Born: July 27, 1933;

Died: September 2, 2021.

NEIL Donachie, who has died aged 88, was a popular and prominent figure in Scottish athletics over many years in his roles as athlete, official and administrator.

He was President of the Scottish Amateur Athletics Association, and chair of Edinburgh Athletic Club and the Scottish Athletics League. He was chief decathlon judge at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games and a member of the Jury of Appeal at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games. All the while, he made a considerable contribution at grassroots level.

A versatile runner who competed in all disciplines, Donachie’s forte was the track, where in his main event, the 880 yards, he twice finished third in the Scottish Championships and twice won the East District title.

Other highlights included representing Edinburgh in a biennial contest against Munich, and an excellent second place in a quality invitation race at the 1955 Murrayfield Highland Games.

At cross-country he competed regularly in national and district championships, while on the road he ran 11 times in the Edinburgh-to-Glasgow relay, achieving in 1964 the distinction of running the second fastest time of the 20 athletes on his leg of the race.

He started running aged 15 with Edinburgh Rover Scouts at Colinton before joining Braidburn Athletic Club, where he won his first trophy, for cross-country, followed by winning the Scottish Boys’ Club mile championship at Aberdeen.

In 1953, after winning a trades union event, he was selected to travel to Bucharest to compete in athletics at the World Youth Festival, a pro-democracy, anti-war event that attracted 30,000 participants from 111 countries. This was a landmark experience for Neil who, on the train en route from Vienna, admired the beautiful Carpathian mountains and the fields of sunflowers and maize.

A later visit to the Black Sea was, to him, “magical”. Despite their obvious poverty, the warmth and hospitality of his hosts impressed him.

On the track Neil was able to watch his hero Emil Zátopek, the Czech legend who won three golds at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and he had the thrill of warming up alongside the Russian great, Vladimir Kuts, with whom he claimed ‘nodding terms’ status,

Cornelius Donachie was born in West Calder, the younger son of parents Charles and Pat. His Dutch-born mother, Pieterje, had arrived with her parents in Dundee in 1919, her father having become foreman in a jute mill. Neil was named after his Dutch grandfather and remained proud of those roots.

With his elder brother, Peter, the family lived initially in basic accommodation with no electricity, only cold water, and the shared use of an outside toilet. Due to the Depression Neil’s father had periods of unemployment but after a spell as a miner found employment at nearby shale works.

Neil attended the local primary school and then West Calder St. Mary’s Secondary where he demonstrated ability at essay-writing, technical drawing and a love of poetry, the latter encouraged by his mother. The allocation of a new council house in Polbeth made a huge difference to the family’s living standards.

After school, Neil attended the Edinburgh School of Building, taking the first steps in a successful career as a building surveyor. His first job was as apprentice painter and decorator, after which he attended night classes at Heriot Watt College, later studying for a Higher National Certificate in building.

Before that he undertook National Service in the RAF at Turnhouse Airport, Edinburgh, where he met his running rival Jack Boyd, the one-time 880yds Scottish record-holder. The two men would become lifelong close friends. Neil and his wife, Marion, would spend many happy times together with Jack and wife Jess at Culzean, in Ayrshire, where they enjoyed the use of an old boathouse for breaks, with the men training in the lovely castle grounds.

Neil had married Marion Macaulay at Harwood Church, West Calder, on January 30, 1960, and they enjoyed more than 61 years of happy marriage, during which they had a son, Andrew. Marion was also an accomplished athlete who later became an official; much of the couple’s life revolved around athletics events, where their presence and contributions were always highly welcome.

Another shared interest were walking holidays, many of which were enjoyed at Oberau, Austria, while they also made several trips to Australia to visit an old athletics friend, Bert Carse.

Initially the couple lived in Corstorphine and East Calder while Neil was employed by local councils. They then moved to Hamilton when he secured a post with Strathclyde University, before moving back east to Currie, when he began employment with the Scottish Institute of Agricultural Engineering at the Bush Estate, Roslin, after which he worked briefly with Scottish Homes before retiring. In his working life he was dedicated, professional and highly regarded.

Central to his life was his love of athletics, the many friendships it afforded and the opportunity for travel. He competed in Toronto in 1975 in the first World Masters Championships, visited many athletics venues throughout Europe, and attended the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990 and Victoria in 1994.

His personal qualities were reflected in the prestigious positions he held, bringing to them his integrity, experience, encouraging and gregarious nature, as well as his underlying passion for athletics. An extremely likeable gent and excellent company, he enjoyed a long life well lived.

He is survived by his wife, son and grandson Ross.