Defibrillator tribute in honor of popular Lanarkshire stalwart

A vital lifesaving device has been installed in an Airdrie village in lasting tribute to a much-loved community stalwart known as “the gentleman of Greengairs”.

Peter Downie, a former miner who was well known for maintaining the Stanrigg memorial site and serving with the local children’s committee and as vice-chair of the area’s community council, died in September at the age of 83.

Now he is being remembered with the installation of a defibrillator in the center of the community – fittingly placed at Stanrigg memorial hall which he was instrumental in helping to develop as a member of Greengairs’ community groups.

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Peter worked as a coal miner for four decades in collieries across central Scotland, retiring in 1993, and was at the heart of the village where he had been born and lived his whole life.

His funeral was attended by hundreds of friends representing the many groups and associations he was connected with; and neighbors in his home community wanted to remember his contribution with a suitable memorial.

Airdrie North councillor Sophia Coyle suggested installing a defibrillator for the benefit the rural area – and Peter’s wife Pauline told Lanarkshire Live he “would have been so proud” of the poignant honor from his community.

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Peter Downie pictured at the Stanrigg mining memorial
Peter Downie pictured at the Stanrigg mining memorial

Pauline said: “It’s a very nice thing to do and it was overwhelming when we found out this would be happening in memory of Peter.

“He just lived for Greengairs and the mining community and was a driving force for so many projects; everybody came to him if they needed anything and he was always the first to do something for someone else.

“Peter was still active and involved with so many different things right up until he died; he’d been put forward last year as a community hero by Neil Gray MSP and had just been nominated for a citizenship award by the provost.

“We’ve had so many messages and it’s been special to realize exactly how much he did for people and how they appreciated all that he did; his heart of him was always in Greengairs. ”

Peter passed away shortly after being diagnosed with cancer last year; and his death of him was described as “a big loss for the community” by Councilor Coyle.

The eldest of eight siblings, he was born on May 31 1938 and the family lived at the miners’ row cottages in the village with his father also working in the colliery.

After attending Greengairs Primary and Airdrie Central schools, Peter began work at the McLean mine in Glenmavis.

After two years of national service with the Royal Corps of Signals, including a deployment to Cyprus, he returned to work in the pits at Glentore, Bedlay, Polkemmet and Solsgirth.

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Peter had three sons – who were also miners – and a daughter, five grandsons and one great-granddaughter.

He chaired the Stanrigg memorial committee, maintaining the tribute site honoring 19 miners killed in the local pit disaster in 1918 and organizing the centenary remembrance service, and was secretary of the Moodiesburn and district retired miners’ association.

In addition to serving as vice-chair of Greengairs community council, he was also involved with the village’s social club and its children’s committee, running a host of trips and Christmas events for local youngsters.

The defibrillator was donated by Airdrie Motorist Center in Calderbank and installed by workers from CRC Electrical who donated their time and materials to connect up the vital lifesaving equipment.

It is now in place on an external wall of the community hall on Greengairs Road, with a plaque in honor of Peter set to be added in the coming weeks.

Relatives and friends gathered to see the newly-installed equipment in place, including Pauline, Peter’s sisters Helen Morrison and Moira Downie, and Airdrie MP Anum Qaisar.

Councillor Coyle told Lanarkshire Live: “It’s fantastic to see this in place and I think Peter would have loved it; he was always putting things in place for the community and he deserves to be remembered for all the work he did.

“It floored everyone when Peter died. I’d known him for all the years I’d been a councilor and he was always very active in the community council, Stanrigg memorial and children’s committee – he was the gentleman of Greengairs and would help anyone.

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“The defibrillator idea came as Greengairs is very rural and to have something like this could really help in an emergency while waiting for an ambulance – every village should have one and if it saves one life, it will be worth it.

“I’d approached people in the community asking if they’d be willing to contribute in Peter’s memory, but then Airdrie Motorist Center said they’d be happy to fund it as they know how valuable defibrillators are and have donated one in Calderbank; and CRC Electricals volunteered to install it.

“Seeing it in place at Stanrigg hall is quite fitting as he did so much here and is part of its history; everyone is quite moved to see it here for him and it’s a nice tribute to someone who is sorely missed.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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