Stalwart George is Campbeltown’s citizen of the year

Rotary Club of Campbeltown president Pat Healey presents George McMillan OBE with the Citizen of the Year 2021 Award as president elect Alan Milstead looks on.
Rotary Club of Campbeltown president Pat Healey presents George McMillan OBE with the Citizen of the Year 2021 Award as president elect Alan Milstead looks on.

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And musical maestro Emily named young musician of the year

A stalwart member of the community has received the Rotary Club of Campbeltown’s Citizen of the Year Award, aged 92, after becoming eligible following his retirement from the group.

George McMillan OBE received the illustrious honour for 2021 in recognition of a lifetime of work in, and service to, the Campbeltown community.

He was presented with his award at the Rotary’s 51st charter dinner, last Friday April 22, at which 17-year-old Emily Bennie also received the club’s Young Musician of the Year Award.

Emily Bennie receives her Young Musician of the Year 2021 Award from Rotary Club of Campbeltown president Pat Healey.
Emily Bennie receives her Young Musician of the Year 2021 Award from Rotary Club of Campbeltown president Pat Healey.

Now retired, Mr McMillan is well known for his work as a butcher, Royal Marine, Argyll Colliery miner, Davaar ferryman, chip shop owner and stationer, as well as his roles as town councillor, Provost, convenor of Argyll County Council and a member of Strathclyde Regional Council.

After school, he started an apprenticeship to become a butcher, before being conscripted to the Royal Marines with which he completed two years’ national service.

He returned to Campbeltown to complete his apprenticeship but, in search of better wages, took on the job of operating the coal loader on the town’s Old Quay before moving into the mine itself.

There, he was involved in a number of accidents which led to his lifelong membership of the Labour Party, as he recognised the need for ensuring safe working environments and fair treatment of staff.

When Argyll Colliery closed in 1967, Mr McMillan opened a chip shop in Longrow, alongside operating the Davaar Island ferry, delivering goods and taking schoolchildren to and from the island.

After selling his chip shop, Mr McMillan purchased a newsagent in Main Street where he remained a familiar face for more than four decades, until the building was sold just a few years ago.

He began his political career as a member of Campbeltown Town Council before being elected Provost in 1972.

When Argyll County Council and Campbeltown Town Council were replaced in 1975 with Argyll and Bute District Council and a higher tier, Strathclyde Regional Council, Mr McMillan was not only elected to both councils but was elected convener of the district council.

His dedicated work in these capacities resulted in major regeneration and improvements in many areas of town.

Mr McMillan also served as a Justice of the Peace, and founded, chaired and was a member of a number of local trusts and groups, including the Rotary Club of Campbeltown, living up to its motto of service before self.

Following his reluctant retirement, the group is finally able to reward his years of service by naming him Citizen of the Year.

Although much younger in age than Mr McMillan, Young Musician of the Year Miss Bennie also has a remarkable list of achievements to her name.

Last year, she was awarded a prestigious Associate of the Royal Schools of Music (Piano) Performance diploma with a merit endorsement while studying for her Advanced Highers at Campbeltown Grammar School.

She began playing piano, aged eight, under the tutelage of former Campbeltown Grammar School music teacher David McEwan who described her success as ‘a major achievement’.

Miss Bennie also excels at brass, having started playing aged 10, and is now the principal euphonium player with the award-winning Campbeltown Brass band and was awarded the same position in the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland Reserve Band in 2019.

Miss Bennie continues to work towards furthering her musical credentials as she prepares to complete a further Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music grade examination, having previously completed many.

The Rotary is not the only organisation to recognise Miss Bennie’s outstanding musical prowess as she received the Excellent Achievement Award for Music at this year’s Campbeltown Grammar School prize-giving.

Miss Bennie treated Rotarians to a piano performance at last week’s charter dinner.

The speaker for the evening was David Purdie, a Fellow of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Advanced Studies, who gave a 20-minute talk about the history of Kintyre and Scotland.