Rugby veteran highlights lack of electric wheelchair availability

A former Shetland hotelier who is now an influential figure in the global Golden Oldies rugby network has put out an appeal for a publicly available electric wheelchair following a recent trip back to Shetland where his efforts to hire a mobility scooter drew a blank.

Dave McDonald, an all-round sportsman who became disabled following a freak accident, resulting in a below-the-knee amputation, has been around the world with Golden Oldies and has always managed to sort himself out with electric wheelchair transport, either through hire or loan.

He was therefore astonished that during a trip to Shetland earlier this month to celebrate his wife Katie’s birthday, his attempts at hiring a scooter for himself drew a blank. It is for his greater independence “and to save my Good Lady having to push me around” that he sought to hire a mobility scooter.

Prior to their visit, Mr McDonald contacted, Disability Shetland, the Red Cross, and the Occupational Therapy Department at the Hospital without success. He speaks very highly of receptionist Janice Burgess who was “very supportive with her assistance”.

Mr McDonald, a 68-year-old “going on 25”, said that there is no point complaining about the lack of electric wheelchair hire, but the “eternally positive” ex-rugby player hopes to get the ball rolling by highlighting the lack of provision for Shetland visitors with mobility issues.

Dave McDonald

He said: “It was disappointing that there was not an electric wheel chair for use – either hire or loan – but hopefully this will spur folk on to do some fund raising to purchase one that could be used by visitors to the lovely Shetland Islands.”

Ironically it was Mr McDonald’s other great sporting passion, judo, that led to his injury in 2000. The highly trained fourth dan black belt broke several bones in his foot whilst giving a women’s self-defence lesson for Grampian Police. A cascade of medical misfortunes later led to his below-the-knee amputation.

Even then, within six-months of receiving his prosthetic limb, he was back to playing Golden Oldies rugby. But a fall led to him injuring his other leg, and now “falling to pieces” he needs a wheelchair to “go on a pub crawl”.

Mr McDonald, who ran the now vanished Sullom Voe Hotel in the 1970s says that Shetland is one of his favourite places and he has fond memories of isles rugby with such stalwarts as Forbes Hogg, John Roy Nicolson and Mal Smith. He still regularly visits.

Whilst in Shetland Mr McDonald founded the Sullom Voe Wanderers RFC also known as “The Oil Blacks” – some of whose Players are still involved with Shetland rugby.

He also learned to play American football at the US Coastguard Base at Scatsta and on his return to Aberdeen founded the Granite City Oilers American football team whose first game in Aberdeen was against the “Shetland Red Eyes”.

As president of the Scottish and European Golden Oldies and a representative on the world-wide organization, he has travelled the world several times since taking up the job visiting places like Japan and South East Asia.

This year’s Scottish Golden Oldies festival was in Forfar and next year’s is in Ellon. The next European festival in Lisbon will have teams from 85 countries from Russia to Israel, all over Europe and from Australia and South America taking part; the whole thing run by volunteers.

Golden Oldies, he says, is not a competition, it is a festival open to any rugby player over 35. Players wear age-coded shorts with over 60’s forbidden from being tackled. Players can wander off the pitch for a livener mid-game if they fancy. Scotland’s oldest player is 87-year-old Alastair Urquhart.

Anyone who would like to speak to Mr McDonald about mobility provision can contact him at


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