Pilot navigator on Lancaster Bombers and yachtsman. An appreciation

DUNCAN McNair Currie, who has died aged 95, would have approved of the phrase “he now soars on eagle’s wings” which was used at his funeral service. After all, that was what the Largs man often did as a navigator in the Lancaster Bomber planes of the Second World War as he helped defend the country against, first, the Germans and, then, the Japanese with Squadrons 9 and 16 in Europe and the Far East.

At the funeral service, the Rev Jonathan Fleming revealed Mr Currie had just been awarded a posthumous medal from the Netherlands for his part in relieving the starvation of Dutch people at the end of the war by dropping food in Operation Manna.

Mr Currie was born on Bute and the Currie family moved to a farm near Kilchattan Bay where he first developed his love of animals. At one point he came to Largs to live with an aunt and first met his late wife, Ann.

After secondary education at Rothesay Academy he is believed to have fibbed about his age to get into the RAF, training on Tiger Moths in England before graduating as a navigator in Canada. He became a Flight Lieutenant and was in the mix to be one of the Dambusters squad before joining the Far East special forces. Mr Currie and fellow crew members were actually captured by the Japanese and endured a horrible time in a prisoner-of-war camp.

After the war he wanted to train as a pilot but his family prevailed upon him to join the butcher business which, as an animal lover, did not suit him. When the children, John, Margaret and Lawson came along they settled in Largs where some locals will still recall their newsagents and fancy goods shop in Tron Place.

He will be better remembered by the sailing fraternity as an accomplished yachtsman who won many honours with his Tikhai vessels and was a launching officer for the RNLI lifeboat.

I knew Duncan Currie for all of my 40 years as editor of the Largs & Millport Weekly News and I identified with a man who became more eccentric as he aged. On occasions he persuaded me to join him for a wee dram at his flat near the newspaper office and would proudly display his RAF photographs which, no doubt, his seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren will cherish.

At the age of 74 he skydived from a plane to raise money for the Ayrshire Hospice, declaring that he felt like “a recycled teenager” after his beloved wife Ann had died after 43 years of marriage.

In latter life the bold boy took up ballroom dancing and met Margaret who became an inseparable companion as they travelled in the UK and Europe to RAF reunions. Margaret said: “He made me laugh.”

When he still drove in his 80s Mr Currie attached a flag to his car so he could find where he parked it, and occasionally caused havoc when manoeuvring in local cafes in a mobility scooter presented to him by the RAF Association.

In fact, one of his last adventures was to take the scooter up the Haylie Brae above Largs, and then to come down “rather fast” shouting ‘Yahoo!’

How fitting it was that at the Scottish Air Show in 2014 he sat once again in the seat of a Lancaster, saying the drone of the engines was music to his ears. Two years ago the Viking Festival invited him as special guest to witness one of the war-time planes flying overhead Largs Bay where it tipped its wings to the veteran.