Thursday, 29 July 2010

Donnie "Gazette" - some of the legends are true

I was away last week so wasn't able to mark the retirement of chief reporter Donnie Macinnes from the Stornoway Gazette after more than 40 years holding the fort in Francis Street.

Tales about Donnie - who was a singer in the folk group The Lochies, a comedic double-act with Tom MacIver and a member of the Lochs Gaelic Choir when he wasn't scribing- are almost as legendary as the stories he had to cover over four decades in the Hebrides. No wonder he had no time to be editor, although the post was offered to him several times over.

It's his leaving do tonight which will never be as much of a party as the immortalised ceilidh Donnie once hosted in his hotel room during one of the National Mods, the exact date and location of which is lost in the mists of time.

The after-hours party was well and truly underway when there was a knock on Donnie's bedroom door. Donnie opened it only to be confronted by one of the more pious female members of Lochs Gaelic Choir.

Dishevelled as he was Donnie knew he was in for a lecture, and tried to keep the door half-closed on the sound of laughter, singing and clinking glasses coming from within.

Sure enough the righteous choir member began giving Donnie the third degree on how he should know better and should be setting an example to younger choir members, while all the time peering over his shoulder to try and identify just who and how many were cavorting in Donnie's room at that hour in the evening.

The rebuke went on for a good ten minutes, complete with biblical quotation, before the self-righteous spinster drew her diatribe to a close with the stern warning she had come to deliver in the first place: "And what's more this hotel is on fire."

Thanks, said Donnie, and closed the door absent-mindedly until the words sank in.

Fortunately nearly all the hotel's residents were in Donnie's room at the time so the evacuation was swift, if disorderly.

Donnie was always a delight to be on a story with, full of mischief and never failing to see the hilarious side of things in quite banal or serious situations.

I remember sitting with him one night on the press benches at the height of the BCCI crisis in which the Western Isles Council lost £23 million.(Yes, what Iceland did two years ago we did first in the Hebrides almost two decades ago).

As we watched yet another council meeting descend into rancour and self-loathing, I turned to Donnie in exasperation.

"Have you ever seen anything like this?" I whispered.

"Well," said Donnie, without batting an eyelid. "There was the Iolarie disaster."

All the best, Donnie, don't stop writing.

1 comment:

  1. A great tribute to a proper legend, Torcuil. He will be missed at the Gazette, that's for sure.