1998 Dr George Sanderson Durness
During the holiday season many faces appear and disappear but towards the end of July, familiar groups of folks start to emerge and mingle ready for participation in the most northwesterly mainland Highland Gathering. Durness bustles with a roused anticipation. The topics of conversations nearly always end with concern and prediction about the weather on Games Day. The day was bright and mild with a few light showers and after the recent wet weather made the ground heavy and hard going. Consequently, no records of accomplishment were broken. This year has generally generated disappointment in the numbers of tourists to the area and the attendance to the games reflected a slightly lower number of visitors. This did not dampen the spirits of the competitors, organizers and spectators and the afternoon was declared a resounding success.
The Sutherland Schools Pipe band led the parade from the Village Square to Shore Park where Chairperson Iris Mather introduced the proceedings and called upon this year�s chieftain for the official opening the occasion. The Chairperson and the Chieftain emphasized that the event is only possible because of the hard working band of voluntary assistance. Along with the company of past chieftains and officials welcoming and spending the day socializing and conversing with the visitors and spectators, there is the coordinating committee working behind the scenes and the ground staff preparing the field and officiating events. From the young running errands to the more senior respected citizens nearly the whole population is in some way implicated. Billy Morrison has actively been involved for many years, is the first person to have been Chairman, Chieftain, and is currently President.
Dr. George, as he has become known locally, clarified the sometimes-confusing different titles this occasion is referred to in his opening address. The Durness Highland Gathering or Durness Highland Games? He spoke articulately about the occasion existing for different purposes to different people. An opportunity for family and friends to gather for social participation with fun and competitive events to provide the sport, entertainment and activity. Whatever the name and whatever the motive for attending everyone was invited to join in and not to put of their intention to another year.
Dr. George Sanderson a well respected and admired participant in the Highland Gathering for many years was the worthy choice as 1998 Chieftain. He was a fitting person after retiring two years ago as the Games President. His interests are wide ranging; he has a playful sense of humor and enjoys exploring new technicalities. Electric keyboards, video and computers are the most recent. George is an enthusiastic and skillful dancer and has been responsible for initiating highland dance classes and traditional dancing groups as social occasions. He is the first to the floor at any opportunity when the band starts to play. He is a man held in high regard for the devotion and commitment he revealed while working.
George also retired two years ago after a dedicated career in medicine working the last thirteen as the General Practitioner in Durness. Aileen his wife, a qualified and experienced teacher of Geography, also retired, is an active worker for the Red Cross participating in all the church and community events. George and Aileen Sanderson are genuine devotees of the Durness Highland Gathering and deserving people of the privilege. They are settled in Durness for their retirement but regularly visit their three grown up children and four grandchildren. David their eldest is an engineering executive with Chevron in Reading, Marie Claire an English Teacher in Granada in Spain and Colin a Geology graduate working in Information Technology research in Aberdeen. The whole family was in Durness to participate in what George describes as a �very definite honour�.
Throughout the afternoon the band paraded around the field in a display that proudly reflects the Highland tradition of bagpipes playing. This year Duncan Anderson was the only Durness youth playing in the Sutherland Schools Pipe Band, one of the last pupils from Durness perhaps even the North West at Golspie High School where the band is centered to be a piper. Duncan, a popular local lad won four trophies, Keep Fit- best senior male from the parish, Ferguson Cup confined to the county of Sutherland, the Marjory Campbell Shield Open for boys 14-18 and the Barr Cup for overall champion from the Parish of Durness.
All the events kept to schedule and the strength of the Durness men was proven at the Tug-o�-War when the rope snapped in two leaving both teams sitting in the mud!
One afternoon sees the climax of preparation for the best part of a year. As soon as the thank you letters are dispatched to the sponsors and confirmation of winners are sent for official records the next year�s event is started to be planned. The Highland affair, both a gathering and a games came to a close at around 5pm giving everyone an opportunity to prepare for the evening session with a dance to Febus in the village hall.
Dr. George, as he became affectionately known in Durness, died peacefully after an illness at the Highland Hospice on Monday 4 March. He was born in Falkirk in 1929. In 1983 Dr. George Sanderson moved from Northampton to Durness and for 13 years he was the principal general practitioner and family doctor to the village. Very quickly George and his wife Eileen became involved in village activities and made many friends. He retired in 1996 and actively pursued his many interests. He was an energetic man for his 73 years of age up until very recently and his serious illness came as a shock to many. Dr George was a graduate in medicine from Edinburgh University. He served with the RAMC in Malaya and worked for 20 years in Nigeria before returning to practise in Britain. He oversaw the establishment and opening of the Heath Centre in Durness and insisted in working for one year in the centre before retiring. Until then consultations had taken place in the tiny room attached to the Doctor�s house where the doctor was responsible for all the duties of the practice.
He was greatly respected as a doctor and as a person. In his professional capacity he always had time to listen and spend with his patients. He knew everyone as an individual and provided a value of worth in his practice of medicine. He could be called on night or day and had the great gift of a doctor with an understanding of people and a quality bed side manner.
He had numerous interests golfing, cycling, music, dancing, computing, sailing, archery, photography to name a few and he had affection for learning. He had a subtle and clever sense of humour. Over the years he had instigated dancing lessons in the community and at any function his love of dancing would be obvious to all with him first to the floor. He had taught himself to play keyboards and was an active member of the Ceol Clo Mor music group where he taught the younger members how to play. He involved himself in many community activities. In 1998 he was chieftain of the Highland Games and from 1986 to 1996 inclusive he was president of the Games Committee. He was instrumental in ensuring the life and times of the Durness Community over the turn of the century was recorded for posterity.
He was a sociable and hospitable man with an ideal partner in Eileen as a wife. Eileen was the devoted spouse always quietly supportive of his activities. Most of all he was a family man and his grown up children David, Marie Claire and Colin are a credit to Eileen and the memory of George. He was a proud and devoted father and grandfather. Although his children all live away from Durness retirement gave time for George and Eileen to travel and visit their family.
On the 9 March Dr. George was buried at Balnakeil Cemetery. After a service in the Church of Scotland conducted, by the Rev John Mann, friends and family bade farewell to a good man who treasured life and dedicated his own to helping others.
Words cannot express the sympathy to Eileen and the family at their loss but the community convey their deepest condolences and share their grief.