Scottish postie scoops national bravery award

Iain MacDonald with Christine Bleakley

Iain MacDonald with Christine Bleakley

By Alexander Lawrie

A HEROIC Scots postman who was severely injured fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan has won an award for outstanding bravery.

Iain Macdonald, 38, was on tour with his TA unit in the Helmand province last year when he was hit by flying shrapnel during a rocket-propelled grenade attack.

The injured Sergeant brushed off his injury by refusing to fly home and was back in the front line helping his mates within 10 days of the attack – complete with the shrapnel still embedded in his chest.

On his return from the war-zone the postie was then nominated for the Royal Mail’s 1st Class People Awards.

“To have won is fantastic”

And the delivery man has now won the national accolade for bravery at a ceremony in London yesterday – collecting his £1000 prize money from Christine Bleakley and Royal Mail Managing Director Mark Higson.

Thilled Iain said: “I was happy just to have been nominated, but to have won is fantastic.”

Iain, from Burntisland, Fife, was posted out to the troubled war zone with fellow members of the 15th Company – 4th Paratroopers in May last year.

And, while on duty on the Helman front line as a Guard Commander, ‘Sgt Mac’ and five regular soldiers were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades.

The married dad-of-two was struck in the chest by a large piece of flying shrapnel and was rushed back to the unit’s base for treatment.

Leave the shrapnel inside

He was transferred by helicopter to a nearby medical centre where army surgeons decided to leave the shrapnel embedded in the soldier’s chest because it was too close to Iain’s major organs.

After 10-days recuperating from the attack Iain demanded to be flown back to the front line to complete his tour of duty.

The proud, but modest, soldier has admitted he is delighted to have won the bravery gong, but says he was only doing his job.

He said: “I really enjoy the work I do with the TA and just did what any of my colleagues would have done under the same circumstances.

“When I first joined the Territorial Army in 1996 I didn’t really expect to be sent to a war zone. But with all the first class training I’ve received it didn’t faze me when I got the call.

Iain McDonald

“I remember the incident when I was injured very clearly. I was on guard duty and was speaking to a few other soldiers when we came under fire.

“I knew instantly I had been struck, but I was more worried about my colleagues who were more seriously injured than me.

“At the time I didn’t realise it was shrapnel, I thought I’d actually been shot.

“It was incredibly painful, but the adrenalin pulled me through.

 

The brave squaddie added: “I had no hesitation in heading back out there.
Afterall, all my mates were still there and they needed all the help they could get.”

Service and commitment

Iain’s Platoon Commander, Lieutenant Frazer Smith, paid tribute to brave Iain’s service and commitment.

He said: “Daily ambushes and intense firefights at close quarters with Taleban insurgents were the daily rhythm of life for Sergeant MacDonald and his fellow paratroopers, and it pushed every man to his limit.

“Iain is approachable, pragmatic, reliable and determined. Sgt Mac gets on with the job.

“I think he displayed that whilst fighting in Afghanistan. Just over a week after being injured, he was back with his comrades.”

“Worthy winner”

Ian McKay, the Royal Mail’s Director of Scottish Affairs, said: “Iain is a worthy winner of this award.

“His selflessness and bravery demonstrate exactly why our postmen and women are such highly valuable members of their communities.”

Christine Bleakley said: “In the UK our postmen and women are a group of very remarkable people who contribute so much, with acts of kindness, a huge amount of fundraising, and a commitment to volunteering which makes such a difference to the local communities where they live and work.”

And Marilyn Livingstone, Labour MSP for Kirkcaldy, added: “His family, friends and the local community will be proud of the commitment he has shown in the face of adversity.

“This is a well deserved award.”

As winner of the Scottish Bravery category Iain also walked off with a £500 cheque and a trophy.

Football star denies red light rap

By Paul Thornton

FORMER Hibs frontman Dean Shiels has denied running a red light in Edinburgh.

It is claimed the 24-year-old ignored a red light in the capital’s London Road last July, before his move to Doncaster Rovers during the January transfer window.

The Northern-Ireland striker, who came on as a substitute in his country’s three-two win over Poland on Saturday, was due to appear at the Justice of the Peace Court in Edinburgh.

He did not appear but a letter sent by his lawyers pleaded not guilty to the charge and a trial date was set for July.

Shiels made 145 appearances and scored 31 goals for the Easter Road club before his move to England for an undisclosed fee.

Shocked Dunfermline Building Society customers condemn Westminster Government

15dunfermlinebuildingsociety

By Oliver Farrimond

TROUBLED Dunfermline Building Society customers spoke about their shock and anger at the news that the bank is to be taken over by Nationwide yesterday.

The 140-year-old mutual was acquired yesterday after racking up losses of £26 million amid claims that the UK government had not acted fast enough.

Some locals even suggested that the ailing bank was deliberately ignored by the British government in order to undermine calls for Scottish independence.

Loyal customer John McGee said that the Westminster Government was firmly to blame.

Mr McGee, 84, said: “I’ve been a DBS customer for years and I don’t hold the company responsible for what’s happened.

“I trust the people who are in charge.

“It’s Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown, who is my local MP, who are to blame for exaggerating the problem.

“I do think that they are trying to undermine Scottish independence.”

Laura Aitken, 22

Laura Aitken, 22

Peter Stirling, 75, also from the town, added: “Dunfermline Building Society is a great institution and this is an absolute scandal.

“I’m sure something could have been done much sooner – why couldn’t the government have stepped in?”

Although happy to see their savings safe, many declared that this was yet another worrying sign of the times.

Local resident Laura Aitken, 22, said: “I am glad that it’s going to stay as the Dunfermline Building Society, but every bank seems to be going down the tubes.

“Hopefully I won’t have to take all my money out just yet.”

Hospital worker Kelly Jane-Connoly said that she was more worried about her savings than the embattled Scottish financial industry.

Kelly, 30, said: “How long is this banking trouble going to go on for?

“I am starting to think that my money isn’t safe anywhere.”

Bernie Hewitt

Bernie Hewitt, 54

Bernie Hewitt, 54, said although he was glad to see the brand name survive, this was just business as usual.

He said: “This is just business I am afraid, it sounds cruel but it’s true.

“I do not think the Government can afford to bail out every bank that’s in trouble. There’s trouble like this all over the country.”

Scots student racing at Grand National

Rosanagh and her horse Summer Soul

Rosanagh and her horse Summer Soul

By Cara Sulieman

AN EDINBURGH student is getting the perfect birthday present – racing at the Grand National this weekend.Rosanagh Robertson celebrated her 23rd birthday yesterday.

But the icing on the cake will be when she takes to the stirrups on Saturday.

The sports science student at Edinburgh University has always loved horses but has never had the chance to ride a professional racehorse before.

And now the lucky lady has been chosen as one of the 10 competitors to race in a charity nine-furlong race just before the main event at Aintree.

Applied online

She said: “I applied on the website, and they just asked about your fitness and riding experience. I’ve always been around horses and I’ve evented since a young age.

“I was really surprised when I was told I was in the final 32, as I’d almost forgotten about entering.”

At that stage the hopefuls underwent rigorous training as the final 10 were chosen.

It was only last week that Rosanagh heard the decision of the expert panel, which included BBC racing presenter Clare Balding.

Eight-hour training

In the run up to the big day, the student is getting eight hour training every day from Kinross-based trainer Lucinda Russell, but juggling this with the demands of her final-year dissertation are taking their toll.

She said: “Probably my fourth year at university isn’t the best time for this.”

The journey to the race was a long and testing one, with Rosanagh going through tests of stamina, riding ability, fitness and technique at Doncaster Racecourse.

But it was all necessary for the adrenalin junkie to master the art of riding a racehorse.

“Gallop very fast”

Rosanagh said: “Riding a racehorse is completely different from what I’m used to. They are trained to gallop very fast and not really stop.

“When you are riding in a race, you just hear all the other horse. You’ve got people next to you hitting your stirrup irons.

“I was a bit nervous at first, but then I loved it. I’m an adrenalin junkie – I’ve bungee-jumped and dived with white sharks.”

The standard of the competitors in this year’s charity race has impressed the organisers, who are hopeful that it will be bigger than ever.

Exceptionally high

Gareth Turner, of sponsors John Smith’s said: “The standard of all the riders who made it through training was exceptionally high, and all of them have worked tremendously hard over the last few months.

“This year’s race looks like being the most exciting yet, with more than £100,000 being raised for charity.”

Each competitor in the race receives £5,000 for their chosen charity, and the winner gets a whopping £50,000 for charity and a trip to Dubai.

Rosanagh will be donating her money to Tenteleni, a student charity providing educational opportunities in Africa.

Black Watch set off for Afghanistan

01-black-watch

By Cara Sulieman

MEMBERS of the Black Watch bid an emotional farewell as they prepared to be shipped out to Afghanistan yesterday.

Around 450 soldiers from the 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots) based in Inverness are on their way to Afghanistan to start a six-month operational tour.

They will be based in Regional Command South’s headquarters in Kandahar and will be responsible for a wide range of duties from fighting the Taliban to winning the hearts and minds in the local Afghan population.

Unchartered territory

Their patrols will enter territory that hasn’t yet seen NATO forces and it will be a considerable challenge for the soldiers.

Lance Corporal Stuart Edgar is one soldier who knows what it is like to be injured on duty. Six months ago in Kenya he was kicked and thrashed by a bull elephant, but managed to escape serious injury.

Now he’s facing an altogether different enemy.

He said: “Of course you worry about getting killed or seriously injured. But I tend to worry more about my mates.

“I’ve already been in a situation where I thought I was going to die when that elephant was battering me around. It’s the worst feeling on earth and I don’t want any of my friends to go through that.

“Hopefully the same guardian angel that helped me out in Kenya will be with me in Afghanistan.

“We’ll all look out for each other.”

“A credit to my mum”

Lance Corporal Glen Simpson is more excited than scared about the upcoming tour.

He said: “My stepdad has been a soldier for 19 years and he encourage me to join The Black Watch so I want to be a credit to him and mum. I’ve learned a lot from him and I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

And Glen’s stepdad, Colour Sergeant Glen Pearson, is setting out to Afghanistan too as he is also in The Black Watch.

His new wife Lorna has the two of them to worry about whilst they are away.

“Really tough”

Colour Sergeant Pearson said: “She’s really worried about us both and saying goodbye was really tough.

“But I know what she’ll be going through. I will worry about the young lad too. I’ll be on tenterhooks every time he goes out on patrol.”

And the support of family and friends is important to the soldiers as they embark on a unique tour for the battalion.

Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Steven Cartwright said: “I am delighted that the Battalion has been given this opportunity to serve our Nation.

“This will be the first time we have deployed together for a few years and we do so with the firm knowledge of the support of our families and our Regiment.

“This will be a considerable challenge to the Battalion. Our goal is to secure the respect and trust of the Afghan Nationals and we can only do that by providing them with the security that’s badly needed.”

Fallujah, Iraq

The last time the Black Watch deployed was in 2004 when they were sent to Fallujah, Iraq in a support role for the US – a move that featured in the award-winning play, Black Watch.

Major Robin Lindsay, battalion second in command, said that the soldiers are more than ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

He said: “Instead of the ground-holding operations, providing a security framework in Helmand normally assigned to infantry battalions, we will be used where we are needed.

“We have trained hard for this and we’re taking out a good mixture of Iraq veterans and operational virgins, so we have the rigour of youth tempered by the experience of old hands.

“It would be wrong to say that we don’t get anxious or worried about what lies ahead but the guys are fit, they’ve reached a very high level of technical expertise and they’re equipped with the very latest kit, vehicles and weaponry to maintain superiority.

“As we head out over the next few days, we can be confident that the Black Watch has never been better prepared to deploy on operations than we are now.”

As well as the Black Watch, 30 TA tsoldiers from 52nd Lowland and 51st Highland will be deployed too.

Plucky pooch’s leg gets saved

Evelyn (left) with her beloved Punch and leg-saving vet Andrew Hogg (right)

Evelyn (left) with her beloved Punch and leg-saving vet Andrew Hogg (right)

By Cara Sulieman

A PLUCKY pooch is back on his feet after almost losing his leg in a horror road accident thanks to a team of skilled surgeons who carried out their longest ever operation to save him.

Punch, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, ran out the front door of his owner’s home when their son answered the door to a visitor and ran straight onto a road.

He was hit by a passing van, breaking his shoulder in three places and leaving the beloved pet fighting for his life.

“Distraught”

His owner, Evelyn McPherson, said: “My son was distraught.

“Punch was just lying in the road covered in blood and howling in pain.

“His face was cut and he was in a really bad way, we were terrified we might lose him.”

Evelyn rushed the nine-month old pup to the PDSA PetAid hospital in Edinburgh where Punch was given pain killers and x-rayed.

They realised that the impact had broken the dog’s shoulder in three places and warned there was every chance the leg would have to be removed.

Four and a half hour operation

After a night in intensive care Punch endured a marathon four and a half hour operation to put his broken shoulder bone back together.

Veterinary Surgeon Andrew Hogg said it was the longest surgery carried out at the hospital and was a challenge for all the staff involved.

He said: “Punch’s injuries were extremely serious. The impact of the vehicle had broken his scapula into three pieces.

“Without surgery he wouldn’t have been able to walk again and might have lost his leg altogether.

“His operation was one of the most complex I’ve ever done and the longest the team at Edinburgh PetAid hospital have ever undergone.

“The shoulder blade is a very flat bone, so it isn’t like fixing a broken leg. We had to use orthopaedic wire and pins to piece everything back together.

“One wrong move and we might have had to amputate, but thankfully the operation was a success.”

Sling

After surgery, Punch was kept in for several days observation and to get used to the sling he had to wear.

Once at home, the young pup went back to the hospital for check ups twice a week.

Evelyn said: “We were really pleased to bring Punch home but it took him a while to get back to his usual self.

“He was off his food and extremely subdued – I don’t think he liked his sling very much.”

Hobbling about

After six weeks of hobbling around, Punch has been given the all clear and is back to his usual boisterous self.

But if it wasn’t for the free veterinary service provided by the PDSA, it might have been a very different story.

Evelyn said: “I can’t thank PDSA enough for everything they’ve done. This operation cost PDSA about £2,500,

“I don’t know what we would have done without them.

“We’re keeping a careful eye on him now so he stays out of trouble.”

Sgt Lennon’s lonely art club band

By Michael MacLeod

ALL you need is… £500 to own a rare piece of John Lennon’s artwork, thanks to the credit crunch.

Unseen doodles, sketches and paintings by the Beatles legend will be unveiled on Monday, with organisers anticipating ‘a stampede’ from fans of the Fab Four.

They include excerpts from a book of paintings titled ‘Real Love’ which the songwriter created for his then baby son Sean in the 1970s.

His widow Yoko Ono says she released the latest works at knock-down prices in light of the credit crunch and “to showcase his range of talents.”

Strict copyright rules on all of John Lennon’s work mean that even reproduced prints are highly sought and fetch as much as £4,700.

Only 300 of each print will be available at a gallery in Edinburgh, and include handwritten lyrics from ‘Imagine’ and Lennon’s iconic self portrait.

Yoko’s friend Jonathan Poole arranged an exhibition for the ‘new’ artwork explained Ono’s thinking behind the price cut.

He said: “She cut the prices because is simply being realistic about the money people have to spend in the face of the current economic climate.

“It probably means we’ll have a stampede on Monday, but I wouldn’t be surprised because he is such an icon.

“I’ve been in the business 30 years and I’ve rarely sensed such anticipation about a show.”

The exhibition at The Dome on George Street, includes 45 pieces, 14 of which are newly released and shine a light on a more personal side of Lennon’s family life.

He began drawing long before he had a guitar; attending the prestigious Liverpool Art Institute for three years before the Beatles became a full-time occupation and he continued to draw throughout his life.

His primary medium was line drawing either in pen, pencil, or Japanese sumi ink.

At the time of his death, John had saved and preserved several hundred drawings that he considered important.

In 1986, Yoko Ono, acting for the John Lennon Estate, began releasing limited editions of some of the most meaningful drawings, using only fine art printing techniques, with the goal of re-establishing John Lennon as an important artist of his time.

Mr Poole added: “It’s an insight into John’s opinions on everyday life, his family and his sense of humour – it’s a happy show.

“The whole point for Yoko was to showcase John’s range of talents.

“It’s one hell of a show when you consider how limited these items are, each limited to 300. While they are prints, they can fetch as much as £4,700 so it really is unheard of.

“People will walk in with great curiosity and leave with huge smiles on their faces, and hopefully a bargain under their arm.”

Lennon signed each piece of his art using a patented stamp, know as a chop, which comes from artists in the Orient.

The red stamp was designed to read ‘Like a Cloud, Beautiful Sound’ and features on all limited edition prints on sale at the exhibition include this unique marking.