Born: June 6, 1930;

Died: May 19, 2020.

COLONEL Bob Stewart was emphatic. “I’m not the hero, those are the heroes”, said the UK’s top military commander in Bosnia as

he pointed an inquisitive reporter towards a silver-haired, 63-year-old man in ITV’s Television Studios.

Alan Witcutt, who died two weeks short of his 90th birthday, had been invited on the show to talk about forgiveness, a complex fusion of his own traumatic experiences as an

aid worker in Bosnia and his deep Christian faith.

Alan was born in 1930, in Albany, New York, the only child of Jack and Mabel Witcutt. His family, who had crossed the Atlantic in search of a better life, were to return with three year-old Alan as victims of the

Great Depression.

After years of living in great poverty in Netherton, Wishaw, his father found work as an electrician

at a local steelworks and Alan enjoyed a happy but humble childhood, which instilled in him a lifelong approach to recycling, reusing and repairing. Nothing was thrown out in Alan’s house, not even the corked wine.

During the Second World War the young Alan would collect military memorabilia and spent bullet casings from the nearby US Army camp, igniting an interest in weapons and guns that he would enjoy throughout his life.

Educated at Netherton Primary and Wishaw High – schools to

which he would return many

times in later life – Alan went on to become at bricklayer at Coatbridge Technical College.

In 1948, Alan, a devout Christadelphian, was called up for National Service. An appeal to be treated as a conscientious objector on religious grounds was rejected and he was sent to work in Polkemmet Colliery in West Lothian. In the raw emotion of the post-war years his conscientious stance attracted much community hostility but, in the pits, he found acceptance and respect for the dangerous work he was doing there.

After the darkness of the pits, Alan enjoyed many happy years in the countryside as a driver-librarian with Lanark County Council before being medically retired in the late 1980s.

He had met his wife Christine Taylor, a local primary school teacher, through their membership of the Christadelphian Church, and they married in 1966. They were to have two children, Paul and Julie, and would eventually move into the family home in Netherton.

It was on Christine’s retirement that things would change dramatically. The couple joined Edinburgh Direct Aid, a small charity taking aid to the war-ravaged Balkan region. Alan’s HGV licence was particularly useful.

In 1992, the couple joined other volunteers in a small aid convoy delivering food and clothes from Scotland to the desperate people

of Bosnia, then one of the most dangerous places in the world.

After their first convoy the couple delivered talks on their experiences, Christine talking about Alan’s slides, with Alan preferring to stay behind the projector, comfortable for his wife do the public speaking.

In July 1993, the couple returned to Bosnia. This time as they left besieged Sarajevo in their empty trucks, Christine was fatally shot by a Bosnian Serb sniper. Alan, in the truck in front, knew something terrible had happened. He was taken with Christine in a CNN armoured jeep to a nearby military hospital. Her death had been instantaneous. Alan returned with Christine’s body on a military flight, home to Scotland and their devastated family.

It was assumed this would be the end of Edinburgh Direct Aid, but Alan could not let it stop there. He urged the charity to keep going and then, perhaps most remarkably of all, asked for forgiveness for the sniper who had killed his wife.

His humanity and Christianity became an inspiration to many and he was soon to find himself delivering talks and sermons on the subject of forgiveness, some of which have been recorded in the National Library

of Scotland.

He stepped out from behind the projector and began to deliver talks on his experience, the plight of Bosnians, and his message of forgiveness. He co-authored the book Flak Jacket And Lipstick with Christine’s brother, Alistair Taylor.

In 2001, Alan returned to Sarajevo with his family to open a centre and outreach programme for children with complex support needs. The projects were funded by a separate charity, the Christine Witcutt Memorial Fund, which was established in his wife’s memory and for which he raised large amounts of money.

Alan continued to deliver lectures and informal talks right up until his death. He received awards and recognition locally and in 2005

was presented with a medal by

the Bosnian Government for the humanitarian work done by him

and Christine.

In his later years, Alan lived a healthy and active life. Every winter he would move to New Zealand to live with his son and granddaughter. He enjoyed kayaking and, back home, walking and cycling with three of his elderly friends earning them the local nickname, “Last of the Summer Wine”.

In 2017 Alan published his memoirs, Nine Lives And More, with all proceeds going to his wife’s charity. They captured an extraordinary life and a fascinating insight into a complex, devout and principled man.

Alan is survived by his son

Paul and daughter Julie, and grandchildren Stephanie, Holly

and Rory.