Tributes have been paid to a Fife man who fought a remarkable and truly inspirational battle against cancer over the last couple of years.
Ally Gourlay passed away surrounded by his family at Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital aged just 53, but his determination to fight the disease has captured the imagination of thousands of people across Scotland.
Mr Gourlay was given months to live by doctors back in March 2014 after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the oesophagus.
However, he decided against pursuing a course of chemotherapy after discussing his prognosis with his family, choosing quality of life over quantity.
“The way I look at it is, cancer doesn’t respect anybody so why should I respect it?” he said at the time.
Since that day, he belied doctors’ expectations, helped to raise thousands of pounds for local charities including Maggie’s Fife, and inspired people across Scotland through his blog posts on Facebook.
The popular Fifer was probably best known for his love and encyclopaedic knowledge of his beloved Raith Rovers FC, securing a dream job as the Kirkcaldy club’s media officer in April 2014 and continuing in that role almost right until the end.A former Kirkcaldy High School pupil, Mr Gourlay, who lived in Glenrothes, was also chairman of the Raith Rovers’ Former Players Association and it was in that capacity that he played a key role in organising the annual Raith Rovers Hall of Fame event.
That earned him many friends and contacts from across the football spectrum, many of whom have already paid tribute to Mr Gourlay including Scotland boss Gordon Strachan.
Such was his devotion to the Rovers, Mr Gourlay was himself inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, a ceremony he initially thought he would never see, and was in attendance at the 2015 event in November as he continued to defy the odds.
And incredibly, despite being given just hours to live by doctors after developing pneumonia earlier this week, Mr Gourlay left his hospital bed on Wednesday to say an emotional goodbye to colleagues at Stark’s Park and also visit some friends.
Speaking on behalf of everyone at the club, Chief Executive Eric Drysdale said, “Ally has been ‘in with the bricks’ at Raith Rovers for many years and his loyalty, commitment and hard work were central both to the formation of the FPA and to the professionalising of the club’s important links with the sports media. Ally was also a key member of the independent Hall of Fame committee which has delivered several highly popular and successful events in recent years.
“Ally will be sadly missed by us all. Manager Ray McKinnon and the players have all come to greatly value and respect Ally’s significant contribution to the smooth running of all interaction with the media, but more than that, he became a friend to all and was always willing to help. Ally was also greatly respected by his many friends in the media and at other clubs, and nobody but nobody had a bad word to say about the guy.
“It is testament to Ally’s incredible character that, less than 48 hours after being diagnosed with the illness that was to claim his life, he still was able to manage a very busy media conference ahead of our 2014 Ramsdens Cup Final win against Rangers. In the 22 months since, as the illness gradually took hold, that inner strength stayed with him throughout to the extent that he managed the trip all the way to Dumfries in December for what turned out to be the last time he watched his beloved Rovers. His final visit to see Stark’s Park one last time, and to say an emotional goodbye to his colleagues there, just 3 days before he died showed once again his quite extraordinary courage in the face of terminal illness.
“In the words of that famous football song, Ally, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.”
Away from football, the father-of-three and grandfather was also a well-known face and voice on the local music and radio scene for many years and hosted his own ‘Art School Dancing’ show on community radio station K107 until recently.
He also posted his own musical memories on Facebook over the last few months which provided a source of comfort for many who knew him.
Mr Gourlay was also particularly vocal about giving people the right to end their life on their own terms and was interviewed by many media outlets last June when MSPs again voted against the Assisted Suicide Bill.
“I want politicians to rethink it and meet people who are in situations like mine,” he said at the time.
Mr Gourlay is survived by his daughter Samantha and sons Jonny and Matthew.