The founder of a Highland charity has reached DAY 19 of a hunger strike in protest against “noisy” work driving families away from receiving vital support.
John Bryden, 59, started his protest on November 2 amid what he describes as “abuse” by Network Rail towards Kirsty’s Kids, a charity in Lochailort near Fort William.
He has now reached day 19 and is becoming “very weak”.
John and his wife Jan set up the charity eight years ago in memory of their daughter who was killed in car crash.
The Kirsty Bryden Memorial Trust is a no-overheads organisation which helps to improve the lives of all children, including those who are suffering from serious life-limiting illnesses, children with special needs and their siblings. This includes providing respite care.
Why is Kirsty’s Kids founder on a hunger strike?
However, a “noisy” Network Rail repair depot that operates day and night has led to Kirsty’s Kids to close, leading vulnerable kids and families to leave the property.
Sally Garden Cochran, the charity’s administrator, explained to the P&J that the issue started in 2020.
“There was a rail failure caused by the work that was previously done by Network Rail when they diverted water from the river and streams which washed out the property,” she said.
“Every time they come to do any work on the line in this region, they want to use the neighbouring land, which is literally right next door.
“There are big lights, tractors, diggers, and people everywhere. It is pretty horrendous. And they don’t finish until 4.30am in the morning, sometimes they are still working after 5am.
“Every time we speak to Network Rail, they turn a blind eye and say the same thing repeatedly, which is that they will try to minimise the noise.
“There was a family that was here with their two autistic daughters and because Network Rail showed up unannounced and early they had to leave, as they couldn’t deal with that level of noise.”
She concluded: “We want Network Rail to take away the ramp and the heavy equipment and move all the noisy stuff up to the next access point.”
Kirsty’s Kids founder “not doing well” after 19-day hunger strike against Network Rail
John has been on hunger strike for almost three weeks now as he demands Network Rail move the noisy compound away from the charity.
After his 18th day, which he spent outside the property under heavy rain, he said: “My place needs to be here, I need to show people passing how terrible this is.”
“He is not doing well and is getting quite weak,” administrator Sally told the P&J.
“He’s already got underlying health issues and is almost 60.
“As John puts it, it is a last-ditch attempt. He’s tried everything else.
“Water is not going to sustain somebody for that long. If you’re fit and healthy, you can manage 20 days, but that’s not the case here.”
However, despite the massive struggle and danger to his life, she says that John “is not giving in”.
Network Rail “working to minimise disruption”
A Network Rail spokesperson said the work they are carrying out is “vital” for safety.
They said: “The charity has raised its concerns with us and we’re working with them to minimise disruption where we can.
“The work we are carrying out on the track is vital to keeping the railway safe for colleagues and passengers.”