Black family ‘humbled and proud’ as memorial helipad opens

The opening ceremony was attended by Robert Black's family, from left, his wife Catherine, son Andrew, daughter Lorna and son-in-law John.
The opening ceremony was attended by Robert Black's family, from left, his wife Catherine, son Andrew, daughter Lorna and son-in-law John.

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After three years of campaigning for a fit-for-purpose helipad in Campbeltown, the Robert Black Memorial Helipad has officially opened.

A day of events marked the momentous and poignant moment the state-of-the-art facility ceremoniously replaced the former muddy, water-logged landing site adjacent to Campbeltown Hospital which was previously used.

In the 10 weeks since the helipad became operational on April 1, 19 patients have been airlifted from the site.

They required a variety of treatments, including emergency scans, maternity interventions, orthopaedic surgical interventions and respiratory specialist treatment.

The £270,000 helipad was funded by the HELP Appeal, a charity dedicated to funding NHS hospital helipads, and built by Kintyre companies McFadyens Contractors and McKinven and Colville.

South Kintyre Development Trust (SKDT) has taken on a licence to operate the helipad which is named in honour of Campbeltown paramedic Robert Black who died in May 2020, aged just 52, after a battle with Covid-19.

Robert’s wife Catherine was among those who attended Saturday’s ceremony during which Simon Jones from the HELP Appeal handed over a cheque for the cost of the helipad.

From left: Simon Jones from the HELP Appeal which funded the helipad; Robert Black's wife Catherine; Eric Spence, manager of SKDT, which is responsible for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the helipad; and Stuart McLellan, who spearheaded the project. Photograph: Kenny Craig.
From left: Simon Jones from the HELP Appeal which funded the helipad; Robert Black’s wife Catherine; Eric Spence, manager of SKDT, which is responsible for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the helipad; and Stuart McLellan, who spearheaded the project. Photograph: Kenny Craig.

Robert, a paramedic for the Scotland Ambulance Service for nearly 30 years, had given his full support to the project after frequently seeing ambulances becoming stuck in the mud and having to be towed away when transferring critically ill patients between the landing site and Campbeltown Hospital.

Not only is the helipad named after Robert, but a memorial bench and plaque has also been placed at the site to remember him by for many years to come.

Catherine said: ‘Our family is humbled and immensely proud that the helipad has been named after Robert. We extend our grateful thanks to all who brought this project to fruition for our resilient and vibrant community.’

The opening ceremony was attended by Robert Black's family, from left, his wife Catherine, son Andrew, daughter Lorna and son-in-law John.
The opening ceremony was attended by Robert Black’s family, from left, his wife Catherine, son Andrew, daughter Lorna and son-in-law John.

The ceremony at the helipad was followed by a drinks reception at Campbeltown Town Hall where speeches were made by SKDT manager Eric Spence; ambulance technician Stuart McLellan who led the helipad campaign; Catherine Black; Jane MacLeod, Lord-Lieutenant of Argyll and Bute; Tom Steele, chairman of the Scottish Ambulance Service; and Simon Jones from HELP Appeal.

Stuart, from Neilston in East Renfrewshire, said: ‘I am absolutely delighted to be in Campbeltown for the official opening of the Robert Black Memorial Helipad.

‘I’d like to thank the HELP Appeal for its support from the start, along with all the people that have been involved in the project.

‘I set out to achieve something that was long overdue and would be there for people during their time of need.

‘I’m delighted to have played my part and look forward to my next challenge.’

Eric said: ‘The trustees, staff and volunteers at SKDT would like to express our immense gratitude to the HELP Appeal for its generosity in funding the construction of the Robert Black Memorial Helipad.

‘This facility will provide a vital lifeline for the people of Kintyre, making emergency transfers to hospital quicker and easier – it literally has the potential to save lives.’

The crew of a Scottish Ambulance Service helicopter touched down for the ceremony.
The crew of a Scottish Ambulance Service helicopter touched down for the ceremony.

Simon Jones from the HELP Appeal said: ‘It is a pleasure to see the Robert Black Memorial Helipad open and to speak to the local community about the positive difference it is making for critically ill patients.

‘The HELP Appeal’s donation which has covered the total cost of this £270,000 helipad, has been worth every single penny, because it is already saving time and saving lives.’

A memorial plaque was unveiled at the helipad during Saturday's opening ceremony.
A memorial plaque was unveiled at the helipad during Saturday’s opening ceremony.

South Kintyre’s three councillors were among the guests are the ceremony.

Councillor John Armour said: ‘The hard work from Stuart McLellan over the last three years getting everything in place has left us with this wonderful facility.

‘From day one, Stuart was determined not only to get the helipad built but to involve local businesses as much as possible.

‘Many local businesses and organisations contributed in many ways both financially and in kind, highlighting what a fantastic community spirit we have in South Kintyre.’

Councillor Donald Kelly said: ‘I would like to thank all various organisations and contractors that were involved with this project, especially Stuart who was the driving force behind it.

‘The helipad is a tremendous asset to the hospital and will play a major part in supporting the lives of our community in the future.’

Councillor Rory Colville said: ‘I was once told by a wise man that only those who persevere succeed. In the case of the Robert Black Memorial Helipad, this was certainly true and, against what at times must have seemed insurmountable odds, a handful of dedicated individuals achieved the impossible.

‘Collectively, we owe them all a huge debt of gratitude. It was inspirational to attend the official opening.’

Some of the life-saving paramedics who will benefit from the state-of-the-art facility.
Some of the life-saving paramedics who will benefit from the state-of-the-art facility.