Life at the end of the road

June 26, 2010

Still no bath :-(

Filed under: daily doings — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:35 pm

Saturday already and I’ve still not set off from Greenock on Thursday evening on the blogging front 😦 Anyway after a day of ‘Crowd control and crisis management’ that’s exactly what I did around 16:30, after a most enlightening few hours in the Calmac board room complete with several films and a short exam.

The heavy city traffic and ‘Prodigy’ on the CD player soon gave way to the laid back funky techno of ‘Silicone Soul’ as I made my way up Loch Lomond to ever decreasing vehicles. A quick stop in Fort William  to pay homage at my favourite church of retail therapy, lidl, where, once suitably loaded with ‘Bardolino Classico’ and ‘Montecielo Crianza’ I continued north to my parents near Glen Shiel.

Stopping briefly to admire a cairn above the rather low Loch Loyne hydro scheme on the A87


Map picture

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A pile of stones marked the spot where Willie MacRae’s car left the road for many years but someone has built a proper cairn recently. I know very little of Willie MacRae’s suspicious ‘suicide’ but came across this during a ‘quick Google’

“JUST another car crash off a hazardous country road? No. The most intriguing, unsolved murder of the last 25 years. Willie McRae was a larger-than-life character.
A prominent Scottish lawyer, he’d fought and won many cases opposing the government. As an SNP activist, he’d held national office and come close to becoming an MP.
Yet McRae also revelled in his radical anti-nuclear stance – a dangerous position in the 1980s.
On Friday, April 5, 1985, he left his Glasgow office to head north to his weekend home in Kintail.
Laden with his usual bulging briefcase and armfuls of legal document a big grin splitting his face, he turned to his office sta and said: "I’ve got them! without further explanation.
They were to be the last words he was known to have ‘ spoken.
Around 10am the following I day, an Australian tourist and his wife pulled their car in at an isolated spot on the A87.
A maroon Volvo lay 30 or so yards off the road, straddling a burn, and the couple wanted to check no one was hurt. hT found a man slumped in the driver’s seat, unconscious, hi head smeared with blood.
The next car to arrive was driven by Dr Dorothy Messer, accompanied by her fiancé David Coutts, a Dundee SNP councillor who was shocked to the injured man as Willie McRae.
Dr Messer immediately examined McRae and found he was alive, though dilated pupils indicated serious brain damage.
The police were alerted by another motorist. PC Kenny Crawford arrived from Inverness on his own.
The cops had been told that a prominent Scottish politician, activist and lawyer was lying injured in an isolated spot. What did they do? Send one lonesome PC.
PC Crawford did his best. He and David Coutts struggled to get McRae’s limp body out of the car.
With the limited facilities available to her, Dr Messer had concluded that McRae had been hurt in a road accident. The good doctor had done her best. There was nothing to contradict that view -yet.
Willie McRae was taken to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, and then on to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, the standard procedure for I brain damage treatment.
There, six hours after his discovery, a nurse washed the patient’s head and found a bullet hole. An X-ray confirmed McRae had been shot above his right ear. The hitman’s bull’s eye.
Willie McRae died at 3am on April 7, 1985, at least 36 hours after being injured. Already folk were questioning how the whole affair had been handled.
Realising there had been a cock-up, Chief Superintendent Andrew Lester, of Northern CID, took over the case immediately.
Yet McRae’s car was promptly removed from the site of what was now a suspicious death. Normally the scene would have been cordoned off and the car kept there while forensics, photographers and scenes of crime officers completed their work.
It was later revealed police couldn’t remember where Willie McRae had been found. They were a mile out until their mistake was pointed out by one of the civilians who had been at the scene. The tragic comedy of errors continued.
When McRae’s body was found, PC Crawford had collected a small pyramid of the dead man’s personal papers all carefully torn up, topped with his smashed wrist-watch and found 20 yards from his car.
Who had put them so neatly there? Who knows? Too many people had trampled over the ground, ruining any clues. A search the next day revealed a Smith & Wesson .45 in the stream 60ft from the car. The gun had been fired twice and had no fingerprints.
Twice? Who could shoot themselves twice in the head?
McRae wasn’t wearing gloves when found. So who wiped the gun of prints?
Sixty feet? Who could throw the hefty gun that distance when they’d just put a bullet in their own brain?
Yet a post mortem would leave an open verdict, suggesting suicide. When challenged, the police suggested the heavy gun had been carried downstream by the water of the wee burn. That theory was soon dismissed.
While they were trying to remove McRae from his car, PC Crawford’s cap fell off and David Coutts had bent to retrieve it, getting a clear view of the stream beside and under the car. There was no sign of any gun.
It also emerged the pathologist had failed to carry out a basic test on the wound to determine the range the gun was fired from,
A fundamental test, since suicides always press the gun hard into their skull to be sure, A hitman, on the other hand, might fire from inches or feet away. The closer you get the messier you get and mess is evidence that’s difficult to conceal.
McRAE had left for Kintail laden with documents, a bottle of whisky and a pack of cigarettes to feed his chain-smoking habit. None were found in his belongings.
At the time of his death, McRae had been working on yet another sensitive case. Having previously legally prevented the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 1980 from dumping nuclear waste in the Ayrshire hills, he intended to have a similar impact on plans to dump waste from Dounreay in the sea.
McRae had hinted to colleagues that he had been passed classified government documents – not for the first time – and colleagues knew he was carrying highly sensitive papers on this case.
Friends believe it was the Dounreay inquiry he was referring to when, as he left the office, he said: "I’ve got them!"
Yet no papers of his relating to Dounreay have ever been located. Over months before his death, Willie McRae’s house was repeatedly burgled, his legal papers disrupted and destroyed. He became cautious, security conscious and had a copy of the Dounreay papers with him at all times, as he did on the day he died. But they were never found.
The only other copy of the Dounreay papers were kept in his office. Who’d break into a big lawyer’s office? But they were stolen when it was burgled. Nothing else was taken.
People began to look for a wider explanation of McRae’s death. They didn’t have to look too far back.
The year before McRae died, a gentle woman called Hilda Murrell was found murdered in her cottage in rural Shrewsbury. Hilda was a rose grower, a pacifist -who could want to kill her? A robber?
Yes. But the only thing stolen from her home were some papers to do with her other passion – anti-nuclear protesting. Later, it was leaked to the press that Hilda’s nephew was a naval intelligence officer involved in the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War, then a great controversy since the ship had been heading away from battle when deliberately sunk.
But no papers of his were taken – just Hilda’s anti-nuclear evidence. It was yet another smoke screen. The question was why?
Retired police officers have revealed that because of his legal and political work, McRae was on the files of MI5.
One of the cars used to trail him was a Triumph, registration number PSJ 136X. Wherever McRae went, that car followed.
He had noticed the motor. Willie McRae was nobody’s fool. When he raised the matter with a friendly cop, he checked the computer. The car came up marked as "blocked vehicle". That’s shorthand for belonging to the Special Branch or I
Yet no inquiry was held into the death of Willie McRae. Instead, there was a whispering campaign suggesting that McRae was everything from an alcoholic, to a homosexual, to a man in deep financial trouble.
Good enough reasons why he might be troubled, why he might have killed himself, but absolutely without any substance.
No one has ever seen the post mortem report. The procurator fiscal in Inverness has refused to comment on the case, citing the Official Secrets Act.
When Madame Ecosse, Winnie Ewing, carried out an investigation for the SNP she was bluntly denied access to the Crown Office papers in spite of giving the customary legal guarantee of confidentiality.
Every independent person who has examined the case of Willie McRae concludes it wasn’t suicide. If not suicide then what? Murder? But by whom and in whose name?
‘Willie McRae was nobody’s fool…he knew he was being followed by shadowy figures’
a link on Willie

Al Qaeda are hiding explosive devices inside cans of Alphabetti
If they go off it could spell disaster. “

It comes from a site full of conspiracy theories like ‘planes vapour trails are full of hallucinogenic gas’ and JFK was an alien’ but apart from that it’s legit :-) 

Anyway I finally arrived at Ma and Pa’s just after 21:00 where two pieces of monkfish wrapped in bacon awaited me, I wasted no time in washing it down with a glass of red ( I know I’m a Philistine ) and then turning in.

The first lobster

I spent most of the day pottering about with my parents water supply, they too are on a private supply and having woes, but I think I got it all sorted and managed to catch the 16:30 to Raasay.

It was a beautiful evening, the tide was high so after a quick bite to eat we went out to ‘lift the creels’

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we got a bonny crab in the second creel but Molly was not impressed 🙂

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like myself she prefers lobster 🙂

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though this chap was thrown back to grow a little more 🙂

By the time all that was done it was almost time for bed.

The joy at being home once again with wife child and dog was tempered somewhat by the sad news that another of few remaining people from the north end of Raasay had passed away. Jessie Ann Macleod of Suisnish but formally North Arnish died on Thursday at 22:00 after a long illness. Leaving behind her devoted husband Calum and three daughters she will be sorely missed. I will always remember her for frequent lectures to me on the danger of diving for a living.


  1. Hi Paul
    The Willie McRae article is interesting. Around the time Dounreay first started we noticed an increasing number of cases of cancer in Skye – too many really in the law of averages. I always thought that it was the waste from Dounreay that was causing the illnesses. I have passed the site of that cairn when there were loads of cars there – like a gathering – possibly on the anniversary of the ‘suicide’

    Comment by Jan — June 27, 2010 @ 9:28 am

    • Hi Jan,

      yes, I thought so too, I’ve driven past that spot hundreds of times but never actually stopped. I had heard of a dubious suicide but thought little of it until the other day.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — June 28, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

  2. All the years we have been travelling that road and I’ve never heard that story Paul. It’s fascinating. Although it’s a main road and 25 years ago wouldn’t have been as busy as now it’s miles from habitation it’s not likely to have been a chance murder.
    Obviously someone knew he was going to be on that road and was waiting for Willie McRae. All very odd.

    Comment by Rienza — June 27, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    • Very odd indeed Rienza!

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — June 28, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

  3. Interesting story Paul.
    Could you see the bridge on the old road, it is usually underwater in the Loch but comes out in dry summers. Would love to see if it is still crossable

    Comment by Simon — June 27, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

    • Hi Simon,

      never seen the bridge in Loch Loyne but the one in Cluanie is very visible just now.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — June 28, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

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