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Born: August 2, 1947
Died: November 29, 2017
Mid Argyll lost one of the region’s true characters with the sudden passing of Murdo MacLeod.
Murdo was a man full of enthusiasm and passion who lived life at 100 miles per hour – on land and at sea. But more of that later.
He is best known for being a founder, with his identical twin brother Kenny, of M&K MacLeod in Lochgilphead more than 40 years ago, and the family has strong Mid Argyll roots.
Murdo and Kenny were born in Glasgow in August 1947 at a time when the family was living at Tiroran on the Isle of Mull. The family moved from Mull to Lochgilphead where the boys attended school. On leaving school they trained as joiners with D & J Carmichael Ltd of Lochgilphead and were often sent on jobs on islands, for example Mull and Tiree.
The bright lights of London, however, beckoned and the brothers started working for Laing Construction in the late 1960s. London was to be their home for the next five years, but a national construction industry strike in 1972 meant that work in London became scarce and the boys headed home to Lochgilphead, where they soon negotiated their first contract, building Lochgair Parish Church Hall.
The construction partnership of M&K MacLeod was incorporated in 1975. Murdo and Kenny had experienced the use of timber frame construction while working down south and were certain that use of that method was ideal for the construction of houses in the west coast of Scotland. Timber frame construction remains one of the company’s specialities to this day. The original company has, of course, grown and has its subsidiary companies MacLeod Construction Ltd and MacLeod (Riverside) Ltd.
The history of MacLeods use of timber frame construction does go back to 1976 when they built their first bungalow using this method at Tullochgorm, near Minard.
At around the same time, young Murdo was becoming close to Jane MacNeill, whom he had first met when she was working behind a Lochgilphead bar as a student. They married in 1976 and the Tullochgorm house would be their first as a married couple.
In 1982 Murdo and Kenny negotiated the purchase of Achnaba and Castleton estates from their father’s former employer, Sir John Thomson. Murdo and Jane moved there with daughter Mairi in December 1982.
The company has been based at Kilmory Industrial Estate for 39 years and is now the largest private employer in the region. Over the years the company grew, taking on projects across Argyll and the islands and building housing developments, schools, hospitals, ferry terminals, factories and retail premises.
Murdo was very proud to have been appointed one of the youngest presidents of the Mid Argyll Rotary Club in 1989. He enjoyed the friendship and ethos of Rotary.
One of Murdo’s passions was encouraging young people throughout Argyll and the islands, and he became chair of the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust for Argyll the Islands.
He was immensely proud at being awarded, in 2010, The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion for playing an outstanding role in promoting enterprise skills and attitudes. His visit to Buckingham Palace to be presented to the Queen as a result of the award was a highlight of his career.
Above all, however, Murdo was a family man. Daughters Mairi, Jennifer, Susan and Alison were always a source of great pride for Murdo and Jane, and he was a dad who encouraged – and was never shy of telling others how well the girls were doing in their lives and careers.
He simply adored his three grandchildren, Ailis, Donald and James. It is a great regret that he did not live to meet his second granddaughter Ceit Mairi, born on January 5, 2018.
Ask Murdo’s family, however, what the love of his life was and the reply would come back quickly – the sea, fishing and boats, particularly fast boats.
Murdo loved life on the sea and over the years regular visits were made by boat to Northern Ireland, Islay, Iona, Coll, Tiree, Barra, Harris, the Small Isles and the Treshnish Isles. Particular favourites were visits to Iona Abbey and the Puffins on Lunga.
Murdo had many great friends and particularly enjoyed taking them on trips on his boats. He loved his Redbay RIBs, built in Northern Ireland by his good friend Tom McLaughlin. A highlight on the sea for Murdo was spotting killer whales at the entrance to Arinagour in Coll. A photograph he took of the whales took pride of place in his office.
Another highlight for visitors to Mid Argyll was when Murdo took them out on the RIB to see a dolphin which was living close to a marker buoy off Achnaba.
From his experience of working on the Isle of Tiree as an apprentice joiner Murdo had a yearn to return to the island. He and Jane visited in 2000 and decided to build a home there. Murdo became a familiar sight, cycling around Tiree in his hi-vis jacket. He and Jane made many firm friends on Tiree and became very much part of the island community.
Murdo’s love of islands led him to build another house for the family at Kilnaughton on Islay and, again, he enjoyed regular visits to that island.
Murdo loved music and was a great supporter of young musicians and bands. He attended the first and each subsequent Tiree Music Festival making friends, enjoying music and supporting the event organisers. Best of the West in Inveraray is another event he enjoyed immensely and was proud to be associated with.
The final word goes to Murdo’s friend and Tiree man Angus MacPhail of the band Skipinnish.
Angus dedicated a poem to Murdo – Run The Race – the final stanza of which captures the essence of that force of nature that was Murdo MacLeod:
So follow dreams and see the world, and grab life by the throat
Don’t live by dull convention or your life will miss the boat.
Live for love and friendships’ glow and chase ambition’s taste
We only get one shot at this – don’t let it go to waste.
Out on the water at the wheel of his beloved RIB. no_a03MurdoMacLeod01
Murdo with Jane – with Redbay RIB ‘Achnaba’ moored in the background. no_a03MurdoMacLeod03