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The Banff-born footballer and war hero who won an Oscar

todayMarch 11, 2022

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His life sounds just like the screenplay of a Hollywood film – which is maybe applicable when you think about that Neil Paterson was one of many few Scots to win an Academy Award for his work.

However what a journey it was for this lad o’ pairts earlier than he even began crafting scripts at his cherished typewriter.

There was his time as a gifted scholar at Banff Academy and proficient footballer at Buckie Thistle, who moved on to excel as an newbie at Dundee United, even earlier than he was concerned in some exceptional acts of heroism in the course of the Second World Conflict.

If he had sought out a quieter existence after surviving hellish scenes of battle, no person may presumably have blamed him.

However as an alternative, Neil turned his hand to literature, not solely producing his personal literary works corresponding to The China Run, which was acclaimed as Ebook of the Yr by The New York Instances, but additionally adapting novels for the large display and succeeding in Tinseltown.

It led to him serving to to remodel John Braine’s controversial kitchen-sink drama Room At The Prime right into a profitable, albeit scandalous film for its time – and though his screenplay was pitted towards such rivals as Ben-Hur and Some Like It Sizzling in 1959, he walked away with the coveted Oscar.

It has all the trimmings of a Boy’s Personal journey, even when he was by no means comfy about being described as a “hero”.

But he options in a brand new guide written by David Findlay Clark, who labored for practically 40 years within the NHS as a guide scientific psychologist after graduating from Aberdeen College.

What emerges is a portrait of a modest character with deep reserves of grit and resilience, which he utilized on and off the pitch.

He was proud to turn into captain of the Tannadice crew throughout their 1936-37 marketing campaign and scored 9 objectives, together with a hat-trick in his 26 appearances for the membership.

However regardless of being urged to show skilled, Neil had already developed an ambition to get entangled in writing and journalism and joined DC Thomson shortly earlier than the darkish type of Nazism unfold its tentacles throughout Europe.

Like a lot of his technology, he answered his nation’s name when the hostilities started.

Additionally like many others, it formed the remainder of his life after he joined the Royal Navy and served as a lieutenant on the destroyer HMS Vanessa.

Neil Paterson captained Dundee United and have become a conflict hero.

Mr Clark was honoured to satisfy Neil whereas the 2 have been in Banff, but quickly sufficient, there have been privations and tragedies for his older compatriot to endure, together with a deadly and terrifying assault from German planes whereas his ship was on patrol within the North Sea in the summertime of 1941.

The Vanessa was struck amidships, which blew up one among her funnels, some metal rigging and components of the metal superstructure, however there was higher peril forward because the enemy plane moved in to finish their mission.

Mr Clark stated: “All this time, the Stuka dive-bombed and prompted the ship’s boilers to blow up, killing 9 sailors and significantly wounding 17 others.

Bombs exploded on both aspect of him

“With solely 5 officers, together with the captain, who needed to stay on the bridge, Lt Paterson was struggling, on a moist and erratically shifting deck amid the devastating noise of the gunfire, Stuka cannon fireplace and bombs, to evaluate whether or not the ship would possibly proceed to drift.

“As he clambered over the wreckage on deck, one other bomb exploded just a few metres from the ship’s aspect, showering Neil with sea water and particles.

“As he was struggling to free the physique of the sailor trapped within the wreckage, he noticed that it was the identical younger seaman who had introduced him a mug of tea on the bridge solely an hour earlier than.

“Though the destroyer was uncontrolled, and always underneath bomb and cannon fireplace assault, Neil endured in releasing trapped and wounded seamen from the tangle of wreckage with shrapnel, and the unearthly screaming sirens of the dive bombers and the rattle of Vanessa’s ack-ack weapons.”

Naturally, these experiences took their toll on the younger lieutenant, however he appears to have been extra involved in regards to the truth he had the chance to return residence after the conflict whereas so a lot of his comrades perished.

Certainly, there may be one telling second in Mr Clark’s guide the place the sheer futility of what Neil witnessed is laid naked in a brief, staccato burst of phrases.

As he stated: “With the adolescent temerity of my years, I did as soon as ask Neil if he had ever been afraid. ‘David’, he replied, ‘In motion, I used to be simply too damned busy and when my younger, eager crewmen have been killed, I used to be simply too livid on the horrible waste of lives’.

“Rose (Neil’s spouse) advised me after the conflict that Neil would usually be moderately quiet on his leaves (from service) attributable to the harm to his ship. His writing was a sort of solace to him.”

There are some parallels right here with Neil’s compatriot, Alistair McLean, who took half within the treacherous Arctic Convoys to Russia and subsequently grew to become the best-selling writer of such novels as HMS Ulysses, The place Eagles Dare, Ice Station Zebra and The Weapons of Navarone.

In widespread with McLean, he additionally wrote about ships and the ocean in The China Run, which described the adventures of Christian West, the captain of a tea clipper who has to take care of life because it occurs, not as he’d prefer it to occur.

It was a right away success, gained glowing opinions in Britain and the US and, within the subsequent few years, Neil tailored his personal quick story, Scotch Settlement, right into a screenplay referred to as The Kidnappers.

It was a box-office smash in 1953, received honorary Oscars for its two baby stars, and immediately, he discovered himself the toast of Hollywood – at residence in Crieff!

His spouse, Rose, and son, John, all the time described him as ‘quiet, modest and considerate’; for my part, like all true heroes.”

David Findlay Clark

There have been by no means any airs and graces about this redoubtable particular person, who resisted the temptation to relocate Stateside and wasn’t even current when his adaption of Room At The Prime earned such kudos on the Academy Awards – and, within the course of prevented Ben-Hur from amassing a twelfth Oscar.

Quite the opposite, he obtained the information in a daybreak cellphone name to his Perthshire residence, didn’t inform his youngsters whereas they have been consuming breakfast collectively, and didn’t a lot keep away from the limelight as ignore it altogether.

But, as soon as once more, at the same time as he was creating new scripts and devising recent concepts from his fertile creativeness, one other grand plan sprung into his thoughts.

And that was to be the catalyst for the formation of the British Movie Institute.

Neil Paterson, who won an Oscar for best screenplay, at home in Crieff with his wife Rose.
Neil Paterson, who received an Oscar for finest screenplay, at residence in Crieff together with his spouse, Rose.

It was merely one other exploit on this extraordinary man’s CV, however it testified to his philosophy that he had no real interest in wanting backwards.

Mr Clark stated: “He was a governor of the Nationwide Movie Faculty, and a governor and founder member of the BFI.

“Nearer residence, he was additionally an government for Grampian Tv and a governor for the Arts Council.

“His spouse, Rose, and son, John, all the time described him as ‘quiet, modest and considerate’; for my part, like all true heroes.

“However he all the time thought of that his best triumphs have been whereas he was enjoying soccer for Dundee United.

He by no means wrote about his life in conflict

“Of his wartime heroics, in the middle of which he was practically killed, he stated little or no to me or his household, nor did he write, even in impersonal phrases, of what his crew and senior officers noticed as his imperturbable bravery.

“He died in Crieff in 1995 after an extended sickness.

“Personally, I can’t perceive why such an impressive former Banff Academy pupil and nationwide hero in so many various methods has by no means, to my data, been honoured by his hometown. Perhaps they didn’t help Dundee United!”

The 91-year-old Banff Academy man Dr David Findlay Clark has written a guide about his conflict heroes, and handed it over to 94-year-old Sandie Hughes, a relative of RAF hero Peter Hughes, who options prominently within the guide.

There was one poignant handover of a prized artefact to Mr Clark from the household of the person he had first met as a schoolboy within the Nineteen Forties.

As he stated: “I used to be thrilled and honoured when Rose got here to Banff, after Neil’s loss of life, to current to me, expressly fulfilling his want, a signed copy of his first novel, The China Run.

“I worth it and my heat reminiscences of the person. Heroism takes many kinds, however heroes are all the time modest, imperturbable, quietly conscious of and beneficiant to others.”

Actually an epitaph match for a hero.


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