An era ended at Stonehaven Golf Club last week with the death after of the club’ s former secretary and manager, Mr William Donald.
“Willie” to many, “Bill” to some, Mr Donald dedicated much of the second half of his life to golf, not only in Stonehaven, but in the wider North-east District.
He sadly passed away after a year long battle with illness just 16 days short of his 74th birthday.
He was diagnosed with an inoperable cancer late last year and he endured courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy before dying peacefully in Kincardine Community Hospital on Sunday evening.
Stonehaven Golf Club vice captain, Mr Ivan Groundwater, said Willie Donald had been a tremendous servant to the club for many years, contributing not only time and effort as a member and employee but also significant sums of money, which made possible such recent developments as the new greenkeepers’ sheds and the renewal of the greens watering system.
“Willie will be sorely missed.” He said.
“He was part of the fabric of our club, a man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of golf, our club and our course.
“He was an ever-present presence, the person to go to for advice when an unusual problem arose and he leaves a gap that will be very difficult to fill.”
With his bushy beard and thick head of hair, Willie was known at golf clubs all over the North-east, having been a member of the North-east district committee of the Scottish Golf Union for more than 20 years and President in 2008/9.
His particular interest was in encouraging junior golfers involved in the district’s coaching programmes, many of which were run by Andrew Locke, himself a product of Stonehaven GC and now a leading coach at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre.
Mr Locke said: “Willie almost never failed to turn up at the coaching sessions I ran, no matter the weather, even in the depths of winter, and he was always interested in how the boys were developing their games and always keen to encourage them. He will be sorely missed.”
Willie Donald was a pawky golfer himself with a killer short game at his peak.
He said he played off scratch for a while at university and remained a single-figure player all his career.
He had a very sociable nature. Long-time golf club member Glennie Melvin likened him to a benign stealth bomber.
In a busy clubhouse, he could suddenly materialise at your elbow, on the edge of the group, and join the conversation.
Then, before you knew it, he was gone, across the room engaging with another group. He loved to know what was going on and he loved to chatter but he always stayed that bit apart.
Willie joined Stonehaven GC as a junior in season 1952-53, while a pupil at Fetteresso Primary School.
Mackie Academy followed and then Aberdeen University, where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1964.
He then worked for some years with the South of Scotland Electricity Board, notably on the contract for the huge St James Centre in Edinburgh.
When that ended, his career changed direction and he signed up with the Ben Line shipping company and for the next 25 years or so he travelled the world deep in the engine rooms of cargo ships and huge oil tankers.
In 1992, following a knee injury, he was pensioned off by the Ben Line and returned to
Stonehaven, immediately volunteering to help with the running of the club alongside the then secretary, Mr Bob Blair.
When Mr Blair died in 1996, Willie was appointed secretary and remained at the helm of the club for the next 13 years, a time of some difficulty as the club struggled to keep its finances in order.
Willie’s dedication to the interests of the club was all encompassing at that time and he put in hours way beyond the call of duty, not to mention occasional donations of his own money to keep the accounts in line.
He was also generous in his annual sponsorship of the Neil Selbie Open Scramble competition.
Willie retired as secretary in 2009, when he was awarded an honorary life membership of the club, an honour which had also been given to his father.
However, he continued to be heavily involved right to the end in club activities, being elected to the club council and being responsible for administering handicaps and also a wide range of club competitions.
His death ends a long family connection with the club. His late father, also named Willie, joined the club in the late 1930s.
His younger sister, Sheila, has lived in Belgium for many years.
Willie was also a keen bowler at Stonehaven bowling club, playing regularly in recent years in competitions and team matches, both indoor and outdoor.
His other abiding interest was the Masonic movement. Fellow Mason John Lawson, also a golf club member, said: “Willie was a loyal and dedicated member of the Masonic Lodge of Stonehaven No 65 and served for many years as treasurer. Also a Past Master of the Lodge, Willie liked nothing better than travelling the length and breadth of Aberdeenshire visiting other Lodges and was a weel-kent face in almost every Lodge in the North-east.
“He was also a member of many other branches of Freemasonry and Willie’s friendly disposition made him a popular member and one who gave so much of his time to assist others.”