DONALD Macdonald OBE, 1928-2021, died peacefully in his home this month at the age of 92. 

He was the director of social work, first for Roxburghshire Council, then Borders Regional Council from 1969 to 1988.

Born in Larbert, Donald was the son of psychiatric nurses and spent his early childhood living in the grounds of a psychiatric hospital, which was known at the time as 'Stirling District Lunatic Asylum'. 

He left school at the age of fourteen to work, first as a farm-hand and later an office boy for a timber merchant. 

At the age of fifteen, he was orphaned and taken in by an aunt and uncle, who lived on the Isle of Skye with eight children of their own. 

Feeling himself to be a burden on his uncle’s resources, Donald left Skye at the young age of 16 travelling to Glasgow to join the Merchant Navy in 1944.

Travelled widely

Starting out as a cabin boy, responsible for cooking and cleaning the toilets, he soon became an aircraft gunner, which was a far more dangerous role. 

He travelled widely, serving on the Atlantic convoys from Liverpool to Philadelphia, Belfast to Nova Scotia, and along the Suez Canal from Iran to Naples. 

One of his frequent stops was Palestine: while posted in Haifa in 1946, he noticed an advert for the Palestinian Mounted Police force and signed up as a Constable.

He remained in Palestine until 1948, when the force was disbanded upon the creation of the state of Israel. The experience left him with a lifelong passion for Palestine and the Palestinian people.

One of his treasured memories of this time was spending Christmas Eve stationed outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Married in 1954

Upon returning to Scotland, he followed in his parents’ footsteps and trained as a psychiatric nurse at the same institution where he’d spent his childhood, now named Bellsdyke Hospital. 

It was there that he met his future wife, Grace Patrick, who was a lecturer in nursing. 

He decided, however, that nursing was not for him. 

Despite having no formal qualifications, his time in the merchant navy and the mounted police allowed him to be accepted into a degree in Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

He married Grace in 1954, the same year that he graduated, and embarked on a career in social work. 

This took him from Glasgow to Cumbria, Staffordshire and Derbyshire. During this time, three children were born: Anne, Kenny and Fiona. The family relocated to Melrose in 1969, when Donald was appointed Director of Social Work for Roxburghshire. 

He would remain in the Borders for the rest of his life.

Services to social work

He was a committed and passionate social worker. He introduced sheltered housing for the elderly to the Scottish Borders, which at the time was a progressive and innovative step which allowed elderly people to retain a greater deal of independence than traditional “old folk’s homes”.

In 1981, he was awarded an OBE on behalf of his services to social work. Following his retirement, he was appointed by royal warrant to the Mental Welfare Commission and was a trustee of the Eildon housing association.

Outside of his job, Donald was an active participant in Melrose community life. 

Beloved father and grandfather

He set up the Melrose branch of the Cubs and Boy Scouts, he was an elder of the Parish church, a member of the operatic society and, last but not least, a stalwart of the Melrose golf club.

Well into his eighties, he could be seen cycling around town.

He was a beloved father and grandfather, who will be dearly missed by his children Anne, Ken, and Fiona, son and daughter in law John and Morag, and grandchildren Alasdair, Rory, Andrew, Jamie, and Cameron. 

His family would like to extend their thanks to the carers and nurses who looked after him with dedication and kindness right until the end.