Dr Eric Irving, an appreciation

DR ERIC IRVING, who has died at the age of 75, in hospital in Ayr, was a well-known practitioner in Fort William and Ayrshire, and his sudden, unexpected death has come as a shock to his family and friends.

His first position, in Fort William, was as an anaesthetist at the local hospital, where he was called out at all hours of the day and night, not only to assist local patients, but

also in the aftermath of dramatic mountain rescues as a result of which, emergency surgery was often required.

He then moved into General Practice and was the founding senior partner of the town’s Craig Nevis Surgery, where he remained,

a well-loved member of the community, for almost 30 years. Many of the local people remember relying upon him for his support and compassionate bedside manner.

Being a rural GP in those days meant being on call to visit houses

in the evenings and all through the night. He often found himself having to drive up glens or along dark

farm tracks in gale-force winds and snowstorms, sometimes with the offer of a warming dram on arrival for his efforts.

This was not a job for the

faint-hearted; it demanded a wide range of skills and a pragmatic, can-do mindset. With secondary

care much further away than would be the case in busy urban areas,

he would find himself managing critically unwell patients until they could be moved to the appropriate facilities.

Many would argue the demands

of being a rural GP will make such people be among the most clinically robust in the profession. Eric became a highly-regarded professional during these years and retired from this demanding role in 1998.

He and his wife, Lorna, moved back to Ayr a year later, where he continued to do locum work as a General Practitioner in the Ayrshire community for several years.

Eric Watson Irving was born in Campbeltown on January 16, 1945, to William Black Irving, from Tarbert, and Mary Clark Watson, from Campbeltown. He and his brother Anthony attended several Ayrshire schools – Campbeltown Primary, Kilwinning Primary and Dalmellington Secondary for three years, where their father was head teacher. Eric then moved on to Ayr Academy.

He gained his medical degree at

St Andrews University and Queen’s College, Dundee, beginning his studies in 1963.

On qualifying, he undertook medical and surgical residencies in Heathfield and Ayr County Hospitals. It was here his attention was caught by a very attractive fair-haired nurse named Lorna, and it was not long before they were going out together on a regular basis. Eric went on

to be the Registrar at Law Hospital, Lanarkshire.

He married Lorna in 1970 and soon after with their baby son, Lorne, they decided to make a big life move and accept a position in the Belford Hospital, Fort William.

Four years later their daughter

Isla was born and they began to put down some long-term roots in the rural community.

Eric had a keen, lifelong interest in all types of cars, especially BMWs, and he owned a Bedford Dormobile.

Many a family holiday was spent driving in the Dormpbile through England, crossing the Channel and heading to the South of France to

go camping in the sunshine of the French Riviera, always visiting the purple lavender fields of Provence

en route.

Back home, he loved to spend his Sunday afternoons watching the Formula One racing; if for any reason he was unable to watch it, he would go to great lengths to record

it and set aside time to catch up

at his leisure.

After moving back to Ayrshire, and in semi-retirement, Lorna and Eric loved to travel. They spent time in Canada, France and Mauritius, and when their daughter moved to Australia, they spent long holidays there, enjoying quality time with their grandchildren.

Eric is remembered as someone who was very sociable, with a pawky sense of humour. He maintained contact with a wide range of friends from his Ayr Academy days. He had an abiding interest in Argyll and had many happy memories of carefree holidays spent in Tarbert, Loch Fyne, with his cousins at their grandparents’ home in Heathfield.

Lorna was a keen bird-watcher and regularly involved Eric in her hobby. While Eric would never admit to being a birder, he kept up a weekly outing with fellow birdwatchers in Ayr after Lorna died in 2013. He continued to meet them until the pandemic lockdown.

Eric had a deeply inclusive attitude to people: no matter their background there was always a seat at the table for them. One of his neighbours’ children in Fort William remembers that he was always the first to put

his hand in his pocket when the

new cinema opened and the eager youngsters in the street wanted to go.

Another neighbour reminisced that as a great neighbour and friend, Eric could always be relied upon for help and advice on car maintenance, garden landscaping and home improvements.

Even although he was a very busy GP, with innumerable demands

on his time and his professional expertise, he always had time to

help out, often hoping to get a look

at a car engine or to lend all sorts

of equipment.

Eric is survived by son Lorne,

who lives in Ayr, by Isla, who lives in Sydney, Australia, and by his brother, Tony, who lives in Edinburgh.