Thursday, November 30, 2023

OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 13-03-2021 08:52

Ronnie Scott: 103 not out

Keep moving would seem to be the secret of Ronnie Scott’s longevity – flying the skies from World War II to the year of Argentina’s first World Cup, he remains on wheels to this day with a driving licence. 

Keep moving would seem to be the secret of Ronnie Scott’s longevity – flying the skies from World War II to the year of Argentina’s first World Cup (1978), he remains on wheels to this day with a driving licence. 

Ronnie is justly proud of his war record but does not overdo the glorification, showing a balanced perspective. He notes that at least among his friends and acquaintances of the 4,000 others who volunteered from Argentina, he detected a high percentage of “those who did not cut it with the ladies” (when they returned as war heroes, their success rate on that front improved notoriously). Nor does he exaggerate his own heroism, saying that he had a “comfortable war” in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy where he mainly contributed as a training instructor rather than as a combat pilot himself, but he still came close to death on at least two or three occasions.

Ronald David Scott was born on October 20, 1917, in Villa Devoto (although the family soon moved to Belgrano). Scotts are not always as Scottish as their name might suggest but Ronald’s father Roy Douglas Scott (a dragoon in the First World War and one of the first referees in Argentine rugby) was born in Stanraer, Dumfries & Galloway. The first president he can remember is Marcelo T. de Alvear (1922-1928).

One of his earliest memories was the memorable 1925 visit of the Prince of Wales (later to ascend to the throne as Edward VIII in 1936, only to abdicate that same year for the most romantic of reasons to wed Wallis Simpson). One day the Scott family went to see the princely guest playing polo and after a few chukkers the future Duke of Windsor was dying of thirst, begging for a bottle of tonic water. Ronnie was designated to run the errand to quench the royal thirst.

His surname seemed to dictate his choice of secondary school. If Captain Lawrence “Titus'' Oates was the self-sacrificing companion of Robert Falcon Scott on their tragic 1912 South Pole expedition, the adolescent Scott found himself at Oates College (which merged with St. George’s around 1935, thus turning Ronnie into an Old Georgian). When his schooldays ended, Scott began a typical Anglo-Argentine career with junior clerical posts in companies like Swift meat-packers and Alpargatas but within a few years the outbreak of World War II changed the course of his life. 

From the moment Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, Ronnie felt that he had to fight him – war is “horrendous” he reflects, but above all Hitler had to be stopped. So why didn’t he volunteer until May, 1942? He had to look after an ailing mother until her condition became irreversible (she died the following year in 1943).

The rest of 1942 was mostly occupied with long voyages to the United States and Britain (manning a gun turret on the first leg) and four months’ training before his “comfortable war'' as a BLAV (British Latin American Volunteer) could begin.When he finally arrived in London, he found that he had already been enlisted into the Army in advance and he had to talk his way into the Fleet Air Arm, his only ambition. 

Ronnie was not demobilised until 1946 but even after returning home and putting away his uniform, he refused to be grounded – he had to keep flying. On his return he joined Aeroposta air mail company with extensive flying in Patagonia until it merged into the creation of Aerolìneas Argentinas in 1950. Marriage followed in his first year at Aerolíneas and then family (two children and now three grandchildren) – he lost his wife five years ago after 64 years together. Almost three decades as an Aerolíneas pilot then followed until his retirement in 1978.

But even when his flying days ended, Ronnie remained active in almost any sport you might care to name – perhaps rugby (as a CASI member since 1935) and cricket were his favourites but also hockey, bowls, badminton and cycling among others  (and, of course, bridge if that counts as a sport). Yet never a day goes by without a glass of tinto.

Michael Soltys

Michael Soltys

Michael Soltys, who first entered the Buenos Aires Herald in 1983, held various editorial posts at the newspaper from 1990 and was the lead writer of the publication’s editorials from 1987 until 2017.


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