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Dundee businessman’s tribute, a year since parents died on same day from Covid

Graeme Carling's parents, inset, both died after contracting Covid last year.
Graeme Carling's parents, inset, both died after contracting Covid last year.

A year since losing both his parents to Covid within an hour, prominent Dundee businessman Graeme Carling has spoken about his double loss.

Mr Carling, who purchased McGill three years ago, lost his parents Graeme and Margaret in separate Dundee hospitals on the same evening.

On January 19 2021, he watched his 65-year-old mother pass away at Roxburghe House after a courageous fight.

As he was leaving, a nurse from Ninewells Hospital phoned to say she wanted to see more improvement from his father, who was on oxygen treatment.

By the time she returned to the ward, Mr Carling Snr, 66, was also dead.

In shock at double deaths

Father-of-two Mr Carling said it’s been a hard year for his family.

“For the first few months we were numb,” he said.

“I think I was in shock. We’re not the only ones to have been affected by Covid but it’s not been easy. It hit hard.

Graeme Carling,
Graeme Carling, chief executive of United Capital, which owns McGill.

“I think it helps we have businesses and responsibilities. It means we’re busy and active and don’t have time to dwell on it.

“In some ways it feels like a year but the memories of that day are so fresh it also feels like yesterday.”

Dad inspiration for business success

Mr Carling is best known for purchasing construction firm McGill from administration three years ago.

After winning millions of pounds of work and making several acquisitions, the business now has more than 200 staff.

Along with his wife Leanne, he is also one of the largest private landlords in Scotland.

Mr Carling credits his father for giving him the drive to succeed.

His dad worked at Dundee Plant Company Limited as a labourer then as a manager.

After a spell working as a transport manager in Dundee and Kent for Portway International, he became chief executive of North East Ice and Cold Storage in Peterhead.

“My dad dared to have ambition,” Mr Carling said.

“A guy from Kirkton, he moved down to Kent for work when I was 16.

“He always had a job. Moving away for work showed his ambition and I got that from him. It broke the mould for us.”

We’re a man down and he’s irreplaceable.”

Mr Carling said he acutely feels his loss of his father, not just personally but also professionally.

He acted as a sounding board as he resurrected McGill and also played a crucial role as it acquired other business.

Graeme Carling Snr and Leanne Carling.
Graeme Carling Snr and Leanne Carling.

“McGill is my business but dad played a key role. I relied on him.

“He was a very different character to me, a people’s person.

“When we acquired Saltire Facilities Management he struck up a great relationship with the owner and that helped get the deal.

“As a company we really, really miss him. It’s very difficult to replace someone like him. People respected him.”

Covid caught at Ninewells?

In December 2020 Mrs Carling initially went to hospital for treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung condition which causes breathing difficulties.

She was first admitted to Ninewells Hospital on December 22 at which point she had a negative Covid test.

She was discharged on Christmas Eve but the grandmother of seven was readmitted on December 29 and tested positive for coronavirus.

The family believe she caught Covid-19 during her first stay at Ninewells and then passed it to her husband.

Two days before her death, she was transferred from Ninewells to Roxburghe House at Royal Victoria Hospital.

At Ninewells, Mr Carling Snr was unaware his wife of 47 years had died when he passed away.

Graeme Carling.
Graeme Carling.

A day after their deaths Mrs Carling received a text message inviting her for the first dose of a vaccine.

“We had to wait three weeks to hold the double funeral and only 20 people could attend,” Mr Carling said.

“I’ll be honest I was in two minds at the start about whether to get the vaccine or not because I was reading all sorts of things.

“But the fact is Covid killed my mum and it killed my dad. They didn’t have a chance to get the vaccination.

“After that it was an easy decision for me to get the vaccine because I’ve seen first hand what can happen.”

Growth of McGill to £20m turnover

The past year has been another year of progress for McGill which has won several housing association contracts.

Acquisitions, including Alliance Electrical and the McDougall Group, mean McGill’s turnover will be in the region of £20 million this year.

Mr Carling hopes to complete more acquisitions in the first half of this year.

He said it was always his aim to make his parents proud.

McGill's office on Harrison Road, Dundee.
McGill’s office on Harrison Road, Dundee.

“I will continue to work hard and do what I’ve always done,” he said.

“The deaths of my parents might be an extra inspiration.

“I got the bug from my dad to keep progressing, leading by example and doing my best and working hard.

“I’ve always wanted to make my mum and dad proud.”

Dundee businessman’s double Covid tragedy as both parents die an hour apart

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