A fond farewell to a Brodick legend

Henry as his family like to remember him.

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Henry McNicol – October 11 1931 to July 11 2020

Henry Alexander McNicol was first and foremost a Brodick man through and through and proud of it.

He was born on October 11 1931 at Laurel Cottage. He was raised there and at Lyndene along with his nine siblings – Meagan, Colin, Annette, Betty, Helen, Archie, Iain, Sheena and Mairi – with Henry the last to go.

Henry attended Brodick School and many a boyish prank was indulged in, no doubt along with classmates Billy Currie and John McConnachie.

I’m glad Henry got his wish to be buried in the old Brodick kirkyard, where once stood the Parish Church, for it was near this spot for a dare, egged on no doubt by the aforementioned partners in crime, that Henry scaled the top most spire of the bell tower and removed the finial as a souvenir of the escapade.

It lay for many years in McNicol’s plumber’s workshop but now takes pride of place in a window alcove in the entrance porch at St Bride’s, a lovely reminder of a long-disappeared part of Brodick’s church heritage.

After school, Henry joined the family firm, serving his time as a plumber with his father William. Brothers Archie and Iain later joined him in the business.

Colin may also have done so but, tragically, he died young, a sore blow for the Henry and McNicol families.

But the partnership of Henry, Archie and Iain was an extremely successful one and lasted until 1998, when the old business partnership was dissolved to make way for the new and the wishes of the next generation.

Part of that success, I’m sure, was that each had their own sphere of expertise and responsibility, Henry concentrated on the plumbing, whilst Iain’s speciality was heating and Archie, besides being heavily involved in the tea room at Lyndene, took care of the book-keeping, as his son Bill commented the other day… eventually.

Henry was away from the business serving his obligatory two years’ national service in the RAF in Kent.

Somehow a home leave coincided with him missing a posting to Egypt with the rest of his intake, to which Henry commented that it was probably just as well as ‘Egypt wasn’t quite ready for him yet’.

A big part of Henry’s early life was playing centre half and half back for a successful Brodick football team, especially relishing the local derbys with serious rivals Lamlash. The word ‘serious’ is putting it mildly.

No prisoners were taken nor was quarter asked for or given. A comment that summed that up for me was Henry’s remark that in his time, the present-day talented Lamlash forward Johnny Sloss wouldn’t have been allowed to be half the player he is today.

Henry was tremendously proud of grandson Archie’s illustrious career in a Brodick shirt and delighted recently to watch youngest grandson Kyle score against Lamlash. It gave him immense satisfaction. Henry cannot take all the credit for those talented sporting genes. Eunice and Henry’s daughter-in-laws Alison and Gwen must surely be given credit here too.

Henry and Eunice first met when Eunice holidayed in Brodick and on their first date Henry took her fishing. Eunice caught nothing, whilst Henry landed dozens of fish. I’ll leave you to work out a suitable pun on good catches and being hooked.

Suffice it to say their romance blossomed and they subsequently married in Edinburgh in February 1958, being blessed with Bill’s birth the following July, then by Gareth’s birth in 1973.

For most of that time, home was at Mossgiel on Alma Road. The name of the house and that of Bill’s home Ellisland, subsequently built at the foot of the garden, gives a good clue to Henry’s love and great knowlege of Robert Burns.

Besides being honoured by the Burns Federation, Henry was a long-standing and honorary member of Lamlash Burns Club, one of the few things in Lamlash he was proud to be a part of, the other being Lodge St Molios.

He had a wonderful talent for public speaking which was no doubt honed over countless years in successful Brodick Drama Club productions, produced in conjunction with John Selkirk. Henry was also an honorary life member of the drama club.

Part of Henry’s great charm was his pawky humour and an ability to use his great gift of delivering a perfectly timed remark.

Aside from the business of William McNicol and Sons, drama, football and golf clubs, perhaps the institution Henry will be most associated with on the island was the fire brigade.

He joined as soon as he was eligible. Following in his father’s footsteps, this was a McNicol family tradition proudly carried on by Bill and Gareth. A recipient of the long service medal, Henry served for more than 30 years, much of that time as officer-in-charge.

After retiring from the fire brigade and the business, Henry was still available for consultancy work and I hope his encyclopaedic knowledge of local drains hasn’t died with him.

Over his life, there were a few trips abroad to Amsterdam, Lanzarote and the United States, as well as family holidays to Jersey and Blackpool.

But Henry was most content to be at home in Brodick. The highlight of his social calendar was Highland Games day, enjoying especially the spectacle of the pipe bands.

His daily ‘half hour’ walk down to the village, taking in the Book and Card Shop for his paper, could take anything up to an-hour-and-a half, depending on who he met en-route when visitor, local, young or old, were all easily engaged in interesting conversation.

Few residents of this island can have been so well-known by so many people of every generation.

Henry  developed more than a few health complications including TB, a knee replacement and a few spells in hospital with scrapes and bumps. That said, most recently Henry seemed in good form.

He was proud of his grandchildren and their achievements in life, following with interest the careers in education of Ailie and Archie, Megan’s studies and what Kyle and Freya were involved in, especially delighting in the latter three being around to pop in daily during lockdown when university and school were suspended.

Not being able to attend the funeral of John McConnachie three weeks ago caud the feet from under him and it was maybe no coincidence he should suffer a heart-attack the following day, compounded by a stroke which saw him helicoptered off the island to Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock.

He was making progress and had been transferred to the specialist stroke recovery unit at Irvine when his condition suddenly deteriorated. His death there came as a shock and despite what might have been said about that at least saving him from not having to end his days in Lamlash, he would have preferred to be back on Arran. The misery of not being able to visit him on the mainland meant double agony for Eunice and the family.

Henry is now laid to rest in his native Brodick, thankful for a wonderful, full and fulfilling life of 88 years.

                                                                                                          Rev Angus Adamson.

Henry, left, with brothers Archie and Ian appeared in the Arran Banner when they bowed out from Wm McNicol & Sons in 1998.


Henry as his family like to remember him. NO_B32henry01

Henry, left, with brothers Archie and Ian appeared in the Arran Banner when they bowed out from Wm McNicol & Sons in 1998. NO_B32henry02