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Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team takes delivery of souped up wheels


By Neil MacPhail

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Handover of the new Cairngorm MRT minibus with deputy leader Willie Anderson, Angus Mackenzie, team leader Iain Cornfoot and team member John Lowther.
Handover of the new Cairngorm MRT minibus with deputy leader Willie Anderson, Angus Mackenzie, team leader Iain Cornfoot and team member John Lowther.

The Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team has a new mini-bus thanks to a legacy from a ski-mad Edinburgh solicitor who made his home in Strathspey to be close to his beloved mountains.

Donnaie Mackenzie died in June 2017 aged 96, but retained his active passion for the Cairngorm Mountains into his nineties.

The new vehicle will help get more team members and their gear quickly into the foothills when called out on a mission.

Mr Mackenzie’s son Angus visited members of the team on Tuesday lunchtime with a cheque for £35,000 towards the cost of the 2020 registration mini-bus.

Angus told deputy team leader Willie Anderson: “It all looks great and I hope the vehicle proves as useful as you have hoped. I know my father would be chuffed to bits, as the Cairngorms were such an important part of his life.”

While the rescue team’s new vehicle might look like a run of the mill transporter, it has in fact had some special additions for the tough conditions it will face.

Mr Anderson said: “It’s a Volkswagen Transporter, but it has been converted to be rescue ready.

“Now it is four-wheel-drive for use on tracks and snow, and can carry eight members with their gear and also can carry a stretcher.

“Our Land Rovers are great off-road, but sometimes they can be rather cramped when rescuers have big rucksacks with them.

“This is a great addition to the rescue team and we are very grateful for the money that went a long way to the £70,000 total cost for this conversion.”

A tribute to Mr Mackenzie at the time of his death.
A tribute to Mr Mackenzie at the time of his death.

Donnaie’s passion for skiing came about in unusual circumstances.

When a boy, his brother Paul contracted TB and both lads were taken to Switzerland for the benefits of the climate, and that’s where they learned to ski. Both retained their enthusiasm for the sport into their ripe old ages.

As a doctor Paul developed a great interest in treating ski injuries and the rescue of accident victims on the slopes.

After war service in the RAF, Donnaie studied law at Edinburgh University and became an enthusiastic member of the fledgling Scottish Ski Club back in the 1950s and 1960s, and he and his pals became the core of the Edinburgh section.

Donnaie’s claim to fame in ski development was his contribution to a mobile ski tow designed by Bill Blackwood which had a moving rope which skiers clung onto grimly. A standing joke at the time was that Scottish skiers could be recognised immediately because one arm was longer than the other.

Donnaie retired to Dulnain Bridge and guests for his house warming party were told to scale the limekilns it stood on to gain access, despite it having a perfectly good road access.

He and his late wife Margaret were founder and highly active members of the Clan Mackenzie Society started in 1993, and with his other son Paul officiated at the opening of the refurbished Mackenzie Fountain in Kingussie originally erected in 1911 by his grandfather Peter Mackenzie.

Sadly Margaret died in a car crash in 1998. He later remarried to Katherine in 2002.

The Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team is a volunteer service and in large part relies on donations, bequests and fundraising.

More details on the team and its invaluable work can be found here


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