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Jimmy Donald 1931 - 2020

Updated: Aug 21

From Hamish Beaton


I am to say a few words as we commit James Donald - Uncle Jimmy to his final resting place.


This will not be a chronological resume of his life but rather a snapshot.


There will be mention of sailing, string and Rockholm.


James Donald was born on the 3 May 1931 in Lochee, Dundee, the second son and fourth child of William Donald and Janet Harris - there were four children William (known as Bill) Jean, Mary (May) and James (known as Jimmy).


Major Doctor William Donald MD MC and Bar, Cross de Guerre and Bar was in many respects a celebrated war hero, who’s upbringing, and WWI&II experiences made him set a high bar for expected family achievements, Grandad, was very much the authoritarian figure. One by one the older children left to raise families or pursue careers, leaving Jimmy, the home loving bachelor, to deal with his father’s stern views but yet very much the apple of his mother’s eye, he settled into the comforts of the family homes at Ancrum Road, Dundee and Rockholm in Kames. Later, inheriting Rockholm, from his mother, he was always to spend his years secure in the comfort of familiar surroundings.


Like his brother and sisters, he attended the Royal High School Dundee and then further schooling at Glenalmond -Til 1949. There, Jimmy was in the Army Cadet Force, ran the 400 yds during sport days and  excelled at rugby, being the right shape for the scrum’s driving force, and later playing for Lochee well into his early thirties.


He did National Service, in the Black Watch as a Private, then garrisoned in Perth and at Fort George Inverness.


Following National Service, Jimmy joined the Pearl Assurance Company (The Phoenix), where he served all his working days as a Chartered Insurance Fire Underwriter as the Company transformed itself from one organisation to another. Initially working in Dundee and living there at home then in Glasgow and residing mostly around Great Western Road, but commuting to Dundee or Rockholm for weekends or holidays as the seasons turned. It's unknown if Jimmy spent time anywhere else - We do know that he went to France on a school trip with Glenalmond, but it’s doubtful if Jimmy ever flew or afterwards needed a passport - summers were always spent on the Kyles.


Jimmy like Wind and the Willows’ Ratty liked nothing better than messing about on the water. Whilst working in Dundee he sailed with the Royal Tay Yacht Club, then on proudly acquiring a car, featuring parcel string as door handles, today a certain MOT failure, but back then giving him freedom to drive the old military roads to the Kyles for sailing weekend or holidays, over time Jimmy seldom missed a weekend sailing meeting eventually to become a Stalwart of the Kyles of Bute Sailing Club and the local sailing scene.


Bimbo, quickly renamed Nochtie was his first boat, a clinker built leaky gaff rig with a good sized bowsprit.

Nochtie II was his first much loved Loch Long, ballasted by local children, nephews and nieces: Mary, Helen, Hamish, Elizabeth, Donald and Robert and a succession of heavy anchors and seagull outboards, excellent in a blow when the command was to sheet that jib in harder onto the only jib cleat - a task much more difficult than any child could really manage, of course, being over ballasted, she sailed badly in light airs. Yet, Nochtie was competitively skippered and a frequent race winner. Winning the  Donald Cup on several occasions and gathering other trophies


Next was the infamous Laser, which showed off Jimmy’s agility and ability to sail in all weathers. Fair Fortnight’s Rothesay Race could be dreigh or sunny by equal measure, but potentially a day long challenge that sailors half his age would have balked at - given the Kyles fickleness of wind or severe gusts - but then Jimmy handled all with a good deal of aplomb, having both sailed from Rockholm’s slip to the start line and then racing back to the Kyles that made for a long day. That long racing weekend was one of Jimmy’s joys.


Lastly his Eygthene (18),  Fat Frantic, (the Fat was quickly dropped although “Prop” at the yard always billed Jimmy using it’s first name). Jimmy’s single handed skill and ability not only to race, but also to fly, by himself, the spinnaker, gybe and recover it using string as sheets - an awesome sight. Indeed, his great nephew Alasdhair when crewing was very concerned that the many knotted bits of old string would not see a gust out let alone survive the entire race.


All these exploits were minutely recorded in numerous logs covering almost his entire sailing career.


Then as mellowing age approached he ran the KOBSC race hut, the figure work was immaculate if not so the disputed finishing times.


Jimmy’s health deteriorated, not such that he was immobile, his trusty car serving as both transport and a snooze pod parked for most of the afternoon by the boathouse the windows steamed up as Jimmy took self-indulgent delight in it’s fug. Infirmity came, his driving licence cancelled he became reliant on many helpers - Andy at the shop and Tam regularly delivering his groceries. With infirmity, came the moment where a proudly self-contained and very independent man lost the ongoing battle with housekeeping and his compulsion to record all events went into overdrive as indeed did his continual hoarding of possessions. Finally, in a move to Ardnahein Care Home in Dunoon, Jimmy found contentment, pleasure and real friendship and is remembered fondly on visits as a true gentleman by his nieces Mary and Helen. Thanks to - to his nephew Donald and Sheena, who wholeheartedly regularly called and helped no matter the circumstances, and also remembered with much fondness by his Carer’s, village friends, the Taylors, Curries in particular his long standing sailing associate Peter, Irvines and Sims, the KOBSC and surviving relatives.


It is indeed a remarkable closing chapter. Since 1866, Rockholm, the Donald’s house, has stood as sentinel, testament to the laughter and skulduggery of passing generations, yet within this year we have lost Jean, May and lastly Jimmy marking a remarkable transition in Donald history - for Jimmy is truly the last Donald of Rockholm.


We should be thankful and pause for a moment  to remember Jimmy and a life well lived.


Out of the night that covers him

Black as the pit from pole to pole

He thanks whatever Gods may be

For his unconquerable soul.


It matters not how strait the gate

How charged with punishment the scroll

He was the master of his fate

He is now the Captain of his soul

Hamish


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