By RJ Mitchell
IN many sports appreciation for revered individuals takes the form of them being referenced as a “one club” person when length of service to their particular sporting institution reaches double digits.
In this respect Badminton Scotland are delighted to shine a light on arguably the most outstanding example of such selfless dedication and certainly the most enduring in Scottish sport.
Bill MacDonald joined Kinross Badminton Club in 1964 as a keen amateur player but little did he know that 59 years later he would have spanned the intervening years as president, treasurer, club stalwart and since 1999 honorary president, in a show of outstanding loyalty and devotion to our sport in the Kinross-shire enclave that has continued into his ninth decade.
Still active in his capacity as treasurer, Bill attends the club’s weekly Tuesday evening session at the Loch Leven Community Campus (8pm – 9:45pm) and only packed his racket away in his old kit bag when Covid temporarily called time on the sport he has loved all his life.
With ‘KBC’ celebrating its 60th anniversary this year we thought it was the perfect time to catch up with Bill and share his memories and thoughts on the club he has served loyally all his days.
The best place to start is of course at the beginning and Bill’s memory of the origins of his association with KBC is impressive and he recalled: “I came to Milnathort, Kinross, at the end of 1963 and joined KBC the following year. My mother and I had just bought Westhall farm in the area and I had played a bit of badminton when I had stayed in England and a couple of local lads, Adam Summers and Jim Stobie approached me to join the badminton club in 1964 and I thought why not?
“It was a small club at that time and had started in 1962 at Kinross East Church where we played in the church hall and we only had one court but we stayed there for a few years and the church kindly allowed us to play and give them what we could in payment and it worked really well.”
Bill was also a trusted keyholder for the club and was charged with taking care of a 4 inch key which was almost medieval in its appearance to ensure the hall was opened and closed appropriately.
Then as membership grew and flourished so did the time between games, and the table tennis table in the adjoining room became less of a lure to thirsty badminton players with some parched players escaping for a refreshment to a local hostelry like ‘The Sal’, ‘Mary Downies’ or ‘The Vic’ – yet Bill assures us they always came back!
Soon KBC was ready for the next stage in its evolution and with Bill, from 1965, now firmly at the helm as president, a new more suitable residence was found as this legend of Scottish badminton recalled: “The headmaster at Kinross High School invited us to come and use their new Games Hall which originally had three courts and then added another.
“Although I remained a social player the club grew and we went on to join Perth and District in the late 70s and had two teams in the leagues and the membership was up at nearly 60 members by that time. Back then there were no distractions and the club grew a good deal.
“But one thing that was interesting was that when we did join Perth and District a lot of the players started to save their energy for the league and didn’t come to club night!”
By the 80’s a Junior Club was formed and the KBC kids received coaching initially from Mrs Fay Sneddon and then Robin Lapsley and his wife Sheena before responsibilities were passed onto Alison Walker who became a devoted coach and Junior Convener for over 25 years.
Typically Bill was keen to highlight Alison’s prominent role in nurturing local talent and he said: “We also had a very vibrant junior club and we were very lucky with the coaches and Alison Walker in particular was an excellent coach.
“Alison organised ‘Yonex Nights’, where the kids could try demo rackets and have the opportunity to buy clothing and equipment and she was a tireless pursuer of grants for the benefit of the junior club.
“It was particularly rewarding to see that some of our juniors who worked hard at the sport gaining international recognition like Patrick McHugh.
“Of course modern technology did have an impact on numbers but we are beginning to pick up a bit although what really upset things was the pandemic but we are rebounding well now.”
In 2009, KBC moved to the shiny new Loch Leven Community Campus all a far cry from the village hall of Glencarse, where Bill’s father was minister, which was the birth place of Bill’s love affair with the sport.
Yet now at a still sprightly 87, Bill has no doubt about the importance of badminton to him and the benefits it brings to life and he said: “I have always been a great believer in sport as there is so much pressure on people in life. So to put your troubles to one side and enjoy a good hard game of badminton, even for two hours, twice a week as it was then, makes badminton a very good sport for people who just want to forget about the pressure of life and it always served me very well in this regard.
“I was president and treasurer and did mean to step down in 2001 but no one wanted the job! Now I’m still a joint treasurer and I like to get along on club nights when I can.
“I did stop playing with the pandemic but I have been lucky with my health and badminton I’m sure has played a huge part in that and also is the reason I was still playing in my 80s although I just preferred to play socially.”
But there was one memorable high point to Bill’s playing career as he recalled: “I would say I was a good net player and probably preferred the Gents Doubles most and one year I was runner-up with Rob Lapsley in the final of the club championships and that was probably the highlight of my playing career. It was just a pity we came up short.”
Bill’s lifetime of service to our sport and especially KBC was recently recognised at the Live Active Perth and Kinross Awards where he was shortlisted as a finalist for the George Mortimer Service to Sport Award.
Subsequently, following the Perth and District Tournament, Bill was presented with an award for his service and dedication to the club throughout it’s 60 year history by Aileen Travers, the convenor of Midland Badminton Group, after the recent Perth and District Tournament.
Reflecting on this long overdue recognition Bill remained modest to the core: “The members had realised the history of the club and I suppose I had done so much although I did it unwittingly. Time just passed and you don’t realise how much you are putting in but that was because I just enjoyed it so much.
“Honestly I have just loved playing badminton and it has been a very important part of my life which also helped me make a lot of good friends through the sport. Really I loved every minute of it.”
Everyone at Badminton Scotland would like to congratulate Bill on his award and thank him for his service to our great sport and Kinross Badminton Club in particular.