Parliament pays tribute to a true humanitarian

Alan Witcutt at Edinburgh Direct Aid's warehouse in July 1993.Alan Witcutt at Edinburgh Direct Aid's warehouse in July 1993.
Alan Witcutt at Edinburgh Direct Aid's warehouse in July 1993.
MSPs have signed a motion marking the sad passing of humanitarian aid worker Alan Witcutt last month at the age of 89.

Alan was born on June 6, 1930, in Albany, New York, his parents Jack and Mabel having crossed the pond in search of a better life.

However, the Great Depression would force them to return to Scotland when Alan was aged three, setting up home in Netherton.

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Alan enjoyed a happy, if humble, childhood, attending Netherton Primary and Wishaw High before going on to to become at bricklayer at Coatbridge Technical College.

In 1948 Alan, a devout Christadelphian, spent his National Service at Polkemmet Colliery in West Lothian after his appeal to be treated as a conscientious objector on religious grounds was rejected.

After being released from the pits he became a driver of the mobile library for Lanark County Council for many years before retiring on medical grounds in the late 1980s.

Alan married Overtown Primary School teacher Christine Taylor in 1966 after the met through their membership of the Christadelphian Church.

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The couple had two children, Paul and Julie, and would themselves move into the family home in Netherton.

After Christine’s retirement in July 1993, media reports of atrocities during the Balkan wars galvanised the Alan and Christine as they were among the first to come forward when Edinburgh Direct Aid appealed for volunteers to help those affected.

The couple travelled from their Netherton home to Bosnia with the charity but, tragically, Christine was killed by a sniper in Sarajevo in 1993.

Following his wife’s death, Alan began delivering talks and sermons on the subject of forgiveness, some of which have been recorded in the National Library of Scotland.

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He returned to Sarajevo with his family in 2001, for the opening of a centre and outreach programme for children with complex support needs, funded by the Christine Witcutt Memorial Fund.

Alan was also presented with a medal by the Bosnian Government for his and his wife’s humanitarian work.

The Parliamentary motion, laid down by Motherwell and Wishaw MSP Clare Adamson, paid tribute to Mr Witcutt’s extensive fundraising work and the dedication to helping others he and his wife, Christine, displayed throughout their lives.

She said: “Alan and Christine Witcutt dedicated their lives to helping others. That is why it is right that the Parliament marks Alan’s passing after a lifetime of compassion and commitment to humanitarianism.

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“In these trying times, it is heartening to pay tribute to the Witcutt’s who showed the societal impact that love, compassion and forgiveness can have when the world seems so dark.

“The Witcutt’s deserve our utmost appreciation and respect for their enormous contribution to humanitarian endeavour.

“Alan and Christine Witcutt represent the best of us. I want to pass on my sincere condolences to their family at this sad time.”

Alan remained active in later life spending every winter in New Zealand living with his son and granddaughter, and enjoyed kayaking, walking and cycling.

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In 2017 Alan published his memoirs, Nine Lives And More, with all proceeds going to the charity founded in his wife’s memory.

He is survived by his son Paul and daughter Julie, and grandchildren Stephanie, Holly and Rory.

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