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A Free Church minister who never gave up hope of finding his teenage daughter who vanished in the Himalays 37 years ago has died, aged 83 – without ever finding out what happened to her.
Tributes have flooded in for the Rev Kenneth MacDonald, who always believed 19-year-old Aberdeen University student Alison was alive.
Miss MacDonald, who was raised on the Isle of Lewis, set off on a back-packing journey in 1981 but, while in Kashmir, she was last seen buying apples from a trader. Her clothes and rucksack were found in her room.
Mr MacDonald, known as Kenny and a much-loved and respected former minister for Rosskeen Free Church of Scotland in Ross-shire, spent thousands of pounds making almost 20 trips to Kashmir and Pakistan seeking the truth.
He recalled on one occasion: “One minute we were a happy, united family and a few seconds later we knew things would never be the same again.”
The minister, who had also been a councillor in the Western Isles, dealt with Interpol, the British and Indian governments and the Kashmiri underworld, including bounty hunters called the Three Musketeers, but nothing was ever found.
He said: “I am not a father foolishly clinging to a false belief or refusing to accept his daughter is dead. I know in my heart she is alive.”
Born in Lewis, on Skye, in 1935 he did National Service and then worked for Customs & Excise before entering the Free Church College in 1980.
A spokesman for The Free Church of Scotland said: “Kenny was ordained as minister at Rosskeen Free Church in 1984 where he spent 11 years before retiring due to ill health.
“His ministry was both unique and inspirational. The Rosskeen manse was an open home, a place where people with all kinds of difficulties could come and find a truly sympathetic heart in both Kenny and [his widow] Reta.
“Despite contracting multiple sclerosis which forced him to retire, Kenny remained active as a preacher until very recently.
“We extend our deepest and prayerful sympathies to Kenny’s wife, Reta, their children Mairi, Alison, Sam, Derek, and the wider family.”
Rev Calum Macmillan, current minister at Rosskeen, added: “All of us were heartbroken to hear the news of Kenny’s passing.
“Kenny left Rosskeen over 20 years ago but his legacy still lives on. He holds a special place in the hearts of both folks in the church and in the local community.
“In life he dealt with his sufferings with great grace and dignity – including the disappearance of his daughter Alison in Kashmir – and his own health struggles since his retiral.”
The Lets Find Alison Facebook page paid tribute by stating: “He will be sorely missed for his contribution and stewardship, for the church and people of Golspie.
“He has gone to receive his eternal reward.”
Mr MacDonald retired to Golspie and died at Migdale Hospital in Bonar Bridge on Saturday.