THE GRIEVING family of a former burner and welder who died from asbestos cancer are appealing to his former co-workers to help them establish how he developed the illness that claimed his life.

Father-of-three Jim Kennedy, from Hamilton in Lanarkshire, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs most commonly associated with exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.

He died in December 2021, aged 82, just two months after being diagnosed with the disease.

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Following Mr Kennedy’s death, his family instructed asbestos-related disease experts at Irwin Mitchell Scotland to investigate his illness and whether he could have been exposed to asbestos at work.

They are now joining with their legal team in appealing to Mr Kennedy’s former workmates for details on the conditions he may have faced while employed at Ravenscraig steelworks in Motherwell.

HeraldScotland:

Mary-Jo McKenna, the lawyer at Irwin Mitchell Scotland representing Mr Kennedy’s loved ones, said: “Jim’s family have been left devastated after losing him to mesothelioma, which is a particularly unpleasant illness which often becomes apparent many years after coming into contact with asbestos.

“Christmas was a year since Jim passed, yet his loved ones are still left with questions and concerns over how he fell ill in the first place.

“While there is nothing we can do to change what they’re going through, we’re determined to help them obtain the answers they deserve.

“We would therefore be grateful if anyone who remembers working with Jim could come forward. Any detail could be vital to our investigation.”

Mr Kennedy began working at Ravenscraig initially as a burner, before becoming a welder in the early 1960s. His family believe he was exposed to asbestos while working at the steelworks.

Jim was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2021.

His condition deteriorated quickly and he died on 29 December 2021.

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His illness and death has been devastating for his wife, Fay, his children John, Anne and Jim, and his four grandchildren.

Mr Kennedy’s wife, Fay, said: “It was very quick between Jim being diagnosed and us losing him. It was such a huge shock and I was absolutely devastated.

“To this day, I still struggle to come to terms with his death. He was the best husband and was so good to me. I’m finding life incredibly tough without him.”

HeraldScotland: Jim Kennedy with son, John, as a childJim Kennedy with son, John, as a child (Image: Irwin Mitchell/Kennedy family)

His son, John, said “My father was always fit and active. He worked until he was 70. It was devastating to hear of his illness

“When we were told that my father’s working conditions could have been to blame for his illness, it was very upsetting.

“However, getting some answers is the least we can do to honour his memory.

“We would be thankful if anyone with information on Ravenscraig could come forward. It would mean so much to us.”

Rates of mesothelioma have increased rapidly since the 1990s as a result of workers’ past occupational exposure to asbestos in a range of industries, including housebuilding and car manufacturing.

Between 2010 and 2019, the risk of dying from mesothelioma increased by 29 per cent for women in Scotland and 30% for men.

The use of all forms of asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1999, with the import of the most hazardous blue and brown asbestos prohibited since 1985.

READ MORE: Legal first as family wins £250k damages over mother's second-hand asbestos exposure

However, from the 1940s to the 1970s, asbestos was widely used in a variety of equipment at steel mills - including welding equipment - to improve heat resistance.

The Ravenscraig plant, which once produced more hot-strip steel than any other site in Europe, was owned and operated by Colville before being bought by the British Steel Corporation in 1967 and eventually closing in 1992.

Any claims for compensation are likely to be made against its former insurers, but there have been no payouts to date.

Legal action has previously been initiated by Alexander Culbert, who lost both his parents to cancer. His father Joseph, who died from multiple myeloma - a form of blood cancer - in 2007 had worked as a labourer at Colvilles Steel Mill in Ravenscraig in the late 1960s.

Mr Culbert’s mother, who used to wash her husband’s clothes, died from mesothelioma in 2016. Mr Culbert believes that she was exposed to asbestos second-hand, and has instructed law firm Harper Macleod to investigate.