Yvonne marries her ex-paratrooper piper ‘prince’

Billy and Yvonne Irving with many of their Kintyre friends at Saturday's wedding reception.

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A woman has wed her former soldier sweetheart after fighting a ‘courageous’ campaign to free him from an Indian prison.

As Skipinnish played the opening chords of Billy Irving’s song ‘First Dance,’ composed in that Chennai jail, he whirled his wife Yvonne Irving round a Paisley dance-floor at their wedding reception.

It was a fairytale beginning to a marriage, last Saturday, which would have seemed impossible, five months ago, for the former soldier schooled in Campbeltown, as the wrongly convicted  Chennai Six entered its fourth year in captivity.

At least a fifth of the 140 friends and family, witnessing the ceremony in St Peter’s church Paisley, had travelled from Kintyre and some of those had also visited him in his prison cell in the former Indian city of Madras now called Chennai.

Speaking at the reception afterwards, Billy, 37, his voice cracking with emotion, said: ‘In my time in India Yvonne fought so hard. Yvonne has changed my world since I met her.’

The couple met, just after Hogmanay 2011 on the Isle of Barra where Billy had been piping at the Castlebay hotel.

‘As soon as I saw him, I thought: ‘I want to marry you,’ Yvonne, 29, told the Campbeltown Courier reporter, as she completed her wedding preparations at her sister, Jacquelynn MacHugh’s flat.

‘I am so glad the day has finally come. I always knew it would happen,’ added Yvonne.

In the following seven years Yvonne proved her love time and time again both before and after Billy became a pirate hunter, eventually joining five other ex-British servicemen and a crew of Estonian, Ukrainian and Indian nationals on AdvanFort’s ship Seaman Guard Ohio.

The nightmare began in October 2013, as the vessel plied the Indian ocean protecting cargo ships from Somali pirates.

An Indian coastguard claimed the vessel had strayed 1.2 nautical miles from international waters into Indian territory and everyone on board was arrested.

Despite having all the correct paperwork for the 35 assault rifles and 5,000 rounds of ammunition on board the former soldiers were charged with possessing illegal weapons.

On Saturday, Billy’s Dad, Jim, 71, a former sergeant in the Royal Highland Fusiliers, who now lives in France, recalled the day he heard the news.

‘I was driving in the car and heard it on the radio,’ said Mr Irving, ‘I laughed and thought what’s our Billy got himself into. It was only later the seriousness dawned.’

To continue reading about Billy and Yvonne’s wedding day see pages 10 and 11.