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Our Past Honorary President

Neil Nicolson

1917 – 2012

Neil was the choir’s most enthusiastic and generous supporter. The story of how he became our Honorary President is typical of the man and his relationship with the choir. A ceilidh had been arranged in Skelmorlie Community Centre but the application for a drinks licence had been overlooked and the last date for the application had passed. Someone suggested contacting Neil as he regularly obtained the licence for the Skelmorlie Highlanders Association ceilidhs. Neil said not to worry he would take care of it. He went to Largs Police Office where, in those days, these things were arranged. He talked the Duty Officer into accepting a late application. He filled out the form in the name of Largs Gaelic Choir putting his own name as the licensee. The form then required the position that the licensee held within the organisation. He wrote down – President. Such was the affection that the choir held for him he was adopted as our official Honorary President a short while later.

The highlight of Neil’s year was the Mòd. He rarely missed one and travelled with the choir for a long number of years. It was a delight to be in his company at the informal ceilidhs that are part of the Mòd culture.

Neil was born on the family croft at Ellishadder near Staffin on the 16 December 1917, the third child of a family of four. Records show that the croft had been occupied by the family since 1733, and probably long before; and there had been a Neil Nicolson in every generation.

In 1939, like many of his contemporaries, Neil joined David Macbrayne as a galley boy. He was persuaded to train as an engineer and graduated to become Chief Engineer. He also gained his Lifeboat ticket even though he could not swim. Nothing ever daunted Neil. He served aboard the Loch Fyne for 28 years on the Oban run in summer and on the Clyde in winter. For five years from 1970 he sailed with the King George on the Oban to Staffa and Iona cruise; and five years later, he retired.

Neil kept alive his many community interests for as long as he was able. He was president of the Skelmorlie Highland Association for more than 50 years. The Highland Association provided another platform for his amazing range of lengthy Gaelic songs which, he claimed, he learned during his boyhood from old gramophone records. For those who were not so attuned to the Gaelic language he would condescend to sing the likes of “The Lights of Loch Indall”.

Neil was remarkably sociable and generous. He made conversation and friends easily. Those of who were privileged to know him in their various walks of life were welcomed into his life. All who knew Neil were very fond of him; and none more so than his family. He will be sadly missed.