Bill McDonald-one of the good guys.

(from the Cumnock Chronicle 22nd February 2012)

by Matt Vallance

William Baxter McDonald JP FICB
Born: Catrine, Ayrshire - 27 July, 1946
Died: Penn, Buckinghamshire - 7 February,
2012, aged 65.

BILL McDonald, one of Catrine's most-
distinguished sons, has died following
a long battle with bowel cancer.

Bill was born in the village and brought-up in St Cuthbert Street, the family home looking over the Voes.
His father was foreman tenter in the Catrine Mill. Bill followed elder brother Jack to Catrine Primary, then to Cumnock Academy, where he was placed in the 1A class of 1958. After his fifth year, Bill left to join the Royal Bank, working initially as a teller in the Cumnock and Catrine branches.

Shortly before he died he admitted to some of his school contemporaries that those early days in Catrine, where he walked from home to the local branch every morning, often having his progress interrupted by local shop-keepers and business-men handing him their previous day's takings and asking him to bank them for him, were the happiest of his more than 30-years in banking.

In 1966 he moved on to the Glasgow Chief Office of the bank, then, in 1968, learning that opportunities were greater across the Atlantic, he emigrated to Canada to join Toronto Dominion Bank. He found a place, sharing an apartment with another two ex-pat Scottish bankers, and settled down to life in Toronto, a place which back then had an aura of the Wild West about it.

One of his flat mates had to carry a suspect parcel bomb from his branch, the other narrowly avoided emasculation when, as he attempted to wrestle a would-be armed robber to the ground within his branch, the would-be robber's gun went off.

In comparison, life in Bill's branch was mundane and, when he discovered how much more money he could make as a "Mountie", he applied to join the RCMP.


His application was accepted, pending the arrival of some forms from Scotland and Bill was looking forward to wearing that distinctive red tunic, jodhpurs and riding boots and the big hat. However, he was promoted to assistant branch manager, given a hefty raise and suddenly, the Mounties had lost their man.

Then, when a notorious local con man attempted to de-fraud Bill's branch, he gave chase through the local streets, ignored the miscreants's mimed threats of pulling a gun and apprehended him - only then remembering that he had left the .38 Webley revolver which assistant branch managers were trained and authorised to use in the event of attempted robberies, safely back in his desk drawer. 

Bill was rewarded for that, but, as he admitted, the biggest prize he won in Canada was his English-born wife of 40 years, Mary. In 1976 the McDonalds returned to the UK, when he was transferred to TDB's main City, of London office. They settled in the picturesque village of Penn, in Buckinghamshire, on the edge of the Chilterns and Bill became a daily train commuter into the City. He rose through the bank's ranks, found his niche in merchant banking and became one of the founding fathers of the derivatives market.

In 1986 he was head-hunted to the massive Standard Chartered Bank, where his talent for derivatives soon saw him heading that branch of their investment banking.

In 1993 he spotted a "scam" being worked by a SCB trader in Bombay and dispatched an audit team from London to investigate. The scam, which pre-dated Nick Leeson's more widely-known similar activities, cost SCB $300million. Bill made a widely publicised speech to the Bombay Chamber of Commerce, warning against the banks' loose rein approach to monitoring their traders, but, his warnings went largely unheeded in the top corridors of the City of London. He was promoted to become Chief of Staff of the bank and administrative assistant to the Chairman, but, in 1996, shortly after his 50th birthday, Bill was diagnosed with MS and opted for early retirement. Fortunately for him, the disease never progressed beyond the very-early stages and he was able to enjoy 15 years of active retirement.

He had loved the Rover P4 which his first branch manager in Cumnock had driven, so he bought and restored one, using it as his daily transport for over a decade. He became inaugural treasurer of the Buckinghamshire County Foundation, a charitable body which has raised and distributed over 3 million to worthy local causes in that county since its formation in 1998.
He was sworn-in as a JP and regularly chaired the bench in the district courts at Aylesbury, Amersham and Buckingham, while he and Mary were enthusiastic hill-walkers both at home and abroad.
Bill never lost his Ayrshire accent and loved coming "home" to hill-walk in the Highlands, or cruise the Clyde Estuary on the Waverley.

As a Catrine schoolboy he had regularly cycled up to the Syke to train spot and this bred a life-long fascination with steam locomotives. He celebrated his 65th birthday by driving a train, pulling three coaches filled with family and friends on one of the branch lines run by enthusiasts near his home in Penn. Bill was also a Neighborhood Watch co-ordinator in Penn, helping to have CCTV installed in what is one of the most-popular commuter villages in the home counties.


His last years were enlivened by his membership of OPBB - an ad hoc lunch club formed by his class mates from the 1958-1964 pupils at Cumnock Academy.

The inaugural OPBB lunch set the tone for those to follow--Bill arrived back in Penn sporting a cut head and a broken ankle. In April, 2011, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and told he had perhaps six months to live. He managed to stretch this to 10 months prior to his death. The illness did not prevent him from regularly using his season ticket at Wycombe Wanderers and, after "Bill's Wake", held in Amersham last summer, another of the OPBBs, Kenny Roxburgh, who had been with Bill from Primary-one at Catrine right through the Academy said: "Bill was in better condition than any of us."

He continued to fight the disease, but, over his final weekend, he went down rapidly and passed away at home, surrounded by his family - Mary, daughter Jennifer, son-in-law Nick, grand-son Wilfred - whose imminent arrival when he was diagnosed, gave Bill something to live for - son Robert and daughter-in-law Paivi and brother Jack and sister-in-law Isabel.

Bankers get a bad press these days, but, for every Fred Goodwin, there is a Bill McDonald, he was one of the good guys and Catrine should be proud of him and what he achieved.

Cumnockian Campbell Jackson, another of the 1A class who entered banking, on reviewing Bill's career in the industry said: "Very, very few branch tellers, perhaps as few as one in 1000, ever rise to the positions Bill achieved - he was a banking super star."

Not bad for a wee boy from St Cuthbert Street.

This was Bill in a Catrine Primary school play as Prince Charming. Briar Rosebud 1954.

Local people