Community pays tribute to dedicated paramedic

Robert Black, centre, with colleagues and friends Scott Ramsay, left, and James Stevenson, right, after all three received long service medals in 2018.

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The family of a much-loved and highly-respected Campbeltown paramedic who passed away after a battle with coronavirus has been overwhelmed by the support received from the community.

Robert Black died at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow last Saturday, May 2, after battling COVID-19 since early April. He fought for 12 days in the intensive care unit before succumbing to the virus.

Tributes to the 52-year-old have flooded social media, with many recognising him as a friendly, dedicated paramedic and a gentleman who had time for everyone. He was a family man and proud father of Lorna and Andrew.

Initially inspired to take up the profession because his brother Malcolm was an ambulance technician, Robert was presented with an Ambulance Service (Emergency Duties) Long Service and Good Conduct medal in 2018 in recognition of 25 years as a paramedic. At the time he told the Courier he had the ‘best job in town’.

As well as for his work with the Scottish Ambulance Service, Robert was well-known on the town’s music circuit. He was a talented musician and keyboard player who was always involved in Kintyre Songwriters’ Festival and the Mull of Kintyre Music Festival with his band, Gullion. He was a veteran member of several bands, including Wishful Thinking, Honest As Thieves, and Catch 22.

He also had a regular slot on Campbeltown-based radio station Argyll FM.

He was a member of the amateur drama club Accent Players, a troupe which was placed second overall at this year’s Kintyre-Argyll District Drama Festival. The club also collected trophies for the highest marks for production and for the best comedy performance.

Robert’s wife Catherine told the Courier that the family was overwhelmed by the support received from neighbours, family, friends, colleagues, various church congregations and those in the wider community, who were right behind Robert when he was unwell, extending kind words, gestures and prayers, which the family found very comforting. She added that the family is very grateful for all the kind expressions of sympathy at this time.

Robert’s friend Colin Middleton said: ‘Robert was a very dear friend. My heart goes out to Catherine, Lorna and Andrew, as Robert was so far away and they were unable to be with him.

‘When Robert moved to Campbeltown in the 1980s we formed a band called Honest As Thieves and played in various venues in Argyll. We even wrote and recorded some songs in a professional studio in Glasgow, with Catherine on backing vocals.

‘For more than 25 years, Robert and I travelled to the Glasgow Barrowlands together on my birthday to see one of our friends play.

‘Robert always had a big smile and seemed to laugh when he spoke. I am very privileged to have shared the same spotlight on the same stage with him.’

Robert, who contracted COVID-19 while at work, is thought to be the first Scottish paramedic to die as a result of having the virus.

The Scottish Ambulance Service, which did not name Robert, said in a statement: ‘It is with very great sadness that we confirm the news that one of our colleagues from the Scottish Ambulance Service has passed away after contracting COVID-19.’

Pauline Howie, chief executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, added: ‘On behalf of everyone at the Scottish Ambulance Service, I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to the family. Our focus will be on supporting them during this very difficult time.’