Be it as a member of a bomber crew, a jazz musician, businessman or charity organiser, Drew Learmonth has lived a long and highly useful life.
That life reached its 100th year last week and the Castle Douglas man’s well-deserved birthday card from the Queen was personally delivered to him by Vice Lord Lieutenant Sandy McCulloch.
He was born in Castle Douglas in 1920 and, as was common in those days, he left school at 15, becoming an apprentice painter and decorator with local firm Macauley and McKie, a firm he would later become the boss of.
The start of World War Two brought his civilian career to a temporary halt. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force in June 1940, training to become a wireless operator/gunner in a Wellington bomber crew.
His first eight missions were to bomb the the Ruhr Valley in Germany. His ninth was to Berlin. On his tenth mission, on August 18, 1941, Warrant Officer Learmonth had to bale out of his burning plane. Having parachuted safely, he was captured and was a prisoner of war for four years. He narrowly missed being among the 55,000 Bomber Command comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice.
After release, Drew took part in the nationwide tour of a band raising money for the Red Cross. Music was a passion and he played saxophone well into his 90s.
Eventually, Drew returned to Macauley and McKie, ultimately becoming proprietor and was a respected businessmen in the Castle Douglas area for many years.
He married and he and his wife had four children. Unfortunately, his wife succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease in 1986. Typically of this man, following her death, he was a founder of Castle Douglas Day Centre where, twice a week, people needing full-time care could visit to give carers’ respite.
He also helped to establish Alzheimer Scotland. Drew was an Elder and member of the Kirk Session and board at Castle Douglas Parish Church and was also branch chairman of the British Legion.