William (Bill) Heatlie

Bill & Doreen Cuningham (OBIT)
Bill & Doreen Cuningham (OBIT)

It is quite common in Scotland to hear the phrase ‘We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns’, meaning we are all the same under the skin.

Finding someone who lives life by that creed is less common, but Bill Heatlie was such a person, treating all with the same consideration and respect.

Bill, who died this month aged 82, was the first of three children born to Galashiels barber, Robert Heatlie, and his wife, May.

Educated locally, the young Bill was a member of the Boys’ Brigade and it was here he learned to play the bagpipes and badminton.

Aged 16, he began a stonemason’s apprenticeship with local builder, Joe Park. After the Second World War, Bill played rugby for Gala Red Triangle and then Gala YM, and went on to play a number of times for the club’s senior side.

Aged 20, he met his future wife, Margaret, at a dance at the Gala Palladium. Romance had to be put on hold, however, after Bill joined the King’s Own Scottish Borderers the following year for his National Service.

A highlight of his military service was being a member of the massed pipes and drums which played during the coronation of the Queen in 1953.

On being demobbed, Bill returned to work for Joe Park. He married Margaret in 1955 and later took a job as a stonemason with the electricity board.

Although injury eventually forced him to hang up his rugby boots, he remained a lifelong supporter of Gala.

His love of piping continued and he played for Galashiels Ex-Service Pipe Band, Hawick British Legion and became pipe major of the local 4th/5th Battalion, KOSB (TA) pipe band.

In 1971, the family moved to Dalmeny, where Bill had a job at Dalmeny Estate and it was here that he and a 
few friends formed the Queensferry & District Pipe Band.

Bill, who retired as a stonemason in 1995, was still teaching a group of schoolchildren up until late last year. He played badminton until he was in his 40s and golf into his 70s and whatever the sport, Bill was always gracious in both victory and defeat.

Bill was always willing to help his community, last year writing a book of poetry and short stories to raise funds for local lunch clubs.

Bill’s son, Grahame, recalls in his younger days, his dad teaching him the meaning of ‘We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns’. It was a concept Bill Heatlie believed in all his life.

Bill is survived by Margaret and Grahame, his adored grandson Ryan, and sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Betty and Dick.