The funeral of Perthshire businessman and Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance founder, John Bullough, took place at St John’s Kirk, Perth.
He died unexpectedly on May 5 on a visit to London to promote his new life-saving charitable venture, The Thunderbird Project.
A guard of honour was formed at the Kirk by The Atholl Highlanders in which John served as a major and was regimental adjutant.
During the service, warm tributes were paid to a man who, at only 54, had already left an indelible mark on business and public life.
His great friends, James Gray-Cheape and John Forbes-Leith, delivered the eulogy in which they described John as a “philanthropist, entrepreneur and community leader; his passion and drive were infectious and that caused his many and varied projects to succeed”.
John was interested in people, learning who they were and connecting them with others to their mutual benefit. He had a tremendous sense of humour and would always light up the room with his presence. John was a proud family man and the support that they gave him helped to make him the success that he was, the congregation heard.
John was pursuing another project to improve public safety when he died. The Thunderbird Project aims to secure regulatory approval for the use of drones to assess critical emergences, and deliver emergency aid.
With his background with Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, his army and police service, he was seeking to pool their capabilities.
His death came just weeks before he was due to be made an officer of the Order of St John of which he had been a member and had worked with to install defibrillators throughout Perth and Kinross.
John was born on April 2 1969 in Brampton Cottage Hospital, Cumbria, to Michael and Sandy Bullough, long-term owners of the department store, McEwens of Perth. He had an older sister, Debbie, and younger sister, Tori.
He began his education at St Gabriel’s Catholic Nursery School in Carlisle and after preparatory schooling, began his secondary education at Glenalmond College.
He joined The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1988 and was then commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in The Scots Guards and saw active service in Northern Ireland and the First Gulf War.
After leaving the army, John moved to Zimbabwe as a tobacco trader for Intabex on the auction floors of Harare.
He then had a spell with the firm farming and grading tobacco in Tanzania, and 18 months in Sri Lanka organising farmers and buying tobacco.
After that, John transferred with the firm to Rome working in the Romanian and Bulgarian markets before moving full-time to Romania to organise tobacco farms and trading.
In the mid-1990s he saw opportunities in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe and brought together specialists to operate a number of businesses including bicycle couriers, dry cleaners and recruitment.
John met his future wife, Lady Georgina Murray, daughter of the Earl of Mansfield, in 1997 and the couple married at St John’s Kirk, Perth, in 1998. They had one son, Hercules (Herky).
They began married life in Romania and returned to live in the Scone area in 2002 before building their home at Logiealmond.
Together they ran McEwens of Perth which John combined with the chairmanship of Perth City Development Board and service as a special constable. He was instrumental in leading the effort to return the Stone of Scone to Perth.
In January 2013, Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, based at Perth airport, took to the air after four years of fundraising by John and a small team.
He drew together expertise from across the private, public and third sectors to raise the initial £1.5 million to get the helicopter air borne. He retained the chairmanship and energetically devoted his time to raise upwards of £1.5 million to maintain the life-saving service each year.
John was made an MBE for his services to the emergency services and the community of Perth and in January 2022 was presented with his award at Holyrood House, Edinburgh, by Anne, Princess Royal.
When McEwens closed in 2016, John took a role with Castle European, specialising in renewable energy power plants.
John was a director of Agile Energy which develops low-carbon energy parks including at Thainstone, Inverurie.
More recently, he assisted in the founding of Proteus Marine Renewables, an energy company developing tidal power generation including in the Pentland Firth.
A tennis player, bagpiper and country sportsman, John’s final venture was The Thunderbird Project through which he believed drone deployment could revolutionise the response to emergency situations.
His close friends said: “Through his chairmanship of Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, being a policeman as well as entrepreneur and understanding how to raise finance, he realised he needed to use these skills for the greater good.
“These talents enabled him to see how engaging a multi-agency approach could lead The Thunderbird Project www.thunderbirdproject.co.uk to save many lives and we urge people to support this charity as part of John’s legacy.”
You can read the family’s announcement here.