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‘He had so many friends’: Aberdeen family create frisbees out of much loved brother’s ashes so he can continue flying on beaches all over the world

multiple images of Ashley May
Ashley May lived life on a 'massive' scale.

When Ashley May discovered he had MS he was determined to make the most of his life.

After working as long as he was able to, he then booked himself on a round-the-world trip so he could fulfil his dreams of seeing the world.

Described as one of life’s natural comedians, his family say his sense of humour was understood by people of many different cultures.

So it was of little surprise when they discovered he had so many friends with people from all over the globe drawn to his fun-loving nature.

He will fly across the beaches of the world

Ashley, of Aberdeen, died at the age of 52 in June after living his life on a “massive” scale full of fun and adventures.

Now his family are paying a fitting tribute to the much-loved adventurer by creating frisbees out of his ashes.

And they plan to hand them out to all his friends abroad so he continues to “fly clear and straight on the beaches of the world”.

Ashley May with nieces Alexi and Emmie and his sister Angela Drummond.
Ashley May with nieces Alexi and Emmie and his sister Angela Drummond.

The diagnosis came as a shock

Ashley had been working on an offshore vessel looking after a team of divers for several years when he discovered he had primary progressive Multiple Sclerosis.

By the age of 24, he realised his body was not functioning properly. He was experiencing tingling in his fingers and sometimes difficulties getting out of bed.

His diagnosis in 1994 came as a shock but he continued working for as long as he could – five more years – until he started limping.

That’s when he realised he would need to give up his job. But, keen to make the most of his life, he set off on his travels before it reached the point that it was too late.

A life full of adventure

Ashley bought his round-the-world ticket in 1998. Starting off in Bangkok, he travelled to Cambodia by bus then headed to Vietnam enjoying a trip along the Mekong Delta.

His adventures also took him to Bali, Australia, Fiji and New Zealand and he later travelled to America.

“Ashley lived life on a massive scale, he’d try anything and loved water sports,” his sister Angela Drummond said.

“He went diving, windsurfing, on jet-skis, and enjoyed bodyboarding the waves in Thailand.

Ashley sky-diving in New Zealand
During his travels Ashley went sky-diving in New Zealand and thought it was ‘amazing’.

“He played frisbee on Ko Pha-Ngan, it was his favourite place and he liked it so much on his travels that he went back and lived there for seven years.”

He became known as the ‘king of the beach’

Ashley lived in a beachfront wooden hut on the island and found the weather helped alleviate his symptoms.

With people turning up on the island saying “I’m here to see Ashley May,” he soon became fondly known by locals as the king of the beach.

He’d spend the majority of his time in Thailand but often returned home to Aberdeen and would also visit his mum in the south of France.

It was during his 40th birthday party at his mother’s home in Toulon that his family discovered just how many friends he had.

Well-wishers came from many countries, including France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Thailand and Taiwan to celebrate his big day.

‘He dealt with his illness with humour’

“I wasn’t surprised that he had so many friends,” Angela, of Banchory in Aberdeenshire, said. “People were just drawn to him.

“He was quick-witted and very funny – one of life’s natural comedians, his sense of humour crossing all cultures.”

Eventually, simple tasks became more of a struggle for Ashley and he was cared for by his father Zander May and his partner Kath at their home in Aberdeen.

Struggling with his mobility it took Ashley a long time to agree to using a wheelchair.

He initially relied on walking sticks before moving onto one crutch and then two crutches.

Before long, bed sores and tissue viability led to Ashley losing one of his legs and almost his life.

But his friends were impressed with how he dealt with this new chapter of his life with “tenacity, valour and humour”.

 A cartoon showing the main symptoms of multiple scelrosis
Main symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

He had no regrets about his diagnosis

Ashley spent the last 10 months of his life living in a purpose-built apartment at the Sue Ryder Dee View Court Neurological Centre in Aberdeen.

Undergoing physiotherapy treatments there helped improve the movement in his body and his voice.

And despite facing many challenges throughout his life, he told family and friends he had no regrets about his diagnosis.

Angela, 51, said: “Ash always maintained that if it wasn’t for his illness, he wouldn’t have done all the things he managed to do with his life.

“And it was infectious, his love of life helped me, and others around him, to make the most of it. He never complained.”

Ashley in a wheelchair
Ashley enjoyed spending time with friends and family.

Relatives were able to arrange one last family gathering for him on June 5.

It was a catch-up they had all been looking forward to with coronavirus restrictions starting to relax.

“His usual taxi came to pick him up, some friends came over and we had a BBQ in the garden,” mum-of-two Angela said.

“Ashley had a beer, a glass of rose and a burger – he loved burgers – and everyone had a fab time.

“We thought it would be the first of many.”

However, just two days later Ashley was taken into hospital and what was first thought to be routine quickly became more serious.

He died on June 9 with Angela and his mum by his side.

Ashley’s funeral took place later that month and the hearse passed by Duthie Park on the way to the service.

He was a Vespa fan, owning one when he was younger, and in a fitting tribute the Aberdeen Scooter Club followed the cortege on the way to the service.

Aberdeen Football Club also wrote a letter to the family of the lifelong Dons fan after he died.

‘We discussed Ashley’s wishes and how to remember him’

The family are now busy creating a touching tribute for Ashley.

They came up with their plan after one of his friends, Lesley Meldrum, remembered how impressed he was with the final wishes of Frisbee pioneer Steady Ed Headrick.

The Californian inventor’s ashes were moulded into plastic memorial flying discs.

“We were talking about suitable mementoes or tributes for Ash before his funeral,” Angela said.

Ashley May

“Family and friends discussed Ashley’s wishes and how to remember him.

“After a good few days of indecision, one of Ash’s oldest friends suddenly phoned and said she remembered his wish to go the way of Steady Ed Headrick.”

‘He touched so many people’s lives’

His friend Lesley, of Aberdeen, shared how he had enjoyed playing with his frisbee while living on the beach in Thailand.

“We spent a lot of time in Thailand together and during his time there the community of people from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe, would congregate at Ashley’s bungalow,” the 52-year-old said. “Boardgames and Backgammon were firm favourites, as was the traditional 3pm water frisbee match in the ocean.

“Ashley’s illness never defined him and it never stopped him. Everyone admired him for that.

“When he passed away, the outpouring of grief was overshadowed by a sea of hilarious anecdotes, photos and memories of how he had touched each and every one of those people’s lives.

Lesley Meldrum (left) with her best friend of 35 years Ashley May.

“There are not many folks who have that impact in their time. Those memories, and social media posts that vibrated around the globe, were a huge comfort to the family, to me and to those closest to him.  That was the power of the man.”

‘A larger than life character who kept us all smiling’

The flying discs will be clear with gold flecks in a tribute to Wham-O – the company which created Frisbees – and one of his favourite tipples.

It’s hoped a limited run will be ready in time for Ashley’s birthday on July 29 next year.

They will then be handed out to his friends so he can continue to “fly clear and straight on the beaches of the world”.

Family and friends have also raised more than £2,500 for the Sue Ryder care centre where Ashley enjoyed staying.

“Although Ashley was only at Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre Dee View Court for a short time we know that he was happy, relaxed and well looked after,” Angela said.

“He was happy there and he said that they were good to him.”

Valerie Maxwell, service director at Dee View Court said Ashley was a “very popular member” of the community.

She said: “He had a fabulous sense of humour and a wonderful zest for life, which was clear to see from his bedroom walls which were adorned with pictures, memories and fun times.

“We were all very saddened to hear of his sudden passing but will forever remember him as a larger than life character who kept us all smiling.

“He really was a pleasure to know and care for.”

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