A DOCTOR was killed at the weekend when the gyrocopter he built himself crashed on Lewis.

Stornoway GP Alasdair Barden, 35, died instantly in the wreckage of his tiny craft which plunged 300ft and came down near Coll Pottery several miles north-east of the town and close to houses at the Vatisker Park scheme.

A villager who saw the accident said: ''People were out watching after hearing the gyrocopter flying around. He was circling. Maybe a turn was too tight or there was a mechanical problem, but the engine stopped and the gyrocopter just fell to the ground.''

Dr Barden, 35, was a partner in the Stornoway Group Practice. He leaves a widow, Donna, and two young children. He had picked up Gaelic from island flatmates when at Glasgow University. He was a member of the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee and chairman of the islands' SNP constituency association.

Dr Barden was well known through his many contributions on Gaelic radio.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said: ''Alasdair made an enormous contribution to the SNP. He was widely recognised as a good and decent man who worked with unstinting energy and courtesy.

''Alasdair was also passionate in his love of Gaelic, his adopted language. We will always remember his principled support for our country and his island's future.''

Councillor Alisdair Nicholson, chairman of the SNP Lewis and Harris branch, said: ''He was a real gentleman. People are terribly shocked over this. He enjoyed his medical practice and was a person who was devoted to his family, his community, his patients, and his country.

''He built the aircraft himself. It was one of his passions in life. He loved flying. I think he was fully aware of the risks involved, but he serviced the machine regularly.''

Mr Calum MacDonald, the islands' Labour MP, spoke of the loss to the community. ''Alasdair was highly respected as he worked hard for this community and also for the Gaelic language,'' he said.

The accident happened just after 9pm on Saturday. Pieces of the single-seat gyrocopter were recovered from nearby gardens by the emergency services.

The wreckage was moved from the crash scene early yesterday to await inspectors from the Air Accident Investigation Branch.

Recently Dr Barden and his wife featured in a Gaelic television series on romances, which recalled how five years ago they became the first couple to get married on the remote island of St Kilda since 1926.

The wedding took place after the bridegroom was flown there in a rescue helicopter. Dr Barden had been told he could not reach the island when bad weather prevented an Army landing craft from taking him there.

However, the Army was not to be beaten and took him, the best man, the bride's father and another guest 45 miles to the windswept wedding venue by helicopter.

The Rev Neil Shaw, of Callanish Free Church, made the 45-mile trip in a fishing boat with the bride to conduct the service in the St Kilda church, which had been restored by the Army.