A grief-stricken mum has told how family, football and the sea were the life and soul of her fun-loving son who was killed in a Christmas Eve crash.
Tributes have flooded in for 29-year-old Jim O’Donnell, described as one of the best ever players for his beloved Lochs Football Club.
Originally from Stornoway, the star striker became a hero in the Lochs area of Lewis, and was considered “one of their own” according to mum Joanne.
Mrs O’Donnell said: “We have been inundated with people offering condolences. Jim was loved by everyone. While we as a family are in meltdown, the whole island is mourning too.
“So many people are just wanting to give us hugs, but can’t because of Covid.
“There are dark days ahead, but I just want everyone to know how grateful we are for all those getting in touch. It means so much to hear their stories about Jim.”
She added: “He hardly had a ball away from his feet. He had such a great love for football, especially for his teams Lochs and Rangers.
“Lochs was his home. He moved there, but it was as if he was born and bred there. He hardly left the island.
“He was also very much a family boy. He has two older brothers, Derek and Andrew, and four nephews – Cole, Devin, Leon and Frankie – who he was devoted to, and them with him.
“Jim was positive with everybody, such a bubbly boy with such a wry sense of humour, but also had a lot of wisdom.”
Mrs O’Donnell said that when her husband, also Jim, was diagnosed with oral cancer five years ago the family went through difficult times.
But Mr O’Donnell sen always carried a picture of their son – “a daddy’s boy” – to all his treatments which, she said, “helped pull him through”. He is now well and clear.
The mum added: “He might not have always been an angel throughout his life, he could be a toerag at times, but he will always be my angel.”
The 29-year-old, who was known as Jad, died on the A859 Tarbert to Maraig road on Harris at Ardhasaig shortly after 9am on Christmas Eve.
He was the sole occupant of the vehicle, and was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency services.
Mr O Donnell was from Stornoway and had attended the Nicolson Institute.
He was employed by Marine Harvest as a fish farm worker and had previously worked with Lewis Salmon, as well as Sea Harris, skippering tourist trips to St Kilda.
Tributes were made by many associated with Lochs FC, with chairman Gordon Greenhowe saying: “He was a young man with his whole life ahead of him. He will forever be remembered warmly by the club, its fans and the Lochs community as a whole.”
He joined Lochs in 2012 and played 173 times scoring 126 goals.
Close friend, and former Lochs manager, Ewen Maclean said: “When I tell you we discussed every moment of every game before and after the 90 minutes I wouldn’t be lying.
“I told many people, Jim included, that he was the best ‘number 9’ on the island and I wasn’t being biased to my best mate, I genuinely believed it.”
His family said they were happy the Lochs community were wiling to allow Jim to have his funeral there, adding that he will be buried with strips from both Lochs FC and Rangers.