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Caithness News Bulletins May 2003

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A Caithness-born great-grandfather, who as an infant was one of the last pupils to be enrolled at Freswick Primary School, passed away suddenly late last month in his home in Inverness, the city where he spent all his working life.

Donald McPhee, who would have been 61 next month, collapsed and died of a heart-attack in the bathroom of the family home at 69 Craigton Avenue, in the Merkinch district of Inverness, on April 29th. He was interred at Kilvean Cemetery, Inverness, following a funeral service in his home on Saturday, May 3rd.

Self-employed taxi-driver Don, who was widely known as 'Willie' in Inverness, had been preparing for a doctor's appointment which his Stornoway, Isle of Lewis-born wife Jemima (nee Drummond) had arranged for him that afternoon, after he had been complaining of chest pains.

Don was amongst the last intake at Freswick School ... the building that is now the Village Hall ... spending his early years at the family's then home in Midtown, Freswick, a short distance away.

But the little single-teacher school closed around 1950, and the roll of only six were transferred to the now-closed John O'Groats Primary, three miles way, which he attended before going on to Wick High School.

Mr McPhee, who was widely respected by a large circle of friends and acquaintances both in Caithness and Inverness, leaves his daughter Margaret and his son Donald, jnr, as well as his widow, Jemima, with whom he had a long and happy marriage.\par

The couple had a total of eight grandchildren and his ten great-grandchildren were the pride and joy of his life in the years before his sudden death.

Donald was the last surviving member of the family of the late Andrew and Rachael McPhee ... he was pre-deceased by his older brother Andrew and sister Rebecca some time ago while his sister Jessie, from Castletown, whom he used to visit regularly, died two years ago.

He spent most of his working life behind the wheel, working firstly on a coal-lorry before operating his own houshold fuel-delivery wagon. He switched to the less manual job of driving cabs after he was diagnosed with diabetes several years ago.

With his distinctive mop of greying curly hair, Don was latterly a well-known, popular and courteous taxi-driver in the Highland Capital.

While most people never forget their roots, for Don this was especially so.

On the the relatively infrequent occassions when he carried 'fares' from Canisbay parish, he was always asking after the welfare of former school friends such as Grant Bremner, George Green, Ian Steven and their families.

His old school-pal, ex-Councillor Bill Mowat, from John O'Groats, heard of Don's death from a mutual acquaintance when he visited Inverness after the end of the recent election campaign in Wick.

He said : "Above all Don will be remembered as a likeable and thoroughly decent human being. I was very sorry to learn of his sudden passing"

Contributed by Bill Mowat. 7/05/03