro, of Achterneed, and his uncle, brother and nephews, Ian was fearless when it came to shinty.

IAIN ‘TUMBA’ MACDONALD – CABERFEIDHIt was with great sadness and deep regret that on Friday 25 August the community…

Posted by Camanachd Association on Monday, 28 August 2023

The star of Caberfeidh’s first team from the 1970s to the early 1990s, he first started playing at school and remained a passionate fan of the sport which his son and grandsons would also go on to play. Ian’s nephews Kevin Bartlett and brothers Craig and Blair Morrison have also been capped for Scotland and play for the current Caberfeidh first team.

Family man

In 1981 Tumba started dating fellow Strathpeffer lass Margaret Ann Morrison. The pair married on July 17 1981 in Strathpeffer Church of Scotland.

Margaret, who had been working in the Ben Wyvis Hotel, moved into the family croft and daughter Gillian was born in 1982.

Margaret and Tumba MacDonald, at their son’s wedding.

Son Ian came along in 1985 and that same year Ian was made redundant. He found work with Kenneth Stewart Ltd, a road construction company, alongside tending to his croft. In the years to follow he would remain in post, after the firm was bought by MacDonald Groundworks Ltd (MGL).

Ian and Margaret hoped to add to their family, however, their twins, William and Alexander, died shortly after birth in 1986.

Hard work and well-earned rest

At work Tumba became foreman, developing “a knack for building”.

“People were always telling him to go into business for himself, ” said Margaret. “But he always had the croft to think about as well. His father died when Tumba was in his 20s, so he’s looked after the croft for all of his life.”

Tending to his cows, sheep and crops though certainly hard work, was a source of joy for Tumba. He was proud to have built up and kept a thriving croft going over the years. It also made his hard-earned holidays all the more enjoyable.

Slotted in around harvest, their annual trip to sunnier climes abroad would not have been complete without a chance for Tumba to grace the dancefloor. Especially if the Mavericks were playing.

“If a certain song came on, and especially if he had one or two drams, our friends would say, ‘oh, there he goes…’ Tumba was never off the dance floor,” Margaret added.

Adored granda

Tumba was also a devoted granda to his six grandkids, many of whom have inherited his shinty passion.

Daughter Gillian said: “His grandchildren just adored him. My dad was the same all the time. There weren’t two versions of him. He always had the kids on the tractor, and loved to show them how to work machinery.

“One of the last building projects he did was helping us with our family home. And he was so delighted about that.”

Health challenges

Around a decade ago Tumba was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis which affected his immunity. Following this, a diagnosis of fibrosis, then a hole in his lung. Though he managed this for many years it became progressively worse more recently.

Despite illness his only wish was to remain at home to spend time on the croft with family.

“Tumba was cheery until the end. So much so that a lot of people didn’t realise he was so ill. He was still going to the shinty with Andy MacDonald, his close friend, for as long as he could,” said Margaret.

Ian passed away at home on August 24 with Margaret, and his son Ian, beside him.

Final farewell

A celebration of his life took place in the same church where he got married. His favourite Mavericks and Charlie Pride music played.

“It was a privilege and honour to share life and love with someone like Tumba,” added Margaret.

Margaret and Tumba MacDonald from Strathpeffer.

Remembered as a man who would always go the extra mile to help friends and colleagues, around £2000 was raised at his funeral. Donations are to be split between Dr Lorna Murray and her team in the respiratory ward of Raigmore Hospital, and Strathpeffer and Dingwall district nurses.

He is survived by wife Margaret, daughter Gillian and son-in-law Wayne, Ian and daughter-in-law Emily. Was a doting grandfather to Grace, Robbie, Xander, Harry, Katy and Fraser. He is also much missed by his siblings Rod, Marjory and Sally.