Death of 'The Gent' - ex-photographer Neil Donald

Tributes have been paid to Neil Donald, an ex-staff photographer with the Birmingham Evening Mail, who has died at the age of 93. He is survived by his widow, Sue.

The funeral service will be Lodge Hill Crematorium, Birmingham, on Friday, 23 September at 10.30 am, followed by a wake at Harborne Golf Club, of which Neil was a member for many years.

Neil Donald with grandson Edward

Former colleague Roland Rowley said:  “Not only was Neil a brilliant photographer but he was a tremendous friend.  He was a loving, family man who will also be remembered for his kindness and sense of humour. Neil was Godfather to my daughter Fay and we will always treasure the times our families spent together. “

Ex-Birmingham Mail photographer Paul Delmar said: “Neil always had real style.  I knew him as ‘The Gent’ – and as a golf legend!”

Before joining the Evening Mail in 1948 (retiring in 1984), Neil served with the RAF – and was always known in subsequent years for his ‘Wing Commander-style’ moustache and dapper style of dress.

Neil lied about his age to join the RAF in 1940 and while based in Lincolnshire he flew 30 missions over Germany as a radio operator in Lancaster bombers.  He never claimed his war medals – but was able to proudly display them after Edward, his step-grandchild,  applied for them on his behalf.

After the war he visited Germany on a family-exchange visit, staying at the home of a former officer in the German army. But his “most memorable” day was when he was photographed alongside German actress-singer Marlene Dietrich during an assignment when she appeared on stage in the Midlands.

Neil was born in Glasgow and, together with his younger brother and sister, spent part of his childhood in boarding schools while his father worked for an oil company in Burma. It wasn’t their favourite place, however– and they often ran away because of their dislike for cold water showers!