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Archibald Auld Donaldson

An APPRECIATION

My father, Archibald Auld Donaldson, was a determined, brave and energetic man, applying all of these characteristics in his life as a rugby player, engineer, soldier and farmer.

He was born in Kirkinner in rural Galloway in 1919, the elder of two brothers, and was educated at Stranraer Academy, where he started his life-long association with Wigtownshire RFC. On leaving school he joined Post Office Telephones, training and qualifying as a telephone engineer, at that time the youngest in the south of Scotland.

His career with the Post Office wasn't to last long as, with war looming, he enlisted in the Territorial Army in May 1939. At 19, he was in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, surviving an emergency operation for peritonitis in a makeshift field hospital and returning to Britain in 1940 on a Dutch barge, which he commandeered at gunpoint.

By 1941 he was in the Royal Corps of Signals in north Africa, attached to the Long Range Desert Group, and was often deployed in units behind enemy lines. His rank fluctuated between Corporal, Sergeant and RSM, following occasional confrontations with military authority.

That same stubbornness would stand him in good stead when he was captured in 1942 and finally imprisoned in Stalag VIIIb in Poland. Following years of hardship, he was part of the infamous Long March of Allied POWs from Poland to Germany in the bitter winter of 1945, sleeping rough and seeing many comrades die along the way. I once asked him if he ever doubted he would survive the march. The answer was: never.

Back in civilian life, my father played for and captained Wigtownshire, during a period of great success for the club, establishing himself as a fast and very hard winger and gaining representative honours.

In the 1950s he went back to his farming roots, finally moving away from Galloway to take up a post as farm manager on Dale estate in Islay.

He married Janet Kerr in 1959 and my mother was the cornerstone of his life thereafter. By 1960, they, along with three-month-old son Kerr, moved to the Mill farm near Appleton-le-Moors in North Yorkshire.

After eight happy years the family returned to Scotland, settling in Auchenbothie farm outside Kilmacolm. My parents were soon involved in life in Kilmacolm and dad was very active in the local bridge club and agricultural committees.

He retired from farming in 1986 and my parents' life seemed complete when their beloved grandchildren, Sam and Ellen, were born.

Sadly, my mother died in 1994, three months after Ellen arrived. Dad never got over the loss and much of his spark left him forever.

He soldiered on, seeing friends in the Fox and Hounds and still getting into the odd scarcely believable scrape.

Latterly, he fought against illness, failing sight and dementia and was haunted by his war memories. Despite this, he still took pleasure from family and trips out in the countryside.

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