Gairloch survivor unveils new community lifeline at Big Sand

Local artist Viveca Port unveiled a mural on the outside of the box at the ceremony. Photo credit: Rob Williams

A phone box in Wester Ross has been reopened as a public access defibrillator – following a ceremony led by a local woman whose life was saved by just such a ‘heart-start’ device.

Last year the Free Press reported on the story of Gairloch resident Cherill Parry. Ms Parry (69) fell ill on 9th June 2018 and was saved in part due to the actions of her neighbour who was able to intervene with the aid of a defibrillator at Gairloch Community Centre.

Last Saturday, just over a year on, Ms Parry was invited to cut the ribbon at the opening of the Big Sand phone box which has been repurposed to house a defibrillator.

Local artist Viveca Port unveiled a mural on the outside of the box at the ceremony, which drew a healthy gathering.

Speaking to the Free Press earlier this week, Ms Parry said: “I am so very pleased to see a defibrillator there, as it is quite far away from the village. As my best friend said to me at the time, I wouldn’t be here without one of those.”

The community’s adoption of the phone box was made possible by BT who allowed Gairloch Community Council to purchase it for £1. Ms Parry also donated money in memory of her husband Russell to the Skye-based charity Lucky2Bhere which supplied the defibrillator used to save her life, and the new one at Big Sands, as well as supporting the training of residents in how to use it.

Big Sand resident Peter Wimpenny, who came up with the idea for the initiative, thanked local resident Julia Alexander for her donation of £1,000. He also paid tribute to a number of people who played pivotal roles in helping to realise the project including local landowner Elizabeth MacDonald, Richard Williamson, Graham Steel, Andrew and Mark MacLean, Joan and Helen MacRae, George Cumming, Viveca Port and Philip MacLachlan, Les Buchan and the Highland Council.

The new defibrillator is now on the radar of the ambulance service, which can advise people of its whereabouts in case of an emergency.

Article by Adam Gordon