SKYE CENTENARIAN: Walt celebrates his 100th birthday

Walt Welles, with Lord Lieutenant Joanie Whiteford and local resident Pat Walsh MBE.

Sleat resident Walt Welles has reached a landmark day today (Christmas Eve) as he celebrates turning 100 years old.

Ahead of the big birthday he received a visit this week from a representative of the Queen, the Lord Lieutenant for Ross and Cromarty, Joanie Whiteford.

Walt was born in New York on 24th December 1921, but he has called Duisdale home for nearly 40 years.

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Most of his career had been connected to the sea – he joined the US merchant marine academy and worked in shipping, and as a yacht broker, and it was during a period of leave as a young sailor that he first toured the Highlands and fell in love with Skye.

Aged 22, Walt had sailed as part of a wartime transatlantic convoy – and remembers berthing at Liverpool on an occasion when only nine ships out of 52 had successfully completed the perilous voyage. His crew were among those greeted by the King and Queen, and Winston Churchill, on arrival.

On their retirement Walt and his wife Doric had planned to sail their 38 foot ketch to Scotland, but sadly that dream was never realised as Doric died after a short period of illness.

Later Walt resolved to leave America behind and head for Skye – with the ambition of buying Isle Ornsay island. He was beaten to it, but after a period lodging with Marion and Jetta Fraser, who ran the local post office, he bought a house in Duisdale, and there he has stayed ever since.

After a few years in Skye, Walt met his second wife, Betty, at a concert in Broadford and they lived together until her death a couple of years ago.

Even though he has restricted mobility and has used a wheelchair in more recent times, Walt remains in good health and able to live independently as he approaches his centenary.

And the success of his longevity? Walt puts that down to the view from his living room window where daily he keeps an eye on the marine traffic, and the wildlife on the shore and in the sound.

“That’s what keeps me going,” he said. “I’ll never tire of that view.”

Walt has two sons and a daughter in the USA and was set to be joined by friends and family for the big birthday today (Christmas Eve).

Article by Keith MacKenzie