My uncle, Willie Simpson, who has died aged 97, was a man of determination, generosity and creativity. During his eventful life he was a miner, sheep farmer, award-winning photographer and cabaret performer.
He was the only son in a family of six from the village of Dalmellington, Ayrshire. From his father, Andrew, a miner, he inherited a love of the open air; from his mother, Roseanne (nee Smith), a dignity that was characteristic of all her children.
At the age of 16 Willie joined his father down the pit. He was, though, determined not to spend his time in the dark. He married Margaret Pringle and a few years later moved into Cashel, a magnificent sheep farm on the banks of Loch Lomond.
In the many years they were there, Cashel became a byword for hospitality. How this was done alongside the punishing work of a highland sheep farm is testament to their tenacity. Folk would appear at all times, extra chairs were drawn to the table, plates laid and another dram poured. There was always laughter. If bedrooms were full, we slept on the floor with a sheepdog for company.
It was not long before Willie bought a camera. Local characters and landscapes were all captured, national competitions entered and won. Exhibitions were arranged, lectures given and books published.
There were sorrows. A much loved only son, Andrew, died in an accident, and when Margaret’s father died in another, she decided Cashel had taken enough. They retired to Drymen, a few miles away, where Margaret became a stalwart of the local community.
Willie’s creativity developed in a different direction with a somewhat risqué comic cabaret act. He also found time in his late 70s to come climbing with me in the Austrian Alps. He was a supporter of the Scotland rugby union team, travelling to Murrayfield whenever he could. On holiday with his daughter’s family in the south of France, he once accidentally wandered on to a nudist beach – and came back naked.
He is survived by his daughter, Nan, three grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and by his sisters, Margaret and Jenny.