A tribute to Duncan MacInnes Brown

Duncan Brown.
Duncan Brown.

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With the death of Duncan M Brown on August 11, a week after his 95th birthday, Campbeltown has lost a well-known and cherished son.

Duncan was born in Campbeltown on August 5, 1925. In his recently published booklet ‘Boyhood Memories of the Wee Toon’, he spoke fondly of growing up in the Longrow, and the rich world of boyhood activities living there opened up to him, a world of the garage, the sawmill, the smokehouse, the smiddy and the harbour, inhabited by a host of local characters.

As a youth he delivered milk from McKellar’s Dairy in the Main Street, where the Kintyre Larder is now and where his daughter Marjorie’s shop was before it.

In 1943, at the tender age of 18, with the Second World War still in progress, Duncan joined the RAF. He did his basic training in Leicester and then became a radar technician, spending the remainder of the war in Burma. On being demobbed, Duncan worked for a time in Edinburgh, where he met his then future wife Margaret at a Valentines dance — treating her to a fern cake.

Their relationship grew and soon Duncan was selling his bike in order to buy an engagement ring, something he would not let her forget in later life.

After their marriage in Edinburgh in 1949, Duncan and Margaret moved to Campbeltown to start their married life in a flat in North Shore Street. A great-aunt of Margaret’s commented, as the couple left Edinburgh: ‘She’ll no’ be there a fortnight and she’ll be back.’ Well, she wasn’t, and she and Duncan celebrated their platinum wedding
anniversary last September — a milestone not many can match.

On coming home, Duncan worked for a time with his uncle, Angus MacInnes, who had a business selling domestic necessities and charging the batteries people used then to power their wireless sets. Duncan was always looking for ways to expand their range and one day decided to try toys. He bought in half a dozen cars which sold out at once. Then he ordered a dozen and they sold out too.

That was when Duncan decided to concentrate on toys and before long his own wee shop in the Longrow had become a Mecca for all the boys and girls of the town. There can be few Campbeltonians over a certain age who don’t remember spending their pocket money in that Aladdin’s cave in Longrow and remember too, the gentle, kindly, and infinitely patient man who ran it.

Though he was in many ways a quiet and self-effacing man who never liked being in the spotlight, Duncan also made his mark on the wider life of the town. He was active in the community, serving as treasurer of the committee that raised funds for the town’s first swimming pool, though he was never a swimmer himself. He was active in the Traders’ Association and in a group that supported children with special needs.

You wouldn’t think all that would leave him much time for leisure pursuits, but Duncan was a keen bowler, and he and Margaret did a lot of walking. He was also an avid reader, borrowing many a book from the local library. He had a good general knowledge and took a keen interest in current affairs.

In recent years, he enjoyed going along on a Thursday afternoon to the gatherings of the Old Pals Club, contributing his share to their wonderful fund of local knowledge.

In many ways Duncan was a very public man, well known through his business and his wider involvements. He truly was a Campbeltown legend.

But there was also the private man, the family man who made his wife and daughters feel so completely loved and supported, the dependable man whose main purpose in life was to make life good for them.

Within the family his great sense of humour and his love of a practical joke came to the fore. There was always a twinkle in his eye. On his first visit to daughter Dorothy in
remote rural China, where they went well off the beaten tourist track, Duncan would
often say to her: ‘I’ve not met anyone from Drumlemble yet!’

That pawky humour stayed with him to the end. In July, Duncan had to go into hospital for a time and at one point the family was sent for. Fortunately he rallied and the next morning Marjorie found him chatting with four of the nursing staff gathered at the foot of his bed. ‘Well,’ he told them, ‘I wasn’t expecting to see you this morning. I thought it would be somebody from Blair’s.’

Duncan’s gentle humour, his quietly spoken graciousness, his kindness and patience, his impact on the life of the community, his devotion to Margaret, Marjorie and Dor, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, his loving presence at the heart of his family – these were the hallmarks of a man who will be long and fondly remembered in his native town.