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Debt of gratitude repaid to Perthshire village by POW

Cultybraggan Camp, Comrie, has become a hugely popular visitor attraction.
Cultybraggan Camp, Comrie, has become a hugely popular visitor attraction.

A former German prisoner of war  has repaid the kindness shown to him by the people of a Perthshire village by leaving nearly £400,000 for the benefit of local pensioners.

The people of Comrie had known of Heinrich Steinmeyer’s intentions following his death in 2013 but it has taken until now to iron out the legalities and for the money to come through.

The proceeds of his estate will be used exclusively to provide local developments for older people, suggested by older people.

The 19-year-old German Waffen SS soldier, who was captured in France, was held in the POW camp at Cultybraggan by Comrie where he was surprised by the reaction of local people.

“Throughout his captivity, Heinrich Steinmeyer was very struck by the kindness shown to him by Scottish people, which he had not expected,” said Andrew Reid, secretary of the Comrie Development Trust which will administer the £384,000 Heinrich Steinmeyer Legacy Fund.

“After the war, he visited Comrie and made lasting friendships in the village.

“He vowed to leave everything he owned for the benefit of older people in the place he wanted to thank.”

Mr Steinmeyer died in February 2013, a fortnight after the death of George Carson, his close friend in Comrie and his ashes were later scattered in the area.

Mr Steinmeyer always maintained he was lucky to be captured by the Scots and spoke of the “mercy” he was shown.

Part of his will read “I would like to express my gratitude to the people of Scotland for the kindness and generosity that I have experienced in Scotland during my imprisonment of war and hereafter.”

The will specifically stated that what would come from his house and other possessions was to be used for “elderly people”.

On one of his visits to Comrie,  Mr Steinmeyer met and asked the Comrie Development Trust (CDT) — which is based at Cultybraggan Camp —  to manage his legacy.

Following his death, a small group made up of George Carson (the son of Heinrich’s friend), a community councillor, a Strathearn Rambler and volunteer CDT board members set up the communications with German solicitors about ensuring that the wishes of the will are fulfilled as Mr Steinmeyer set out.

“Executing the will and the sale of property to realise funds for transfer to this country has involved a complex and very lengthy process in Germany, and with the financial transfer to this country,” said Mr Reid.

“CDT is still working with the German Solicitors to settle outstanding debts incurred by Heinrich appointing legal advisers. It is too early to establish if further bills will require payment.

“However, €457180 (euros) — £384,000 — has been transferred to a special Heinrich Steinmeyer  Legacy Fund, set up by Comrie Development Trust as a separate account.”

The trust is now looking for local volunteers as individuals or from groups of older people to make the arrangements for consulting with local people about how the legacy should be used, and then to oversee how it is spent.

* For more on this story see Saturday’s Courier.

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