Obituary: Joe Barclay, war hero, 91

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War hero Joe Barclay has died at the age of 91

Joe Barclay was born in a tenement in Caledonian Crescent in Dalry on March 28, 1923 and attended Tynecastle School until the age of 14, when he left to become a messenger boy on a push-bike for Durie Brown, Stationers of George Street, followed by a stint in a garage at the foot of Drum Brae.

On his 18th birthday, Mr Barclay, who was serving in the Home Guard, registered for National Service. His father had been in the Royal Navy in the Great War and his younger brother was already at sea with the Merchant Navy.

He was dismayed to learn he had been placed on the reserved occupation list, since his engineering skills could have been put to good use working on munitions.

But he discovered that if he volunteered for aircrew duties in the RAF, he could go to war quickly. Together with some other apprentices, he passed the exams and discovered he had scored highly enough for pilot training.

Mr Barclay’s tour of service began in October 1943 with dual circuits and landings, three and two-engine flying practice, solo fighter affiliation and bombing and firing. By January 1944 his crew was involved in air-to-sea firing followed by operations to Berlin. They then flew with Spitfires over Stuttgart, mined Kiel harbour and Berlin, and bombed Essen and Nuremberg.

After returning from the war he met and married Margaret Beren, but she died giving birth to their son in 1948. Further tragedy struck the same year when his mother, Matilda, passed away, aged only 47.

Mr Barclay loved the outdoors and went on many cycling and camping trips with his father and brothers. His uncle Sandy Barclay wrote the Nature Notes column for the Evening News.

He met his second wife, Catherine, when she joined his employer, the New Welding and Engineering Company of Annandale Street, where he progressed from apprentice to foreman, then works manager.

As their family grew they spent happy holidays in an old Volkswagen camper van Mr Barclay had refitted, including engine, having done similar for his mother with an old field ambulance which he sited near Lamancha, in the Borders.

Catherine developed motor neurone disease just as the couple were looking forward to retirement and died shortly after her 60th birthday.

At the age of 70, Mr Barclay married Ina, an old neighbour from Liberton. They spent a few happy years together before her ill-health prevented their travelling, and he became a carer once again until her death last October. He kept himself occupied with gardening and tinkering in his shed, always fixing or making something.

Barclay is survived by his children Roderick, Elizabeth, Alison and David, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.