Obituary: Sandy MacFarlane

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In 1957 a tragedy on Loch Etive was narrowly averted. The regular mail boat taking mail, milk and farm supplies to the scattered houses in the far reaches of the loch, was towing a small barge loaded with hay. Sandy who was thirteen at the time was helping his Dad who skippered the boat, by keeping the loaded barge secure while they sailed up the loch. Why Sandy fell in is not clear, but as a non swimmer at the time, it was only the quick reactions of Ben Holland and his Dad that enabled a timely rescue. Sandy later became a competent swimmer and years later enjoyed sea swimming on his many holidays abroad with his wife Deirdre!

Sandy was a Taynuilt man to the core. Born in the village and raised with his two sisters at Lochandhu; helping on the farm at Brochroy; and occasionally on the mail boat on Loch Etive, he was steeped in village life. He attended Taynuilt Primary then Oban High School before leaving age 15 to start his apprenticeship with the local MacCallum joinery firm.

Work took him initially to the new Hydro scheme at Cruachan, then briefly to Glasgow, but in 1967 he returned to Taynuilt and stayed there for the rest of his life. It was that joinery work, initially on new housing construction, that was the source of the asbestos exposure that so many years later would be the cause of his untimely death. Thereafter he had nearly 20 years self employed which saw him working on many different locations in Argyll. Many will remember his attention to detail and painstaking approach to his work. Seldom were things done abruptly or without careful thought beforehand!

Sandy had a change of career in 1987 when he moved to a supervisors position with the then Hydro Electric. Many enjoyable days were spent walking over the hills to some of the more remote Hydro schemes and equipment, and he worked with them continuously till his retirement in 2009.

Central to his adult life was his family. First with Deirdre McNaught whom he met in 1967 and married two years later, then with his increasing family. Sandy and Deirdre had five children, Lorne who died in infancy, then Fiona, Rona, Duncan and Kirstin. The first two children were born in the static caravan where they were living at the time, so life cannot have been easy. However the end result was the magnificent conversion of the fire gutted old workmen’s cottages at the Bonawe Furnace Iron Foundry which Sandy painstakingly converted into a spacious comfortable family home. It was here that he was to live thereafter, and here that he died in November 2017.

Sandy was a thoughtful man. He never gave an opinion or spoke without careful forethought. Nothing was ever done impetuously, and “Which” magazine or car magazines were perused thoroughly before any purchases were made. The same careful attention went into his care for his bees. For around 40 years he kept several hives and his heather honey was renowned. That hobby abruptly ended when his colonies were destroyed by the varroa mite.

Other interests included gardening, especially in the vegetable beds and greenhouse, at Shore House where he lived. Hill walking and bowling were regularly enjoyed. He kept an interest in football, which he had played as a young man, and in other sports too. He read a lot of history and researched the family trees of both his parents. But above all Sandy was a family man, and although devastated by his diagnosis of an inevitably fatal asbestos related disease, mesothelioma, he remained dignified and courageous in his final months and weeks where he was surrounded by his family. He will be missed by many especially Deirdre, his children and his nine grandchildren.