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‘The piece in last week’s Lochaber News by the Lewis & Harris Piping Society about the late Robin Fleming has prompted me to write a further tribute to this kind and unassuming man,’ writes Victoria Sutherland, chairperson of Glencoe and Glen Etive Community Council.
‘Robin cared deeply about the communities that surrounded his Blackmount Estate and never failed to respond to appeals to help.
‘In 1959 his late father Philip Fleming got a request from Philip Rankin – the ‘father’ of Scottish skiing, asking to be allowed to erect a ski tow on Meall-a-Bhuiridh, a hill on the Blackmount Estate.
‘Thereby started a close and lasting friendship between the two Philips.
The minutes of the first meeting on February 5, 1960, of directors of the newly formed White Corries Ltd shows the appointment of Philip Fleming as chairman.
‘In 1961 the Flemings, who at that time were the owners of the Kingshouse Hotel, erected a cottage there for an employee of White Corries for which they charged the company no rent. Later a second cottage was added.
‘Robin took over the chairmanship from his father in August 1966, and remained in the post until 1984.
‘During this time, ski-ing in Scotland became very popular and White Corries as the first ski centre in the country expanded hugely – all with the help and blessing of the Fleming family which also took to the slopes when at Blackmount.
‘All employees of Blackmount were treated as one big family and when it came to retirement, houses were bought for them and the family continued to take an interest in their wellbeing.
‘In 1999 my husband Alister – a recently retired Glasgow lawyer with a family home in Glencoe – was contacted by the professional fundraiser appointed by Abbeyfield to help raise the four million pounds required to build a new Abbeyfield home in Ballachulish.
‘Alister, who knew Robin and had served with him for many years on the White Corries board, contacted Robin to see if he and the fundraiser could visit him at Blackmount to talk about the Abbeyfield project.
‘After a friendly meeting, they left without any indication that funds might be forthcoming. Indeed the fundraiser said as they left, ‘Well that was a wasted trip!’
A week later a huge cheque arrived followed by additional funds from the Fleming family – in total they contributed around a million pounds to the project. Typically Robin wished no recognition or mention of the generous gifts given.
Abbeyfield is to this day the biggest employee in Ballachulish and we are so very lucky to have this wonderful facility in our area. Much of that we can thank Robin Fleming for.
‘One omission in the piece in last week’s Lochaber Times was the fact that Robin was himself a piper and an accomplished pianist.
‘I have one final story about this man’s kindness. In 1999 a school friend of our late son told us he had applied for the first degree course in piping to be run by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland but was struggling to fund his course.
‘Alister, who knew Robin to be a keen piper, wrote to him telling him of this young man’s plight. Imagine the boy’s delight when attending the Conservatoire the first day of term to be told that all his fees had been covered by none other than a Mr Robin Fleming.
‘Dr Simon McKerrel is now a reader of music at the International Centre for Music Studies at Newcastle University, a composer of pipe music and founder of the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band, which competes at the World Pipe Band Competition in Glasgow every year, and is a very well known figure in piping circles.
‘When thanked, all Robin asked for in return was that Simon might come and play for him from time to time.
‘This man, a Highland laird of the best kind, will be long remembered in this area for his generosity.’
Robin Fleming being awarded Honorary Life Membership of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society in 2013. Photograph courtesy of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society.