Monday 1 January 2018

Donald Milne, 1952 - 2017

Donald Stewart Milne, 1952 - 2017

The New Year was barely a few hours old when the tragic news came through that Donald Milne had been fatally injured in a flying accident on Saturday 30th December 2017. Donald's Bucker Biplane light aircraft was struck by a helicopter at the private Mutxamel airfield near Alicante in Spain. Donald succumbed to his injuries later that evening.

Although he had been living in Spain for the best part of 20 years, Donald was better known to Scottish rally fans as the 1991 Scottish Rally Champion. At that time he was running Apex Tubulars, a North Sea Oil drilling services company in Aberdeen, and like many other successful businessmen used rallying as a means to escape the pressures of business for a few precious hours.

In 1986 he hired Ken Adamson's Nissan 240RS for a run out on the Kingdom Stages and Lindisfarne rallies and returned the following year for a few more outings in the Nissan plus a Ford Sierra and Toyota Corolla GT.

He really caught the bug in 1988 campaigning a variety of cars which included an MG Metro 6R4 and a 2.4 litre Nissan engined Peugeot 205 RWD as well as the 240RS. His first outright rally victory that year was scored on the Panaround Stages, but he also score two 3rds, three 4ths and a 5th plus a few other top ten finishes on other events.

On the 1988 Kingdom Stages Rally he was seeded at Number 7 in the Peugeot Nissan while a certain Colin McRae was at Number 6 in the Sierra. Donald finished 3rd, but Colin was 2nd. That was particularly poignant as Donald had been instrumental in helping the youngster throughout that year by lending him cars including the Nissan 240RS and Peugeot Nissan which helped Colin clinch the 1988 Scottish Championship title, his first major award.

Due to pressure of business Donald tackled just a few events in 1989 but the Peugeot was proving mechanically troublesome. The Metro 6R4 was wheeled out for a couple of events in 1990 resulting in his second outright victory, this time on the Johnston & Paton Rally in Argyll and 3rd on the Scotphone Stages.

That set him up for 1991 and he resolved to have a crack at the full national Esso Scottish Rally Championship series. Typical of the man, another Metro had been acquired, but it had a Nissan 240RS engine in the back and with Bob Wilson on the Roadbook, the pair set about their championship attack. Three straight wins on the Snowman, Scotphone and Weldex were followed by a maximum point score on the RSAC Scottish National event. He finished 2nd behind Murray Grierson's Metro Hart on the Jim Clark Rally and was 4th on the Border.

This was a particularly satisfying result as Richard Burns was 3rd in a Subaru Legacy behind rally winner Stewart Robertson and runner-up Dom Buckley.

Job done. Title clinched.

After that he reverted to his other great passion in life, flying. Although he used helicopters for business as well as fun, he preferred fixed-wing aircraft for leisure hence his acquisition of the Bucker. He had recently just purchased two more aircraft which hadn't yet been collected and already the family were issuing advice!

Quintin told me that it would be OK to publish this direct quote when he was being told that he should be taking things more easily at his age, to which his response was: "I'd rather go in my beloved aeroplane than having you spoon-feed me later on." Mind you, it has to be said that this quote is not entirely accurate as it was expressed in a rather more forceful manner with a few additional pithy and colourful adjectives which have been edited out. He would have been 66 this month.

Even when he had 'retired' from rallying he still retained an interest and there were times here at home when the phone would ring late at night or in the early hours, and it was Donald looking for the latest gossip and who was doing what. Invariably he was sitting kicking his heels in some exotic airport waiting for connecting business flights.

I'm sure we'd all like to express our sincere condolences to his wife Fiona, the boys Quintin and Freddie, and their relatives and wide circle of friends. He'll be sorely missed.

(Note: A private cremation service will be conducted in Spain tomorrow.)

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