Born: December 10,1921; Died: November 12, 2012.
LACHLAN Robertson, who has died aged 90, was a war veteran and teacher, who spent much of a long and venturesome life far from his native Skye.
Born in Elgol, the little crofting community on the shores of Loch Scavaig in the south of Skye (where he was laid to rest), his mother, Henrietta, died when he was only three, and Lachag (as he was familiarly known in his native Gaelic) was brought up by two uncles and his father Donald, a merchant seaman, with help from the womenfolk of the tight-knit community. The sight in his right eye was impaired from childhood but, undaunted, he won a bursary to secondary education at Inverness Royal Academy when he was 12.
He left school in 1940 and immediately tried to join the Army, though wondering how to overcome his eyesight problem. That solved itself when a fellow-Hebridean medical orderly slipped him the eye chart beforehand and his excellent memory did the rest. By this time his English-speaking schoolmates had dubbed him Lachie. He answered to both...as long as the tone was friendly.
During the war he served with the Highland Light Infantry, the Royal Scots Fusiliers and latterly the Airborne Forces, rising to the rank of captain. He saw service in Norway, India, Singapore, and in France, Germany, Holland, Malaya and Cyprus with TA units.
He was involved in the liberation of Norway, and in 1967 did a mini-demonstration of that for the BBC's Gaelic Department. This involved a night-time parachute drop somewhere over the Trossachs while giving a Gaelic commentary on his way down. He did this successfully, though landing in a deep snowdrift. His only trouble, he said afterwards, was locating and rescuing the producer sent to liaise with him whose short Uist legs had never had to cope with more than three inches of snow.
During a wartime posting in Langholm, he began to show an interest in rugby – an unusual trait in a Skyeman whose normal sporting devotions would be to shinty. But it can be explained by a desire to impress a Borders lass, Isabella Wallace. The tactic worked and she became his wife and devoted life-long companion.
They moved to Glasgow where he resumed his educational studies, graduating with an MA in Geography and Gaelic Studies in 1949. There followed a teaching career at Glasgow Academy where he also coached rugby – possibly winning more plaudits from his pupils for his prowess at the latter than the former. As members of the Pegasus Club, of which he was a founder, they helicoptered him from Skye to Glasgow for a dinner in his honour when he retired.
His years in Glasgow allowed him to resume his love affair with parachutes, joining the Glasgow-based Territorial Army unit 15 Para. He ended his TA career as a full colonel in the post of Deputy Brigade Commander of 44 Para. His service was recognised with an OBE in 1969, and in 1975 he became a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the City of Glasgow.
Glasgow also offered him endless social outlets of which he took full advantage. He was president of the Partick Burns Club and spoke at eight suppers one year. His daughter Mairi recalls that this put him off haggis for a while, though it didn't seem to affect his respect for good whisky, in suitably judged measures. He also held every office that the Glasgow Skye Association had to offer, allowing him a full share in the Gaelic life of the city, particularly as a drama producer.
In 1981, he took early retirement and he and Isa moved back to his beloved Elgol, back to the re-assuring sight of the Cuillins across Loch Scavaig.
The next 30 years were to be as productive for his native community as those in his earlier life had been for the other institutions in which he served. He persuaded the Royal Engineers that repairing the local slipway to a degree that prawnboats could land their catches would be a useful military exercise. He was a prime mover in having the new village hall built as a community centre.
He also put his extremely retentive memory to work digging up more of the history of his community. From his boyhood he could recall an old man of more than 80 who had seen and heard his people "wailing" down the glen to the Australia-bound emigrant ship during the infamous Strath clearances of 1851. That old man told young Lachie: "B'e bas a bh'ann dhuinn uile, a Lachag, oir bha fhios againn nach tachramaid beo gu brath tuilleadh." ("It was like death for all of us, Lachie, because we knew we'd never meet alive again.") He was generous with his information. In fact, some of the Australian families of the Strath clearances are back in touch with distant cousins at home because of him.
The hundreds who crowded into Elgol village hall to attend his funeral and to celebrate his life were fitting testimony to the esteem and love in which he was held. His widow Isa, son Donald and daughter Mairi, and his grandchildren were there to greet them.
A bilingual service that ranged through the recitation of A man's a man for a' that to a farewell Gaelic song, and interspersed with frequent chuckles touched on the many strands of a rich life.
Colonel Lachie wore his rank lightly, without a hint of arrogance, but with a fierce pride in the community that nurtured him.