Funeral for former fire chief who died with coronavirus

Former colleagues gathered at Inverness fire station to pay tribute to 57-year-old Derek Wilkie.

Funeral for former fire chief who died with coronavirus STV
Guard of honour: Firefighters pay tribute to Wilkie.

Firefighters formed a socially distanced guard of honour to pay tribute to a former Highland fire chief who died after contracting Covid-19.

Derek Wilkie, 57, was a station commander for Inverness and Nairn and served 27 years as a firefighter, including as group commander for the Shetland Islands, before retiring just over two years ago.

He had been in intensive care at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for two weeks before he died on Sunday 12 April.

The keen outdoor enthusiast’s funeral was held in Inverness on Monday.

The cortege was driven past his former place of work at Inverness Fire Station, where firefighters lined up outside to pay their respects.

A further guard of honour was formed at Kilvean Cemetary on the outskirts of the city. The on-duty watch stood to attention in front of two stationary fire tenders, their blue lights flashing as the funeral party passed by.

Songs by Bruce Springsteen were played at the service, including ‘Hungry Heart’ and ‘If I should Fall Behind’.

Other songs included ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica, and The Corries ‘Come By The Hills’, reflecting his love of the outdoors.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) deputy assistant chief officer John MacDonald said: “It’s extremely important to us as an organisation to be able to pay our respects to Derek in any way that we can and today we organised a guard of honour for his funeral – we had to do so under the measures that we find ourselves in just now so we have done it recognising social distancing measures.”

“When we lose one of our own, we would normally see a sea of uniforms here but that’s not been possible because of the pandemic.”

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Deputy Assistant Chief Officer John MacDonald

“When we lose one of our own, we would normally see a sea of uniforms here but that’s not been possible because of the pandemic.

“But we have been inundated with tributes paid from colleagues and friends across the UK, from the south of England to the very tip of Scotland. That’s a great comfort to everyone, especially, of course, Derek’s family.”

A keen golfer who won many SFRS amateur competitions, Mr Wilkie was an outdoor enthusiast with a number of interests including cycling, skiing and hill walking.

Colleagues say he was devoted to his wife Janice, a specialist cancer care nurse for the NHS, and their two boys; Owen, a paramedic for the Scottish Ambulance Service, and Blair, a medical lab assistant with NHS Highland at Raigmore Hospital.

In a statement, the family said they want to “thank all NHS staff for the exemplary care Derek received and want to help raise awareness of the dangers and reality of Coronavirus”.