A north couple who saw years of work on their charity destroyed by flooding have vowed to keep going to honour the memory of their daughter.
John and Jan Bryden launched Kirsty’s Kids a decade ago in memory of their teenage daughter Kirsty who died in a car accident near the family’s Lochaber home.
But last week, a localised deluge at Lochailort – between Fort William and Mallaig – brought a torrent of water and huge boulders cascading down the hill behind their home, causing structural damage to buildings and washing away most of the garden which they spent years converting for full wheelchair access.
The charity came into being around 10 years ago to honour 19-year-old Kirsty’s memory, who was killed when her car skidded into the loch just a few miles from home.
Kirsty had already spent time in Mozambique where she became ‘Mother’ to 130 children and also helped sick youngsters and their families in Scotland and her parents started the charity to continue her good work after she died.
Mr and Mrs Bryden moved out of their own home into a flat above their garage so it could be used by visiting children and their families.
With the help of volunteers almost everything in the garden was specially hand made, from quiet seating areas and accessible buildings to a remote controlled model railway, which could be controlled by a child in wheelchair as they followed alongside, passing a miniature “Harry Potter’ Glenfinnan viaduct and highland village. All have now been totally destroyed.
John said: “Last Thursday I was in the workshop making parts for the model railway when there was a loud crack and bolt of lightning shot across the room from the metal stove, luckily not towards me.
“I ran outside and the rain was just pouring down and there was a huge rushing noise. Thinking the bridge under the main road may be blocked I ran down the drive but only managed a few feet before I was waist-deep in water.
“When I forced my way back to the house I found that the wall under our flat actually was cracked and the ground floor door was burst in the middle – from the inside outwards.”
Just 30 feet behind the Bryden property the world-famous West Highland Railway line was also undermined in several places, leaving the track hanging in mid air.
The main house was flooded to about two feet, but was spared other damage.
He said: “I am so glad the house wasn’t damaged other than by flood water, which I am already drying out. We are due to have a family for respite care early next month and I don’t want to let them down.
“In five minutes we saw a lifetime of work washed away, but we will not be giving up. We have welcomed over 200 children and their families here and their stories are all so touching. Messages from them said really enjoyed their time here and for some it was their last trip.
“Unknown to me one of the volunteers put an appeal on social media which raised almost £6000 in two days, with many kind messages. Jan and I were really overwhelmed by this.
“We are a no-overheads charity and 100% of what we raise goes directly those who need it. We are not getting any younger and at this moment I don’t know how, all this is going to be fixed, but we will continue to give our all to help people, just as Kirsty would have”.