Blind man benefits from 17th century charity fund

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A FORMER heavy plant driver, who lost his sight two years ago, has become one of the first people to benefit from a long-forgotten charity fund set up in the 17th Century.

Bruce Cruickshank, 29, who lives near Cullen, has been awarded £500 from the William Lawtie Mortification Fund to buy a computer which he hopes will help him to open up a range of employment opportunities.

Mr Cruickshank lost his sight as a result of diabetes from which he has suffered from early childhood. He has also recently had a kidney and pancreas transplant.

The mortification fund, now worth more than £100,000, was originally established in 1657 following the death of local businessman William Lawtie, to help the poor and needy of Cullen and the nearby hamlet of Lintmill. But it had lain dormant for years until Moray Council invited applications earlier this year from individuals or groups with a legitimate claim.

Mr Cruickshank, who lives with his wife Stephanie, a dental nurse, at Lintmill, said he had been unaware of the fund until he was told about the appeal for applications by a neighbour.

He said: “Stephanie had a laptop which was ten years old and had seen better days, and with just one wage coming into the house we would not have been able to afford a computer without the money from the fund.

“I am doing a computer course and it’s beginning to open up a whole new world for me. Ideally I would like to retrain and get back into work of some sort.”

Local councillor Ron Shepherd, who is one of the fund’s trustees, said he was delighted that money from William Lawtie’s bequest had gone to such a deserving cause.

He said: “Times have changed a lot since the fund was set up for the poor and needy of Cullen and Lintmill, but I’m sure that William Lawtie would have approved of this particular award.

“Hopefully access to a computer will help open doors for Bruce and I wish him well as he looks to get back into employment.”

A spokesman for Moray Council explained: “Mr Lawtie left the administration of the fund to a friend and thereafter to a descendant in each succeeding generation with the surname Lawtie. The role of trustee for what became known as William Lawtie’s Mortification later fell to successive town clerks of Cullen and, following local government reorganisation in the mid 1970s, to Moray councillors.

“The fund lay dormant for many for many years until Moray Council invited applications earlier this year from individuals or groups with a legitimate claim. Posters were distributed in and around Cullen to help publicise the appeal and urging applicants who believed they met the necessary criteria to contact the council’s legal department.”