Born: December 15, 1951;

Died: December 8, 2022.

DUNCAN MacPhee, a leading Highland crofting lawyer, who has died aged 70, was fixing, building and planning to the very end of a long illness – an illness that he refused to let impede his busy life. He had just finished painting a wooden slat Christmas Tree for a local nursery.

He was a hugely respected figure throughout the West of Scotland. His efforts helped many people and his work blazed many trails. He was honest and fair and expected the same in return.

Duncan was brought up in a family of Lochaber builders, learning the trade of his father, Angus, an engineer, and uncles as they built many of the homes, dams and villages that comprise the town to this day. Angus’s services were requested to install the first domestic water waste system in New Zealand, leading to Duncan spending nine of his formative years in the country.

His mother Sheila taught in the Māori settlements alongside Duncan and his sister Mairi, which is perhaps where the seeds of his egalitarian values were sown.

In his 44 years as a lawyer and foremost crofting specialist in Scotland, he held many prestigious titles and offices, but he would have been the last person to mention these. He quietly got on with finding solutions and moving others to do the same.

Countless landmark projects and deals were brokered at his desk by his skilled diplomacy and deft handling of volatile components. Wit and wisdom were his tools at work. His legal victories set many of the precedents in the Scottish Land Court but he was more than a lawyer in his dealings – he was a friend and a gentleman.

All of this was achieved with his wife Rosemary (née Wynne) by his side. After meeting as young lawyers in Fort William, true to the hallmarks of a Duncan MacPhee deal, they were engaged within a week and married within ten. In doing so they combined two great Lochaber families – the builders and the butchers.

They built the largest legal practice and estate agents in the Highlands, employing and personally supporting the careers of hundreds of people between Oban and Fort William. They also travelled extensively, often with Duncan’s bagpipes in tow. There were few far-flung places they didn’t make a connection – once realising by chance that a woman they got chatting to on a charity trip to Quito, Ecuador, was a long-standing client with whom Duncan had only ever corresponded by letter.

The couple raised five children and dedicated themselves to guiding and supporting them in every way. The loss of one of their sons, Fraser, aged 14, had a profound impact. In the face of such adversity, they somehow drew strength from an impossible source.

Duncan channelled his energy into youth sport and young people, particularly the most vulnerable. He knew the importance of sport and goals at that crucial time in life. If barriers existed then refurbished studded boots or lifts would appear. He helped to found Lochaber Rugby Club, where he served as President, Lochaber Yacht Club, the Camanachd Association, Lochaber Sports Association, the East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust, among many others.

He became involved with Fort William Shinty Club, latterly serving as Chairman during a prosperous and thriving era and was instrumental in major progress in funding, infrastructure and facilities. But perhaps Duncan’s most lasting legacy in shinty was the transformation of some barren wasteland into a second pitch, which at the request of the committee was named Fraser’s Field.

The family founded the annual Fraser MacPhee Youth Shinty Tournament – a hugely popular event for primary schools from across Scotland, as well as several other trophies and fair play awards in his name.

Duncan was a rugby man at heart but some of his happiest hours were spent watching his four sons play shinty, a game he came to love. He was especially proud to watch his eldest son Niall captain Fort William to lift the Camanachd Cup in 2010.

After retiring from practice two years ago the couple kept an open-door policy at their home in Torlundy. Duncan was very proud of his children, Catriona, Niall, Ruaridh, Fraser and Arran, and their families. In his extraordinarily productive 70 years Duncan built a full, rich and happy life. His example and legacy will be felt for generations to come.