Farewell to a friend
to Finlay Christine
The eulogy below was written and
read at the funeral by Alistair Dewar, an ex police colleague of Finlay’s.
Finlay Christine, our good
friend and supporter at Mull Eagle Watch passed away on 26 December 2012.
His funeral was on 3 January 2013 at the beautiful little church near his
home in Lochbuie, Mull. Many friends were able to attend to pay their respects
but some were not and many others will have bumped into Finlay - on or
off duty - on their visits to Mull over the years. So here in tribute to
his amazing and full life and work are some extracts from the eulogy at
his service...including some of our adventures with the eagles on Mull.
"Finlay was born on 9th January 1961, in Paisley.
Following his education at Simshill Primary and then Kings Park Secondary,
he had part time jobs doing a milk round and labouring in the brick factory
managed by his father. On 16th July 1979, Finlay joined Strathclyde Police
and was posted to the Gorbals area of Glasgow. At that time
it was still a tough environment to police, but it did not particularly
phase Finlay who took it in his stride. In 1983 Finlay applied to
join the Police Support Unit, which is principally a specialist department
whose officers are trained in the use of firearms and search techniques,
but mainly used to deal with disorder throughout the force area.
Colleagues were blown away by Finlay’s dress sense.
While most of them arrived at work in old bangers of cars with casual jackets
over their uniform, not Finlay, he was very much a 'Dandy', a 'follower
of fashion' wearing the most up to date clothes. He even drove a
gold coloured MGB GT sports car; when he emerged from his car he was more
like James Bond than a Glasgow bobby. His colleagues now realised they
had a larger than life character in their midst. His great sense
of humour made him very well liked, and he soon became the backbone of
their social life, organising the support unit nights out, to a formula
which exists to this day. Finlay was seen to live life to the full.
He was physically tough too; playing the weekly,
no quarter given, Support Unit 5-a-side football, Finlay was heavily
tackled and fell to the ground. Limping and bleeding from the mouth,
rather than go off and let the team down, he became goalkeeper for the
remainder of the game. It later transpired he had a broken jaw, broken
wrist and sprained ankle. His considerate colleagues visited him
with a box of toffees! Following service in the Support Unit, Finlay transferred
to Pollock where he served until 1991 when he decided it was time to experience
rural policing and was successful in his application to come to Mull.
Not surprisingly, Finlay’s easy going nature and
policing skills enabled him to adapt quickly to the policing needs of Salen
and to Mull as a whole. Finlay, when he first went to Mull did not realise
it, but he was to become a specialist in wildlife crime.
Several years earlier sea eagles had been reintroduced
to the West of Scotland and a few pairs settled on Mull.
Because of their rarity they quickly became the
target of compulsive egg thieves and annually their nests were plundered.
The sea eagles were very important to tourism on Mull, so it was decided
by Strathclyde Police and the RSPB that the local community and volunteers
could be organised to protect nest sites.
Finlay helped launch 'Operation Easter' – part
of a highly successful and nationwide campaign to combat wildlife crime.
This later evolved into 'Mull Eagle Watch' – the world’s biggest wildlife
neighbourhood watch and it successfully prosecuted a number of cases over
the years. Finlay was the glue that held it all together and as a
direct result of this Mull is now on the world stage as a place that both
safeguards its wildlife and shows it to thousands of visitors every year.
Finlay was also a media star and in this way helped
to spread the message about wildlife crime. On Mull he featured in
numerous wildlife programmes including Springwatch, Autumnwatch, Eagle
Island, Landward and Wildlife Detectives. And not forgetting a starring
role in Balamory! Finlay was justly proud of protecting Mull’s wildlife
and of the successful prosecutions over the years; he also enjoyed receiving
the 'Wildlife Crime Officer of the Year Award' and a RSPB President’s Award
in 2009. But he was possibly most proud of his Blue Peter Badge!
He filmed with them at Loch Frisa and Grasspoint in 2009 and wore his badge
In June 2006 during a nightime unseasonably violent
storm, a white tailed eagle nest near Finlay’s beloved Lochbuie was torn
from its sea cliff site and plunged 80 feet to the rocks below, taking
two young eaglets with it. The RSPB thought they must have perished
but the next morning both chicks were found still alive – just. With
Finlay’s help the RSPB tended to the two bedraggled chicks, built them
a brand new nest on the cliff and placed them in it – along with a whole
salmon from the freezer at Laggan Farm. Within a few hours the parent
eagles were back feeding their chicks in the nest that Finlay built.
A few weeks later both chicks fledged successfully. Five years later,
one of those chicks is paired up and nesting on Islay, the other is nesting
not a million miles away from Lochbuie and last year raised its first chick.
This year a second chick fledged. Finlay was rightfully proud of
this achievement. The eagles are his amazing legacy.
This of course was over and above his main role
of being a part of the small team of officers tasked with policing the
island. He loved this type of policing which he carried out with
credit until his retiral in July 2009, a total of 19 years which possibly
makes him the longest serving officer in the same rural post ever. Finlay
was an old fashioned community police officer who did not always follow
the Strathclyde Police Standard Procedures, more often he chose the 'Finlay
Christine' way of policing and yes, it worked well in most situations.
Finlay was someone who it was always a joy to meet;
he had a twinkle in his eye and usually a humorous story to tell.
You invariably walked away feeling much better having met him. A final
wee story about Finlay, which I think highlights what a refreshing 'one-off'
he was and why he appealed to so many – a few years ago the Chief Constable
was visiting Mull. At such times most police officers, although off
duty, made themselves available. The entourage arrived at Salen,
no Finlay, he had a better offer. The Chief Constable opened the
visitor’s book to sign as they do, and burst out laughing. A piece
of paper inside read 'Gone Fishing'."
Mull Eagle Watch will miss his wise words and constant
support. We all miss him more than words can say.
David Sexton RSPB Mull