Popular ferry purser;
Born: March 23,1955; Died: July 26, 2013,
Donald MacDonald, who has died aged 58, was a well-known face of sea transport at Gills Harbour, Scotland's most northerly mainland port. Throughout the early to mid-2000s, he became a ubiquitous character as the purser on Pentalina-B after Pentland Ferries Ltd and its entrepreneurial managing director Andrew Banks revived the traditional short sea route across the Pentland Firth to Orkney from 2001 onwards.
As purser, he came in contact with all passengers on board the former David McBrayne "drive-through" ship which established the Orkney company's commercial runs on the hour-long 15-mile crossing from Gills Bay to St Margaret's Hope in South Ronaldsay. He came ashore on each landing to check the ship's manifest against bookings for freight and passenger-travel.
Born in Stornoway, Mr MacDonald and now-retired pier-master John Ross, of Havenfjord, Gills, Canisbay, were the ferry firm's public faces at the harbour and set its standard for courtesy and helpfulness. This significantly contributed to boosting passenger and freight during the thrice-daily service's early years, when neither terminal fixtures nor vessel facilities were up to their present standards.
They quickly realised from those face-to-face human contacts that many passengers were scared at the thought of crossing the Pentland Firth, owing to its wild reputation. The two Pentland Ferries staff members were able to convince them of the fact that little more than 10 minutes of any voyage were open to full force of breakers rolling in from the wide Atlantic Ocean. This contrasted with the 28-mile trip from Scrabster which is open to prevailing westerlies rolling in from the ocean. Their reassurances worked .
According to Orkney Council's vice-convener, Jim Foubister, the numbers of passengers using the short-sea route started surpassing those travelling on the taxpayer-supported post-1945 Scrabster to Stromness seaway in 2009, with the ratio increasing year-by-year ever since.
The 1970-built Pentalina-B, originally named the Iona, was a pioneering ship in her day; Scotland's first drive-through ferry and also the earliest to have the engine controls operated from the ship's bridge.
Before joining Gills Harbour, Mr MacDonald, who was married to Andrew Banks's sister Anne, had worked in catering on North Sea oil & gas rigs. He left the short sea route when he and his wife purchased and became popular mine-hosts of the Quoyberry Inn, at Tankerness, the main restaurant and pub in Orkney's East Mainland.
Mr MacDonald, who died from cancer, is survived by his wife Anne and their children Andrew, 16 and Kate, 11.
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