I arrived at Onich near Fort William at 0100 after a long drive from Cupar where I had just finished the last of the 4 winter talks for the Charity Mountain Aid .
The roads were very quite and I was very tired and had to leave straight after my talk in Cupar as I had been asked to do the Eulogy of a longtime friend Paddy Heron by the family. This was to me a huge honour and I hoped my voice would hold up after 4 evenings public speaking on the winter talks!
It had been a hard 4 days with the travel involved Travelling to
It had been well worth it to speak to so many packed venues each night and meeting so many superb people. I hope the talks went down well? For me it was a hugely challenging 4 days but the response I received was at times humbling! I met a few people who had been involved in tragedies in the mountains that I had been on the Rescue or a recovery in and it was amazing how much all appreciated the efforts of the teams and other Agencies. In a lot of incidents in the past years before the internet you rarely heard from families or casualties after an incident. I will pass on the kind words to as many as I can who were involved in the Incidents.
I hoped that my voice would recovered enough and would holdout and I would not let anyone down?
The funeral was held in the church at St Mary’s Church Fortwilliam to a packed church it all went well and the voice held up. As we came out the church the piper played a lament that was so powerful and poignant as the pipes can be .
We then headed for the cemetery above the busy A82 at Innes Na Birrlin near Oinch. The weather had been wild with heavy showers and bitter wind but the weather got better and at the service at the Cemetery the sun came out and the wild views of Ardgour were stunning. The piper again played a lament and we were all left to our own thoughts of Paddy for a few moments. Paddy is a man who will be sadly missed by us all.
Paddy Heron Eulogy
Paddy was born in Ardgour in 1942 on St. Patrick’s day( like his father) to Irish parents , a heritage of which he was always very proud.
After attending prep school in North Berwick , he moved at the age of 12 to the north of England where he continued his education at Stoneyhurst and Manchester University . It was here in October 1961 that he met Val, his wife of 55 years , the tone for their long and sparky relationship set by the fire engine putting out the kitchen fire at their wedding reception! Not only did Paddy gain his degree in Civil Engineering at university it was also where he took to smoking the pipe, and in true Paddy style, the reason for this was just to annoy the cigarette smokers! Even during his illness whilst he was prepared to forego his nightly pint of real ale but was not prepared to compromise on smoking his twist tobacco!
After University Paddy enjoyed the challenge of working for Tarmac Construction in the north of England , building motorways and working on other big projects. His first home was in Stockport with Val and Susan, born in 1963. Sadly ,his father died very suddenly in 1968, so he returned to Scotland to run P L J Heron Ltd until 1977. Paddy had already had the foresight to purchase a tree covered hillside in Inchree from the Forestry Commission and had started building chalets mainly ,at first, to keep his mother occupied. Over the following decades he worked tirelessly to develop the site into what it is today: a popular tourism centre which has welcomed guests from all over the world. Alongside Susan and David, Paddy moved with the times and adapted to a rapidly changing market. There was always a new project in the offing; after the chalets , the famous bunkhouse, then the restaurant and bar, and finally rooms to complete his fiefdom.
Paddy was the original recycler before it ever became popular and the Four Season restaurant is testament to this. He hated waste(described by an old friend as being like one of his Labradors ,going to retrieve anything that was thrown out). The oldest pews which thousands of visitors have sat on dated back to 1763 and the sycamore floor was reclaimed from the old Rowntree factory in Glasgow. Indeed, Paddy has been aptly described as Onich’s Uri Geller ; Uri bent spoons whilst Paddy straightened bent nails to use again . His shed on the site is legendary not least for his collection of paint pots as old as Rembrandt.
It was at the Inchree Centre that Paddy met people from all over the world and will always be fondly remembered and was seen as a father figure to many. He built a community for everyone who loved the outdoor; climbers, canoeists and mountain bikers were all welcome along with many families who visited over the years. He could always be found of an evening in his smoking shelter , named the Paddygoda , or at the end of the bar with a pint of Red Cullin, in his body warmer no matter what the weather, putting the world to rights. Certainly non politically correct, his forthright opinions were based on knowledge acquired over a lifetime of reading and enquiry .
Paddy built his business for his family, with David and Susan working with him to make it what it is today. He was very proud of his 4 grandchildren : Ben, Amy, Michael and little Alex. That he had indeed , if reluctantly ! mellowed with the years was shown by his willingness to watch Peppa Pig happily with Alex when once he had chortled at South Park with young Ben ,Amy and Mike. He also welcomed David’s wife Justyna into the family and Jim’s fiancee Fi even saying( occasionally! ) that his sons were lucky lads.
In the Heron home there were a variety of pets over the years, ranging, amongst others, from cats and dogs , to snakes for Jim and ducks. It was the diseased ducks that caused the most controversy, as they almost put an end to Val when she contracted Psciattocis. ( He never denied that he was trying to commit the perfect murder) When the ministry vet appeared down at the house, all suited up, Paddy was still there picking up the ducks with his bare hands! They spent a few minutes looking at the ducks and then retired to the kitchen to discuss the perfect home brew! On another memorable occasion, Val came down stairs to make breakfast and found a pig, who had met an untimely demise, laid out on the kitchen floor. Unsure where it had come from or what she was meant to do with it, it was shipped off to a butchers, but she knew that Paddy was involved in this unfortunate event somewhere along the line!
Paddy was also a keen traveller and had travelled round the world twice, visiting family and friends in Australia and New Zealand as well as America and Cuba amongst other places. In true Paddy style he always shunned hotels and was more comfortable staying in hostels and mixing with the locals As he left Cuba, to his new Cuban friend he donated his bar of soap and 2 toilet rolls! He loved to learn about other cultures and how people lived and would bring many a story of his exploits back to the Highlands!
Paddy was a huge character , and even during his illness he approached life with the same courage he always had and wouldn’t allow any self pity to creep in. One week before he passed away, he caused great consternation at Chisholms garage by turning up in his white van, as they weren’t sure he should be driving. You can imagine his response to this! And his final purchase just 6 days before he died was two cans of cleaner for his big wheelie bins, as no one else could clean them out properly. Paddy died peacefully at his home of nearly 48 years , a home very much in his style complete with an elephant’s foot ,stuffed pine marten and assorted antique weapons! Sadly , he did not live to see his new front door but Val is grateful he paid for it!
Paddy will be greatly missed by all his family and friends . Nobody said “how’s life” quite like Paddy. In the many tributes his family has received over the past few days the recurring themes are those of a man of integrity , great sociability ,and courage. I think it’s safe to say that there will never be another Paddy Heron!
After the funeral we all headed back to the Inchree Centre which Paddy had built and we had a special night!
I left early tired but appreciative of a thought provoking day! I am sure Paddy would have been happy with the send off and my thoughts are with his wife Val and the family at this time.
Thank you all for the honour of letting me say goodbye to Paddy in a special way. He was a real character and loved by so many from all walks of life!