Scottish Motor Neurone Association

Category: Families

Scottish Motor Neurone Association

(circa 2002)

The Motor Neurone Association was formed in 1981. On the front cover of the Spring 2002 Edition of their magazine, AWARE was a photograph of John Macleod, late of Carran Ban, North Tolsta accompanied by the following article

In The Beginning...

The Scottish Motor Neurone Disease Association celebrates its 21st birthday in 2002. Our late founder John Macleod (below) was born in Lewis and walked the beat in Glasgow until he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 1980.


Having met with members of the MND Association for England, Wales and Northern Ireland while attending Charing Cross Hospital in London he soon realised there was little support for people with MND in Scotland. The medical profession in Scotland had limited experience of the illness and the general public were entirely in the dark. With the help of close friends, John and wife Peggy created an association with charitable status, operating completely autonomously from the MND Association, raising funds and providing support for the MND community in Scotland.

John and Peggy had three sons. Donald, Iain and Gordon support the MND community in Scotland and raise funds for the association. Son, Donald followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the police force. Together with nine colleagues from the station in Edinburgh he will walk 94 miles of The West Highland Way during June 2002 to raise funds for the association. Donald is typical of many of the association’s supporters. Raising funds for the association and encouraging others to spread awareness among friends and the general public. Thanks to supporters like Donald and his colleagues, we have grown from a group of friends around a kitchen table to a charity with over 800 members.

Cool Professor

John and Annie Morrison, ‘Cnoc Ard’ were very involved with the Association in the early days and ‘Nandag’ writes: “John’s plan to set up a S.M.N.D. Association met with a rather cool reception from the Professor who was caring for him. He inferred that a lot of money and dedication was required and he had seen many good intentions come to nothing.

He remarked: “Show me £3,000 in six months and I will be convinced.”

He was convinced! The sum was doubled within the time stated. This was as a result of hard work by John’s family, from his mother downwards and by the families and friends of other sufferers to whom his efforts gave hope.

In addition to the committee’s fundraising through sales of work, raffles etc. and concerts organised by the Bearsden Fiddlers the money flowed in. Most of the concerts were compered by Jimmy Mack, who was a household name on Scottish Radio. None of those involved accepted a penny in payment.

Fund Raising!

By September 1981, £40,000 had been raised. Now the Association funds are in excess of £500,000. A Research Programme supported by it at Strathclyde University is known as the John Macleod Fellowship. None of this would have been possible without John’s vision and the dedicated support of those early committee members.

In 1983, the Glasgow Lewis and Harris Society recognised John’s courage and perseverance by awarding him Cuach Comunn Leodhais agus Na Hearadh, its annual award to the islander bringing most honour to himself and to his island during the past year.

Towards the end of his life, I often sat with John when Peggy was out. John could not speak and the television did not interest him. I asked him to indicate whether he would like me to read from the Bible.

He assented happily. One of our favourite readings was from the second version of Psalm 143:

Lo, I do stretch my hands to thee my help alone,

For thou well understands all my complaint and moan:

My thirsting soul desires and longeth after thee,

As thirsty ground requires with rain refreshed to be

The Western Isles Branch of SMND was very active in the early days of the association with most of the fundraising in Lewis done in Tolsta. In fact almost every man, woman and child in Tolsta contributed in some way to the SMNDA.