The thinking-man’s Billy Connolly is how Ian McNeish was once described.
Brutally honest, with a wealth of stories which he tells with a mixture of humour and pathos, Ian also goes off at tangents like the Big Yin, but returns to the original story eventually.
Little wonder, then, that Grangemouth man Dr Tom Christie, who runs Extremis Publishing in Stirling with his sister Julie, approached Ian about writing a book.
The pair knew each other from Rotary and Tom had been keeping an eye on Ian’s blogs on his other passion – mountaineering.
But Tom didn’t want him to write a book about that – instead, he asked Ian to reveal all about his many years in the police force.
After a month chewing it over, Ian (71) agreed.
Explaining why, he said: “I found myself stravaiging the country, searching newspaper and council archives, trying to locate and recall incidents I had been involved in over the years.
“I found the experience cathartic and a release from some issues that had blocked my mind for years.”
Ian was born in 1946, in Falkirk. His first job was at Carron Ironworks in Falkirk, then Ferranti Limited in Edinburgh, before heading south for a time to Cosser Electronics.
Returning to Scotland, he took a job with Aberdeenshire County Council where, in addition to examining work methods and producing detailed project management reports, he also liaised with staff, unions and management.
In 1974 Ian joined Ross and Sutherland Constabulary, before transferring to Central Scotland Police in 1978. It was there he worked for most of his career, rising to the rank of Chief Inspector.
Anyone who knows Ian will not be surprised to learn that The Fearn Bobby doesn’t pull its punches.
Both a self-exploration and autobiography, it also sheds fresh light on an institution which Ian still very much believes in, even though the former Chief Inspector said he was bullied out of his job in 2004 and doesn’t agree with its current direction.
“Centralisation is like a communist regime with the centre keeping control – I don’t believe in it,” he said.
“For example, stop and search was a legitimate tool for officers and there were certain areas you would use it more actively.
“But they wanted results all over Scotland so some officers were stopping the same four kids all the time.
“That’s centralisation; that’s when it becomes dangerous.”
But we’re skipping ahead here...the book begins in the summer of 1976 with Ian, then aged 30, just two years into the job with Ross and Sutherland Constabulary.
He found himself cradling a young man in his arms who had been involved in a car crash. William (21), died in his arms that night.
The book explores whether Ian was the right man for that job.
But he also goes right back to the start of his journey, being born and brought up in Bonnybridge by his parents, Catherine and Thomas, his mum’s death from cancer and his dad querying his career change, worried that he just “wasn’t hard enough”.
These themes are central to the story and Ian returns to them, in the end.
Before that, though, we find out about his time in Central Scotland, the miner’s strike, dealing with the aftermath of Dunblane, his unorthodox way of handling a knife attack and beating neds at their own game.
We also learn about the many good officers Ian worked with, some of whom didn’t come home, and the silent toll the job takes on men and women who wear the uniform daily.
Those scars are evident as Ian recalls one incident in the Falkirk area – in which a mum killed herself and he had to deliver the worst news possible to her family.
He recalled: “Her husband and eldest daughter were in the kitchen – I can still see them as I went in.
“I think they expected the worst but there was still hope in their eyes. I shattered whatever hope may have been lingering.”
The family were not well enough to attend the mortuary, so Ian did.
“She was a beautiful woman, unblemished apart from a small bandage around her head,” he recalled.
“I have never, in all the years that have come in between, been able to get rid of that vision.
“For many years I could not speak about it. Even today it is difficult.”
It is evident from the emotion in his voice that it is not a distant memory.
Ian included the story in his book, only after a lot of soul-searching.
He added: “I committed it to paper, not because I wanted to sensationalise anything about it.
“I included it to make the reader aware that, in Scotland, police officers are dealing with similar incidents every day and they get up, get on and get ready for the next one.
“They just keep doing their job, without fear or favour, every day.”
The Fearn Bobby will be released on Friday, March 30, priced £12.99.