Obituary: Donald Manson, 93

Donald Manson
Donald Manson
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Donald Manson, former aircraft component engineer and Musselburgh stable manager, has died, aged 93, just a few weeks after wife Isobel, who was 90. They had been married for 65 years.

Donald and Isobel Manson were both born in Musselburgh and, apart from a few years away on war service, spent all their lives in the town.

Donald was born in 1919 in the High Street above the pend leading to Kerr’s Wynd. He started as an apprentice at the Brunton Wire Mill when he was 14 and worked there until he was 65 with a gap of only two years in the war.

Called up in 1939, Donald served in the British Expeditionary Force and saw action in France and Belgium before being demobbed and returning to the wire mill, where he spent the rest of the war as a tool-maker creating aircraft components. The factory had its own Home Guard unit of around 30 workers and any spare time Donald had was taken up with military drills and parades.

Speaking to the Evening News in 2009, on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of war, he recalled: “They were all local lads – the captain was our manager, of course! We worked 12-hour shifts at the factory, starting at 6am. We did two nights of overtime a week, we worked Saturday until lunchtime and all day Sunday. We didn’t see sunshine from one day to the next, it was like being miners down the pit.

“On the nights we weren’t at the factory we turned out for the Home Guard. We did a lot of parading and drilling, and learning how to fire Lewis guns and rifles. We would go up to Arthur’s Seat to Hunter’s Bog for target practice. We were never called into action, probably much to our relief. There was no fun or joy, we worked most of the time. We lived a peculiar sort of life, but that’s just how it was at that time.”

Meanwhile, Isobel, the daughter of papermill worker James Hall and Nora Jameson of Brae House, Newibigging, was serving in the Land Army, based at a dairy farm in Brechin. The couple met after the war when they were both working as attendants at the Musselburgh festival and married in 1947.

Donald retired from the wire mill in 1985. By then he had become departmental manager in charge of the Mall Park Aero division. And on retirement awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the aircraft industry. But retirement just meant the start of a second career as manager of the stables at Musselburgh race course, where he carried on working until he was 85.

When the Queen opened the stables on an official visit in 1994, he showed her round, later telling the News: “She had a horse here that day – it didn’t win and she wasn’t very pleased.”

The couple are survived by their four children, Bruce, Cameron, Lindsay and Felicity as well as grandchildren Donald, Eoghan, Robbie and Flora.