Linlithgow crew are true heroes

This month’s Westport Vets Local Hero Award winners are Brian Kirkwood, Claire Kirkwood, Douglas Hall Smith and Susan Reynolds.

By Kevin Quinn
Friday, 13th August 2021, 1:00 pm
'Captain and the crewmates' in Linlithgow
'Captain and the crewmates' in Linlithgow

These amazing individuals have generously given their time, care and kindness to the people of Linlithgow.

Brian and Claire Kirkwood have a walking group called 'Captain and the crewmates' that has a daily walk at 10am. They walk around the peel with their dogs and have a coffee break at Taste Deli which has become a real moral booster to all that join their journey. Douglas Hall Smith is known locally as 'Captain' and Brian Kirkwood known as 'Skippy'.

The crew have befriended, helped, supported and cheered up so many people over the last couple of years and are well known locally - as are the crews faithful dogs Lola, Bodger, Sonic and Benny who accompany them.

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

Brian Kirkwood (Skippy) told us: "It started after last year’s Walk for Jock, my wife, David Paterson (Deepsea) and myself decided we would keep in touch with Douglas - or our Captain as he is known now - so we started walking round the loch or just round the peel depending on how our old dog Bodger was managing on the morning.

"As the days and weeks went by the Captain became even more colourful as I’m sure you have seen and as time went by more strangers became friends like Frank and Susan Reynolds and their grandkids Melisa and Nathan. Old friends got in touch and also joined in the daily walk.

"We then started to call ourselves shipmates or crew so we got ourselves t-shirts made during the year that has almost passed.

"We all have had our difficulties over this year with many ailments physical and mental but this daily stroll has allowed us to come through it stronger knowing friendships have grown and I can’t see it stopping anytime soon."

Douglas Hall Smith (Captain) said: "I don't think I do anything heroic. The group happened quite by accident. After completion of the West Highland way under the umbrella of the Walk for Jock.

"If I am a hero then it must be because we are prepared to be social and to be able to listen. I only know if it weren't for the walks each morning my mental health issues would have totally consumed me. We are ordinary people who are open to the needs of others. Be kind to myself and do no harm to others."

Susan Reynolds added: "The group we are in have all helped each other. Brian and Claire are the ones that keep us all going."

Claire Kirkwood said: "I am probably the shy one of the bunch and I certainly have not done anything heroic. I have just been part of an amazing group of people who have all helped each other in a very difficult situation.

"I suffer greatly with depression and complex post traumatic stress disorder and have struggled for years with this. This is the first group of people I have felt able to really share all my experiences with and feel at ease with.

"We have all helped each other through difficult times and from being complete strangers have become great friends and support to each other in difficult times."

Linlithgow resident Hazel Snedden is one of the locals who has been helped by the group.

She said: "The lockdown hurt everyone and some people did not come back from this horrible time and place.

"Brian and Claire have been there constantly for the folks without cars and getting them to appointments.

"Going with them sometimes to help them, to care for them, to say that you are ok and you have someone to hang on to in the difficult times. Visiting them to make sure that they are ok and if they can help you with anything.

"Brian and Claire Kirkwood have taken so many people on their walks, I call them journeys. They don't give up on folk, they certainly helped and supported me with my pressup-for-parkinson’s.

"The last year has been the toughest I've had to fight yet and I could not have done it without the crew members.

"Susan Reynolds is a lovely woman with a heart of gold and has always been there for all of us too. If I needed a shoulder to cry on or needed advice then Susan is always there.

"To past crew members and the present crew, thank you for all your help as I certainly would not have made it."

If you would like to nominate someone for Westport Vet's Local Hero Awards, email details and their act of kindness to: [email protected]

Each month’s Westport Vet's Local Hero will receive a certificate of recognition and a treat for themselves at a local business.