Neil Blanco

Born: February 7, 1978;

Died: June 1, 2023

Neil Blanco, who has died aged 45, was a campaigner and activist who worked on environmental projects across Scotland, including wild flower meadows, beach cleans, the protection of reptiles and the monitoring of the corn bunting population.

Born in Glasgow's Rotten Row Hospital, his family lived between Scotland and Catalunya in Spain. As a youngster in Spain he became involved in ecology groups with his younger sister Elisa.

Neil always loved the outdoors even as a small boy. He had to be walking; he'd never sit in his push chair. He loved insects, birds and trees and studied them keenly and gently, with appreciation and respect.

He loved roaming through parks and exploring the countryside, both in Scotland and Spain, often hopping on trains and buses to reach somewhere further afield. He and his sister went to the Anglo American School in Castelldefels (now renamed the British School of Barcelona) and as teenagers they were both involved in Eco-Joves, a group for teens and young adults.

Neil and Elisa became involved in protests in their local town, petitioning the town hall to halt the felling of local ancient trees and campaigned for the closure of a rubbish dump, which was leaking toxic waste into the local environment and countryside.

Their group also petitioned the town hall to get funds to run a tree nursery, where they successfully grew saplings from local seeds they collected. They then participated in organising the replanting of local countryside that had been damaged by forest fires. Neil also volunteered to help put out one such fire.

He was a bright boy who loved music and played the piano and the flute. He had a great ear for a tune which he picked up easily after hearing it.

Neil decided to come back to Scotland to study and spent half his life in Glasgow; he loved the natural landscape. He chose to go to Aberdeen University to study forestry management.

He could have studied botany but he loved trees and wished to deepen his knowledge and understanding of them. His final-year thesis took place in the middle of ancient forests close to Banchory where he would witness the salmon returning home.

He became involved with several environmental groups including The Fife Coast and Countryside Trust and FARG (Fife Amphibian & Reptile Group).

He worked as a green keeper at Fairmont Hotel and Golf Course where he restored and maintained a wild flower meadow, and looked after a SSSI (site of special scientific interest) known as Kittock's Den within the course. Here he also participated in the RSPB's corn bunting recovery project monitoring their population. Alongside his fellow volunteers he helped create a pond and looked after its natural pond life.

During the pandemic lockdown he didn't stay idle; he took on the task of cleaning up the five beaches in the East Neuk of Fife, collecting bags and bags of rubbish and then recycled as much of it as possible.

Neil was well known in the family as a walking talking live Google. From a young age he loved news and facts and would be up to date on world affairs and all things political.

He was fluent in English, Spanish and Catalan. He was very athletic too and won many, many trophies over the years for athletics on the road, track and cross country and was head hunted by various coaches. He ran 5,000 and 10,000m races in Spain and he ran the odd half marathon as he got a bit older, including the Great Scottish Run. He tried out hammer throwing but it wasn't his forte and he broke his collarbone. He came second though, beaten only by the regional champion.

When his niece Ailsa was born in 2021, he was both delighted and a little frighted of this tiny bundle of joy. He loved her dearly and told her he would teach her to hike and show her the wonders of nature, but sadly he was diagnosed with Lymphoma in October 2022.

He returned to Glasgow to stay with his mum and dad whilst he received treatment at the Beatson.

Neil was a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest and this year watched it from his hospital bed in the Beatson while the family watched it at home and they compared notes on WhatsApp. They will honour his memory with a yearly Eurovision get together.