A MEMORIAL stone has been unveiled in Barrhead to honour those who have been lost to suicide.

The poignant tribute, based at the Water Works community space, is the brainchild of former soldier James McEwan, who was keen to honour two old Army colleagues who took their own lives.

Originally, Barrhead man James wanted to create a memorial for victims of suicide who had served in the Armed Forces.

However, after realising the scale of the problem, he decided to also include other members of the community who have suffered a similar fate.

James, 64, told the Barrhead News: “I’ve heard a lot of tragic stories while speaking to people in the community who have lost family members, so I have left space on the memorial in case anyone wants to get in touch with me to have the name of a family member engraved there.

Barrhead News: James in the memorial gardenJames in the memorial garden

“I want to make the memorial not just for people who have been lost to suicide, but for those lost to sudden death as well.”

Currently, the memorial stone carries the names of former servicemen Matt Campbell, Malcolm Watt and Colin Wilson, as well as local residents Sean Fulton and Raymond Simpson.

James, who served with the 1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, knew both Malcolm and Colin and was left devastated by their deaths.

“Malcolm and Colin were personal friends of mine,” he said. “They both served alongside me in Northern Ireland, with the Argylls, in the 1970s.

“Matt was a younger soldier who I didn’t know personally but I attended his funeral.

“I know the families of the two young men whose names are engraved on the ‘community’ side of the memorial stone. Sean’s family are from Barrhead and Raymond’s are from Neilston.”

James first got the idea for a memorial garden in honour of those lost to suicide after Malcolm took his own life last year.

“That spurred me on,” he said. “Malcolm sent me a message with a picture of himself with a wee whisky, like he did quite regularly, but he took his life that night.

“He was one of my closer friends, so I was shocked by what happened. In fact, I still can’t believe he’s gone.”

Barrhead News: James McEwan and Colin Wilson on a training exercise in West Germany during the 1970sJames McEwan and Colin Wilson on a training exercise in West Germany during the 1970s

James is well aware of the difficulties faced by many former servicemen and women as, for the past seven years, he has been undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

He said the number of serving soldiers, as well as others who have left the military, who are struggling to cope is a real concern.

“I came out of the military in 1978 and have been getting treatment through Combat Stress for post-traumatic stress disorder,” added James.

“I was lucky because I was initially treated by RAMH (Recovery Across Mental Health) in Barrhead and they referred me to Combat Stress.

“The charity has been really good in terms of helping me but PTSD is just a label. There are a lot of symptoms that sometimes can’t be recognised initially.”

Malcolm left the Army in March 1976 and, like many others before him, found it difficult to adjust to his return to ‘Civvy Street.’

Barrhead News: Colin Wilson (left) and James McEwan (right) ready for patrol in Northern Ireland in 1975Colin Wilson (left) and James McEwan (right) ready for patrol in Northern Ireland in 1975

He took his own life on October 28, 2017, at the age of 63.

Malcolm is survived by his wife Caroline and children Cameron and Louise.

Colin left the Army in the 1980s and moved to Aberdeen to pursue a career related to the oil industry.

He was also married and a dad-of-two but is said to have struggled to cope with his Army experiences, including those from his time serving in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles.’
Colin was in his early 60s when he took his own life.

James said: “All three of us – Malcolm, Colin and myself – served together in Northern Ireland.

“I could see a change in Colin after combat tours. He would become more withdrawn. I think Northern Ireland had a very bad effect on him.

“With Malcolm, there was no warning. He sent his Argyll pals a wee message, telling us how great it was to serve with us, but that was a normal message from him.

“None of us expected Malcolm to take his own life. He was always a rock, such a strong person.”

Campaigners estimate that, last year, at least 58 veterans in the UK took their own lives.

The Ministry of Defence spends £22million a year on mental health support for veterans, while the NHS has dedicated around £6m annually since 2016.

James is encouraging anyone in East Renfrewshire who has lost a loved one to suicide to seek comfort by visiting the memorial garden at the Water Works, where they can pay their respects in a peaceful setting.

Barrhead News: Malcolm Watt’s death left his friends and family devastatedMalcolm Watt’s death left his friends and family devastated

He also revealed how the project has been a real ‘community effort,’ with local firms rallying round to lend their support.

The stone was supplied by George Rooney Memorials, which is based at St Conval’s Cemetery, in Barrhead, while funeral directors D Moodie & Co, also based in Barrhead, offered to donate a plaque for the garden.

“The support has been amazing,” said James. “A lot of people have helped to make the garden what it is.”

If you have lost someone to suicide and would like their name to be featured on the memorial stone, get in touch with James by sending an email to sidargyll@msn.com.