I was really privileged to be invited, (as a VIP guest no less) along with my colleague Stefanie Smith, to the Raith Rovers Football Club annual Hall of Fame event at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy on Monday night. The invite came from Ally Gourlay, a remarkable man who never fails to amaze me. Ally is the Media Officer at Raith Rovers and I got to know him recently when I was making my film about the legendary Jim Baxter. Jim played at Rovers and therefore his time at the club was important in my telling of his story. Ally was completely on the ball and quickly secured interviews with former players and his club director, the crime writer, Val McDermid whose dad “discovered” Jim Baxter. He also sorted interviews and access to Jim’s former Junior club, Crossgates Primrose. He was fantastic, enthusiastic all the time, his energy seemingly inexhaustible.
This is quite remarkable. Ally has terminal cancer.
He has already survived considerably longer than the doctors predicted. He is dying and yet he is more alive than most people I know. He is kind and considerate, open and honest and as positive as… well, as positive as someone who has everything to live for. It’s quite astonishing and I am in awe of his ability to lean away from the darkness and be strong for everyone. For people that know him, Ally is the light that guides and warms. His compassion and zest for living offers genuine comfort to those greatly saddened by his illness.
At some point, some of us will face the same diagnosis. That day could be just around the corner and each and every one of us will react to such devastating news individually. In our own way. Ally’s way is already taken but it is so unique it will continue to blossom long into the future.
Each day I try and be positive and squeeze the last drop of light from the fading seconds before I give into it and move on, hopefully, towards another tomorrow. It’s incredibly stark to think that there won’t always be another. One day, who knows when, it will all stop. It’s the same for everyone but for Ally he knows now that it’s getting closer. I hope each day continues to fill him with hope, not for the future, but for the here and now, for the precious time he has left.
Stef and I had a great night. The room ebbed and flowed in the excitement each inductee brought to the event. Compered by the on-form Bill Leckie, with a helping hand from interviewer Ally, it was a really entertaining evening. Celebrity guests swelled the stage; Harry Redknapp, Joe Jordon, Craig Gordon, Pat Stanton…the list goes on.
The most precious thing about the evening though was the attendance of one of last year’s inductees. Ally Gourlay! Ally was inducted in 2014, a wee secret induction that took him completely by surprise on the night. Given his diagnosis, he didn’t expect to be at this year’s event but it was all the more precious that he was there; strong and funny and his heart bursting with pride for the club and people he loves. He’s incredibly special to a lot of people and as Bill Leckie joked, he’s the only guy to have played a round in his own memorial golf tournament!
Life is full of surprises, we should bend into them a little more often, find out where life might take us if we trust it to open up to a little bit of our inner self.
As Seamus Heaney once said;
“Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better
to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
For every one of us, living in this world
means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
that will be his best and only bulwark.”