Son’s pride over Dunbar soldier’s help for veterans

Michael O'Donnell's bequest helped build new accommodation
Michael O'Donnell's bequest helped build new accommodation
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A Second World War soldier has helped fellow veterans in need of care live their lives to the full thanks to a gift from beyond the grave.

The late Michael O’Donnell, from Dunbar, left a bequest which partially funded accommodation for five ex-service personnel at the Veterans Village on the Erskine Estate, near Bishopton in Renfrewshire.

Mr O’Donnell, who was born in Leith in 1920, was a soldier in the Highland Light Infantry, signing up in 1939 and eventually leaving the Army as a Warrant Officer in 1946.

He was reluctant to discuss his time in the military but wanted to repay others for their sacrifice by leaving most of his estate to the Erskine charity.

Mr O’Donnell’s son, Keith, will now make a poignant visit to the apartments which have been named Kimberlea House in memory of his father and his home in Dunbar.

Keith said: “My father rarely spoke about the war although we do know that he never lost an appreciation that he was one of the lucky ones, he came home.

“It was no surprise to me that he wanted to leave all his assets to charity, the bulk of which he left to Erskine to help support the marvellous work they do caring for veterans.

“We are all immensely proud of the facility which Erskine has created with his legacy.”

Erskine Chief Executive Ian Cumming MBE said: “We are extremely grateful to Michael O’Donnell for his generosity in remembering our veterans in his will. His gift has transformed the lives of veterans that had a specialist housing need. They now live independently in a safe and peaceful home environment, with help and support from us when required.

“Mr O’Donnell’s kindness will continue to improve the lives of many and he will not be forgotten.”

Mr O’Donnell was orphaned at the age of 14 and moved to Berwick on Tweed to live with one of his older sisters and her husband. He started work in Liptons in Berwick in 1934 and in 1939 moved to Liptons in Dunbar. It was in Dunbar that he met Betty Knox and they married in 1940, having three children.

He returned to Dunbar after the war and continued to work with Liptons until he retired in 1982. He was always active in the community including Rotary, the local Traders’ Association, the Scout Association, the Day Centre and latterly the Probus Club. On his 90th birthday in 2010 he received an award from Dunbar Community Council in recognition of his contribution to the community over the previous 60 years. He died peacefully in April last year.